Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” is still the best-selling album of all time, and the King of Pop, eight years after his death, is still a figure of fascination.
Playing Jackson in Lifetime’s biopic is Navi, who bills himself as the world’s No. 1 Jackson impersonator. He said he’s been doing it for 28 years.
“I’ve got the most famous face in the world and it’s not mine,” he said.
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Navi claims he long worked for Jackson as a decoy, both on stage and in public, and said he had never acted before appearing in the Lifetime movie “Michael Jackson: Searching for Neverland.”
“When I worked for him as a decoy, you know, 2,500 people chasing me and being scared for your life,” Navi said. “I worked for him during the allegations, I worked for him during the promotions of albums and tours. I went to [Jackson’s ranch] Neverland, I did his birthday party, I performed at his birthday party in New York and Los Angeles.
“And [Jackson] said, ‘You’re an amazing dancer, do you practice every day?’” he continued. “And I said, ‘Mike, you’re an amazing dancer.’ And he was like, ‘Really? You think so?’ But he was sincere about it and I was thinking, ‘Is this guy kidding me or what?’ … He was so insecure, but when he gets on stage he’s in total command.”
Navi said he signed on to do the Lifetime movie because he wanted the opportunity to “tell the world” about the man he says he knew so well.
“He’s human, he’s a person, he has emotions and feelings,” he said.
In the movie, Navi plays Jackson, denied a childhood by fame, as a man trying to live that childhood through his own kids under the glare of the public spotlight. It focuses on Jackson later in life and is based on a book written by two of his bodyguards called “Remember the Time: Protecting Michael Jackson in His Final Days.”
In January, the British network Sky pulled a Michael Jackson project after his daughter Paris Jackson said footage from the trailer made her “want to vomit.” But Navi is optimistic about the Lifetime film.
“Seeing how Paris is, she wouldn’t hold back,” he said. “She would have said something by now, and I think sometimes no news is good news.”
Earlier this week, the executors of Jackson’s estate issued a statement describing this Lifetime movie, and another script recently bought by Netflix, as “unsanctioned.” The executors added it “does not license or permit the use of any right it owns, including Michael’s music, images, video and films.”
“If I were a Jackson family member, I'd be apprehensive about everything too,” said Dianne Houston, the Lifetime movie’s director. “We've shown the film to some of the Jackson family and the response has been positive so we're very, very pleased.”
Navi said this movie comes from a place of love, respect and fandom.
“It’s surreal. Michael Jackson is a hero. He’s my hero,” he said.