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Jaafar Jackson: who is Michael Jackson’s nephew set to play singer in biopic?

Evening Standard logo Evening Standard 1/31/2023 Martha Alexander

Following a ‘worldwide search’ to find the perfect actor to play Michael Jackson in a forthcoming biopic, it turns out the ideal candidate was right under the producers’ noses the whole time.

Jaafar Jackson, Michael’s 26-year-old nephew, will take on the role – with the late superstar’s mother Katherine stating, “Jaafar embodies my son. It’s so wonderful to see him carry on the Jackson legacy of entertainers and performers.”

The casting marks Jaafar’s screen debut and looks set to catapult him into the Hollywood spotlight. The biopic, simply entitled Michael, which will start shooting later this year has has a stellar team behind the camera. It is directed by Antoine Fuqua whose work includes thrillers such asTraining Day , with Graham King, who produced the Oscar-winning Queen biopic Bohemian Rhapsody on board and scriptwriter John Logan, who wrote Gladiator and the James Bond films Skyfall and Spectre.

Michael Jackson performs on stage during is © Provided by Evening Standard Michael Jackson performs on stage during is

Unconventional family dynamic

Jaafar Jackson was born in July 1996 in Los Angeles to Alejandra Genevieve Oaziaza and Jermaine Jackson, Michael’s older brother and member of the Jackson Five. Jafaar’s upbringing was unconventional even by showbiz standards: Jaafar’s mother was initially in a relationship with another of his uncles — his father’s brother Randy - and had two children with him. In total, Jaafar has eight siblings — one of whom is the brilliantly-named Jermajesty.

Although as a young child he once dreamed of becoming a professional golfer, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree and he has been singing and dancing since he was 12-years-old. He is also an accomplished pianist.

Three years ago he released a music video and there is no denying that he sounds almost identical to his uncle — and has the moves to boot.

Jaafar’s social media presence is modest: he has 141k followers on Instagram and his only post is to announce his new role. The black and white shot shows Jaafar dancing in white socks, loafers and a trilby — his uncle’s trademark get up. Beneath it the caption reads: “I’m humbled and honoured to bring my Uncle Michael’s story to life. To all the fans all over the world, I’ll see you soon.”

Yet, despite being relatively unknown he has already courted controversy. Way back in 2010 there were reports that a 13-year-old Jaafar had secretly bought a stun-gun from the Internet and had been accused of chasing Blanket, one of Michael Jackson’s children, around the house with it.

The Michael casting process

Despite his links to the family and his entertainment credentials, Jaafar wasn’t a shoo-in to play his uncle. In fact, the producers undertook a global search to find their Michael Jackson. But ultimately his own flesh and blood proved the best fit.

“I met Jaafar over two years ago and was blown away by the way he organically personifies the spirit and personality of Michael,” said Graham King. “It was something so powerful that even after conducting a worldwide search, it was clear that he is the only person to take on this role.”

What can Michael Jackson fans expect from the biopic?

Plenty of music. It was reported in 2019, when Graham King initially acquired the rights to Michael Jackson’s story, he also had the green light to use all of his songs in the movie too.

Popstar Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley, behind him at left, walk with children that were invited guests at his Neverland Ranch home in Santa Ynez, California in 1995. (AP) © Provided by Evening Standard Popstar Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley, behind him at left, walk with children that were invited guests at his Neverland Ranch home in Santa Ynez, California in 1995. (AP)

Will Michael cover scandals as well as the successes?

Jackson was investigated twice over allegations of child molestation. He stood trial in 2005 and was acquitted. Jackson maintained his innocence until his death in 2009 aged 50, however, his reputation was damaged. A damning documentary, Leaving Neverland, was released in 2019 and focused on the stories of two of Jackson’s alleged victims. It was described by director Dan Reed as a “study of the psychology of child sexual abuse, told through two ordinary families ... groomed for twenty years by a pedophile masquerading as a trusted friend” and resulted in both a media backlash against Jackson and condemnation by the Jackson estate. Many critics found the documentary to be one-sided.

The circumstances of Jackson’s death are also deeply sensitive. He suffered a lethal cardiac arrest caused by a cocktail of sedatives and a powerful anaesthetic.

Although the film’s studio Lionsgate has claimed Michael would be “an in-depth portrayal of a complicated man who became the King of Pop”, Michael is being made in cooperation with Jackson’s estate.

Whether this compromises the telling of a balanced tale – one which includes the low points of Jackson’s life as well as the soaring highs – remains to be seen.

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