If you recall, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness fell into our laps at the perfect time, making the chaotic Netflix docu-series was an international smash hit. The wild story of Joe Exotic, his big cats and the murder for hire plot levelled against his arch-nemesis, Carole Baskin was just the sort of captivating distraction we needed during the early days of the pandemic.
So it was only a matter of time before Joe Exotic and Tiger King would expand into the cinematic universe. In March 2020, it was announced that a scripted Tiger King series was in the works, with little details being given aside from the fact that Saturday Night Live's Kate McKinnon had been tapped for the role of Carole Baskin. We now know that the series will stream exclusively on Peacock, a US streaming service owned and operated by NBC (We'll keep you posted on where you can watch it down under.) We also found out that the show will be filming in Queensland, of all places.
However, it seems that Joe Exotic spin-offs are in tough competition: a few months later, it was revealed that another Tiger King series had been picked up by Amazon, starring Nicolas Cage as Joe Exotic?! My head is spinning. But more on that later.
All of the central characters have now been cast for Peacock's Tiger King series, and we have some thoughts.
What will the ‘Tiger King’ series be about?
The scripted series from NBC will be based on the true events that played out in the wildly Netflix popular doco, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness.
The series' working title is Joe Exotic, and will be adapted from the Wondery podcast of the same name, hosted by journalist Robert Moor. According to Variety, Joe Exotic will focus on Carole Baskin, our favourite unhinged big cat enthusiast, who learns that fellow exotic animal lover Joe “Exotic” Schreibvogel is breeding and using his big cats for profit. Not on Carole's watch!
The limited series will also dive deeper into the intense rivalry between Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin, as she sets to shut down his venture and his zoo. The claws really come out as Joe desperately tries to unearth Carole's checkered past (we all know the claims that she murdered her husband), exposing her 'hypocrisy' and attempting to bring her down. Other prominent characters will include John Finlay, Rick Kirkham, John Reinke and Travis Maldonado; all the individuals we know and love from the original Tiger King documentary.
While the show is in the works, the battle between the real Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin is extremely real, with legal battles and prison sentences. In January 2020, Joe Exotic received a 22-year prison sentence for a wild 17 counts of wildlife-related crimes, per PETA, plus two counts of attempted murder for hire against his rival. Adding salt to the wound, a federal judge ordered Joe Exotic's zoo to be handed over to Baskin, as part of a trademark dispute.
How will Kate McKinnon play Carole Baskin?
Kate McKinnon is a Saturday Night Live legend and beloved homosexual. Her casting of the Big Cat Rescue owner in the Tiger King scripted series was announced early on, and honestly this is the sort of casting we never knew we needed. Kate McKinnon is known for her amazing larger-than-life impressions and impeccable comic timing, so we just know she's perfect for the role.
Will the limited series delve into whether she actually did kill her former husband, Don Lewis, and feed him to a tiger? That remains TBC, but we're sure her current husband Howard Baskin makes an appearance.
John Cameron Mitchell as Joe Exotic
The title role of Joe Exotic has been given to veteran actor and Tony award winner John Cameron Mitchell (Hedwig and the Angry Inch, Shrill, Girls). According to Variety, Mitchell is pretty pleased about landing the role and starring as the Tiger King himself.
“I’m thrilled to take on the role of this modern folk antihero,” said Mitchell. “Joe and I are the same age and like him, I grew up queer in Texas, Oklahoma and Kansas so I feel like I know a little bit about this guy and his desperate attempt to conquer an inhospitable world."
Casting a campy queer from the South to play the ultimate campy queer from the South is perfect. Mitchell oozes the extravagance and acting chops needed to take on this pivotal role, so we're beyond stoked.
John Cameron Mitchell even celebrated with a Tiger King cake, covered in tiger stripes and a model chocolate tiger on top. What better way to celebrate?
Who’s Playing The Rest Of The ‘Tiger King’ Cast?
Dennis Quaid (The Intruder) will play Rick Kirkham, an American journalist and the Tiger King's reality show producer. Kirkham was a loud advocate against the truly bizarre rumour that Donald Trump would pardon Joe Exotic for his crime.
“Anyone who would support Joe being let go and out of jail has no idea that this was a man who will hold the revenge. He will get revenge and he’s not going to come out a better man or a whole person. This is a guy that holds a grudge and he will get his revenge," Kirkham said.
Dennis Quaid and Rick Kirkham have a very similar vibe (Quaid is of course more camp), so we're excited to see this play out.
Nat Wolff will play Travis Maldonado, one of Joe Exotic's numerous husbands. Nat Wolff's acting chops include featuring in Palo Alto, Paper Towns, The Fault in Our Stars, as well as the Nickelodeon series The Naked Brothers Band. Travis Maldonado featured quite prominently in the original Netflix documentary. Based on looks alone, this is a fantastic choice.
Brian Van Holt has been cast to play John Reinke and again, the physical similarities point to this being a great choice. John Reinke was an important character in Tiger King – and plays the zoo manager at Joe’s zoo. John is a loyal worker and friend until things with Mr. Exotic take a few unexpected turns. Brain Van Holt starred in Fox's cop drama Deputy, and also appeared in Cougar Town, House of Wax among other projects.
Lastly up to bat is Sam Keeley, taking on the role of John Finlay, another one of Joe's husbands. John Finlay also featured prominently in the original Tiger King documentary. Sam Keeley's most recent projects include 68 Whiskey and the Netflix miniseries The English Game.
No word yet about whether we'll see more of our favourite chaotic characters from the original Tiger King documentary, including Doc Antle, Jeff Lowe, Erik Cowie, James Garretson, Joshua Dial or Dillon Passage. Seriously, who is going to play Doc Antle?!
And what about Nicolas Cage?
Our dreams of Nicolas Cage playing the Tiger King himself haven't been dashed, as it seems multiple Tiger King spin-offs are currently in the works.
Word has it the Nicolas Cage spin-off has been picked up by Amazon and will be produced in collaboration with CBS Television Studios and Imagine Television studios.
That scripted series will be based on the Texas Monthly article about the Tiger King drama, “Joe Exotic: A Dark Journey Into the World of a Man Gone Wild” by Leif Reigstad, which describes how Oklahoma-based exotic zookeeper Joe Shreibvogel became the character we now know as Joe Exotic.
It’s a lot of Tiger King content, isn’t it? To be fair, I’ll definitely be watching all of it.