Truth is stranger than fiction, and that was certainly proven with Netflix’s hit 2020 docuseries Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness. But that fact hasn’t stopped filmmakers from wanting to fictionalize the weird world of big cat enthusiasts Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin. The Kate McKinnon-backed scripted series Joe Exotic, which will stream exclusively on Peacock, is just one of several follow-up projects to center around the self-proclaimed “redneck, gun-toting, mullet-sporting, tiger-tackling gay polygamist.” (Amazon also has a scripted series in development, with Nicholas Cage set to star as Joe Exotic.)
Peacock’s Joe Exotic is based on the Wondery podcast Over My Dead Body, whose second season explores the world of big cat owners Joe Exotic (real name: Joseph Allen Maldonado-Passage) and his nemesis Carole Baskin. Even if there weren't tigers involved, this was a story worth telling — from Baskin's questionable past to Joe Exotic's flamboyant lifestyle, and the rivalry that ended in a prison sentence - and the podcast drew acclaim from listeners and Baskin herself for its more objective perspective. Aside from Kate McKinnon, who will co-star as the aforementioned nemesis, plenty of well-known names are attached to portray the Tiger King's crew. Let’s take a look at an updated list of confirmed cast members for the highly anticipated streaming series Joe Exotic.
John Cameron Mitchell (Joe Exotic)
A star of stage and screen, John Cameron Mitchell will play the ostentatious title character, Joe Exotic, and Mitchell's spicy career seems appropriate for the role. Mitchell co-wrote and starred in the Off-Broadway hit Hedwig and the Angry Itch, and also directed and starred in the film version. Along with multiple theater roles both on Broadway and otherwise, Mitchell directed Rabbit Hole in 2010, starring Nicole Kidman. He’s directed music videos for Bright Eyes and Sigur Ros, as well as episodes of Nurse Jackie and GLOW. As an actor, Mitchell plays Gabe Parrish on the Hulu series Shrill and has had recurring roles on Girls and The Good Fight. He can also currently be heard on Anthem: Homunculus, a dark, musical podcast. Playing Joe Exotic will be a walk in the park for Mitchell.
Kate McKinnon (Carole Baskin)
Kate McKinnon, known for making us laugh as a longtime member of Saturday Night Live, will take on the role of Carole Baskin, the head of Big Cat Rescue with a possibly scandalous past who got caught up in a dangerous rivalry with Joe Exotic. McKinnon’s sketch comedy pre-dates SNL, as she was part of the original cast of The Big Gay Sketch Show. She is also known for co-starring in the 2016 remake of Ghostbusters, and has has built up a solid voice work career with multiple projects including The Angry Birds Movie, The Venture Bros., Finding Dory and voicing Ms. Frizzle on The Magic School Bus Rides Again.
Sam Keeley (John Finlay)
John Finlay, the ex-husband of Joe Exotic who became as famous for his gap-tooth smile as his relationship with the Tiger King, will be portrayed by Sam Keeley. The role seems like a departure for the Irish actor, who played Cooper Roback on the military drama 68 Whiskey and can also be found on the British sports drama The English Game on Netflix. But Keeley has done films of all genres, including historical action (In the Heart of the Sea), sci-fi (Monsters: Dark Continent) and horror (The Cured), so it’ll be interesting to see how Keeley embodies the animal lover.
Dennis Quaid (Rick Kirkham)
Rick Kirkham, the producer of Joe Exotic TV who witnessed (if not outright enabled) many of Joe Exotic's antics, is surely interesting enough to lead his own biographical series, so it's fitting that colorful Hollywood legend Dennis Quaid will play him in the Peacock series. Quaid has played a number of significant roles across genres, including A Dog's Journey and A Dog's Purpose as Ethan, The Parent Trap, The Rookie, Any Given Sunday, The Right Stuff and The Big Easy. The actor's mastery of comedy and drama, combined with some antics of his own, should lend themselves well to the world of Joe Exotic.
Brian Van Holt (John Reinke)
John Reinke, who lost both of his legs in a non-tiger-related accident, played a big part in Joe Exotic's story as a manager at the G.W. Zoo, and it will be Brian Van Holt portraying him on the TV series. Van Holt was most recently seen on the Fox drama Deputy as Cade Ward, but may be better known for his role as Bobby Cobb on the ABC sitcom Cougar Town. He is also known for his dual role in the 2005 thriller House of Wax, and along with being part of Ascension's main cast and recurring on Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Van Holt has appeared on hit shows including Sons of Anarchy, CSI: Crime Scene Investigators and Burn Notice.
Nat Wolff (Travis Maldonado)
Nat Wolff will play another of Joe Exotic's husbands with the role of Travis Maldonado, whose drug abuse and tragic death were detailed in an episode of Netflix’s Tiger King docuseries. Wolff got his start as part of The Naked Brothers Band, a Nickelodeon series co-starring his brother Alex. He is also well-known for his roles in two John Green teen film adaptations, Paper Towns and The Fault in Our Stars, as well as for his role as Jeremiah in Admission alongside Tina Fey and Paul Rudd. Most recently Wolff played Lloyd Henreid on the CBS All-Access mini-series The Stand.
It'll be interesting to see how some of these stranger-than-fiction stories will be handled in the Peacock scripted series, particularly when it comes to the more sensitive subjects like Travis Maldonado's death and the multiple animal abuse allegations. But with the popularity surrounding the big cat sanctuaries and their staff, it's sure to draw an audience, which will no doubt also be taken in by Kate McKinnon and the rest of this stellar ensemble cast. There's no doubt Joe Exotic will be entertaining in one way or another, but while waiting for first-look images and trailers, be sure to check out everything coming to 2021 summer TV!