LIFETIME biopic Michael Jackson: Searching for Neverland is a moving memoir from MJ's security team
LIFETIME, May 29, 8:00 PM ET
By Lori Acken
Navi remembers the very moment he knew Michael Jackson would change his life. It was 1983 and the grade-schooler’s parents let their music-loving boy stay up to watch the Emmy-winning documentary Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever — the first time Jackson displayed his signature moonwalk dance move, during a thrilling performance of “Billie Jean.”
“I taped the performance, woke up my parents and played it for them,” the mononymous Londoner recalls. “I played it maybe 20 or 30 times that night. I couldn’t believe this performance … and this man.”
As a teen, Navi began portraying his idol in appearances and tribute shows that have since taken him to 61 countries and earned him work as a decoy and performer for the King of Pop himself.
Now the self-professed “ultra fan” will play the icon in Lifetime’s biopic Michael Jackson: Searching for Neverland, which premieres Monday. Based on the bestselling memoir Remember the Time: Protecting Michael Jackson in His Final Days from Jackson’s personal security team (played by Sam Adegoke and The Walking Dead’s Chad Coleman), the film presents an insider’s look at the tumultuous final years of Jackson’s life, as the pressures of famous fatherhood, an opportunistic inner circle, a rabid tabloid media and his own increasingly erratic behavior spiraled the singer toward tragedy.
Navi hopes his participation reassures other Jackson super-fans that the film isn’t yet another cheap shot at a doomed genius.
“What was presented to the filmmakers was not an impersonator, but a person who worked with Jackson, who’s been around him, who knows how to portray him onstage — but also, somebody who could bring the character and the spirit of him to the film,” he explains. “This project, to me, is not about an achievement in my career, but the first time I’m able to do something back for Michael. I felt that I had a voice when he’s been silenced, and that maybe the voice that I have is the voice he wanted to be heard.”
Hence, Navi’s favorite moments in the film reveal Jackson as a devoted and fun-loving dad just trying to do right by his kids.
“As a fan, I looked at him in terms of what he could deliver in music, in videos, in performance; I never looked at what it cost him. You’re seeing the lights and the dancers and the band and people enjoying the magic — but you don’t see the cost of what it entails,” Navi says, adding that he was often moved to tears on set.
“When I walked away from this film, I realized how I actually love Michael even more as a person than as an entertainer.”
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