“Bold” and “provocative” are perhaps not the first words that come to mind when we think of Joe Exotic, the convicted felon and exotic animal breeder who captured the world’s attention in the early weeks of the pandemic. But, then again, maybe there are no better descriptors: With his turquoise sequined shirt, bleached blonde mullet, pet tigers and multiple husbands, he became an instant star as the face of Tiger King, Netflix’s documentary on Exotic’s zoo practices and feud with big cat rights activist Carole Baskin. It’s difficult to overstate just how universal Exotic’s hold over the cultural conscience was in those first, feverish weeks of quarantine.
Within days of the show’s release—and following its triumphant reign over the Netflix top 10 list—multiple producers began either teasing or announcing new film and television projects centered on the eccentric breeder. As the fervor around Tiger King finally fizzled, the project with legs turned out to be Joe Exotic, a new scripted television series starring Kate McKinnon as Baskin and John Cameron Mitchell as Exotic. The show is now officially set to stream exclusively on Peacock, per Variety.
Below, everything we know about the next installment of the Joe Exotic saga, from the release date to new cast members.
An NBC Exec called the new series “bold” and “provocative.”
According to Variety, Susan Rovner, chairman of entertainment content for NBCUniversal Television, announced the series would stream exclusively on Peacock, reversing plans for the show to air on NBC and USA Network as well.
“Joe Exotic is shaping up to be a bold and provocative drama and perfectly suited for Peacock, where we can push the envelope and truly bring the story to life in a way that we would be unable to do on broadcast television,” she said. “Moving Joe Exotic to Peacock exclusively is just one example of the strengths of our new structure, which gives us the ability to let the art dictate the platform and not the other way around.”
John Cameron Mitchell is slated to play the much-maligned (and much-beloved) zookeeper.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch actor and co-creator John Cameron Mitchell is set to play Exotic, with the show based on the Wondery podcast that inspired Tiger King.
Mitchell spoke to Variety about his new role in April. “I’m thrilled to take on the role of this modern folk antihero,” Mitchell said. “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.”
Steven O’Neill, executive vice president of casting and talent development for series producer UCP, also told the outlet: “We are so excited to have John Cameron Mitchell, an adored icon of the LGBTQ community, take on this compelling role. His casting speaks to our ongoing vision of universal storytelling, and we can’t wait for our audiences to experience the show.”
Joe Exotic is one of two upcoming shows that is based on the same podcast that inspired the Netflix docu-series. Nicholas Cage will star in the CBS adaptation of Tiger King, set for release by Amazon, per Deadline.
Kate McKinnon has been cast as Carole Baskin.
The SNL actress and comic will play Baskin, the animal rights and animal-print enthusiast who was making headlines as recently as May 2021.
So far, no other cast members have been announced.
The series will focus on Joe and Carole’s big cat-sized beef.
The scripted show sounds much like the plot of Tiger King itself, though obviously dramatized. In a description for the series, there are hints at a departure from what we’ve seen before.
The show, per Deadline, “centers on Carole Baskin (McKinnon), a big cat enthusiast, who learns that fellow exotic animal lover Joe “Exotic” Schreibvogel (Mitchell) is breeding and using his big cats for profit. She sets out to shut down his venture, inciting a quickly escalating rivalry. But Carole has a checkered past of her own and when the claws come out, Joe will stop at nothing to expose what he sees as her hypocrisy. The results prove dangerous.”
There’s no official release date yet.
NBCUniversal has not yet confirmed a release date nor a start date for production. Hollywood Reporter reported that Joe Exotic received a green light to start development back in November 2019.
According to Variety, Joe Exotic originally received a multi-platform series deal with NBCUniversal but was later moved to stream exclusively on Peacock. Peacock offers a 7-day free trial and a $4.99 monthly subscription.
Meanwhile, the real Joe Exotic is still in prison.
As numerous spinoff projects continue to bubble around his name and story, the real Tiger King remains in jail, serving a 22-year prison sentence after being convicted of animal abuse and attempted murder-for-hire for a plot to kill Baskin. He is currently working on a book, Tiger King: The Official Tell-All Memoir, which will be released in November by Simon & Schuster and, according to Variety, he has hired a new legal team to push for his release.
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