Johannesburg - Navi, the world’s most famous Michael Jackson impersonator, is now starring as MJ himself in Michael Jackson: Searching for Neverland, a new Lifetime movie.
In a telephonic interview with the actor, we asked him why people should watch this movie.
"It will squash a lot of rumours about Michael. It will squash the idea that he had this glorious life and that he was on these drugs," he said.
He said he regarded Jackson as "a great ambassador for how people should be" and that, even after achieving so much in his life, he was still a loving person.
Navi worked with Jackson as a performer and travelled to the Netherlands with him.
"I have pictures and video footage with him backstage applauding me. And I thought nothing would compare to it ... except this movie now."
Film to address rumours about Michael's sexuality
Navi said the movie also brings into perspective how the doctor who was later found to be responsible for Jackson’s death came into the singer’s life.
In addition, it addresses the rumours about Jackson’s sexuality, dispels rumours that the hitmaker wasted his money, exposes the man who badly managed him, and reveals that a team of bodyguards who cared about him was replaced with security guards who were all about money and business.
"People need to watch this film because, if you like him and you care about his music, you should really know who he is, and then you’d appreciate him and his art a lot more," Navi added.
Asked how he prepared for the role, he said he first had to lose about 9kg to portray Jackson. While he got away with his regular weight in his shows, starring in a movie that would be screened around the world required that he lose some weight because Jackson was very thin at one point.
“We were fitting in vocal coaches and acting coaches and running on treadmills and starving ourselves,” he said, adding that he owed his success to his assistant who put up with the demands made on him while preparing for the film.
'I found acting quite difficult'
In being considered for the role, Navi faced the challenge of ticking all the right boxes about what the world knew about Jackson, including his looks, character, speech, mannerisms and unique dancing style. He also had to get “an American accent” right in two weeks of vocal coaching. This was later abandoned as it was distracting him from his acting, he said, because he was “too focused on how to say the words”.
Navi, for whom this acting role is a first, said he had found acting quite difficult and believed he had “failed on one or two of those boxes”.
While he was given the copy of the film, he said he had not watched it because “it’s too hard”.
“With Michael Jackson, it is too personal – I never even watched the memorial. I did this film because I wanted to do it for him [and] for me.
“Michael is out there,” said an emotional Navi.
The movie premieres Sunday, 25 June at 20:00 on DStv channel 131