The Tiger King Miniseries Found a Perfect Joe Exotic

John Cameron Mitchell will take on the role of Joe Exotic and face off against Kate McKinnon as Carole Baskin in the upcoming UCP miniseries.

By Lauren Piester Apr 19, 2021 6:28 PMTags

Kate McKinnon's Carole Baskin, meet John Cameron Mitchell's Joe Exotic

UCP's Tiger King miniseries has found its titular star in Mitchell, the actor, writer and director who is currently starring as Aidy Bryant's boss on Shrill. He'll face off against Bryant's SNL co-star McKinnon in the long-awaited miniseries, which was somehow announced all the way back in April 2020. That was when our Tiger King obsession was new (thanks to a podcast and a Netflix docuseries) and so was the global pandemic that confined us to our homes, with nothing better to do than watch and talk about Tiger King

The series, which is based off the Wondery podcast Joe Exotic: Tiger King, chronicles the rivalry between big cat owners Carole and Joe as she attempts to shut down his zoo and he sets out to expose her past. 

"I'm thrilled to take on the role of this modern folk antihero," Mitchell said in a statement. "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."

Mitchell is perhaps best known for writing, directing and starring in 2001's Hedwig and the Angry Inch. 

2021 TV Premiere Dates

"It's clear that an over-the-top character like Joe needed someone very special," said Steven O'Neill, executive vice president of Casting & Talent Development at UCP. "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."

The series will premiere simultaneously across NBCU on NBC, USA Network and Peacock

No other cast members have been announced, but you can bet the internet has a whole year's worth of ideas about who could play the staff members at Joe's zoo.

Scroll down for all the info we have so far!


Listen Up

Joe Exotic and his gang of misfits have found mega fame with their Netflix docuseries, but he was first introduced to the world on Wondery's second season of the podcast Over My Dead Body. The story that the writers at Wondery weaved will be the basis of the new series produced by UCP studios. Together, Wondery's Hernan Lopez and Marshall Lewy will executive produce the limited series with the help of their star, Kate McKinnon. Etan Frankel will write and executive produce the series, and it will air on Peacock. 

Based on True Events

Per UCP, "Joe Exotic is a limited series based on true events following Carole Baskin (McKinnon), a big cat enthusiast, who learns that when fellow exotic animal lover Joe "Exotic" Schreibvogel 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." 

Kate McKinnon as Carole Baskin

Saturday Night Live star will be playing the divisive Carole Baskin in the limited series. In a statement, Carole called McKinnon "a wonderful actress" and requested that the show use only CGI tigers instead of real ones. 

John Cameron Mitchell as Joe Exotic

Shrill star John Cameron Mitchell, who rose to fame by writing and starring in Hedwig and the Angry Inch, will play the titular eccentric zoo owner who has it out for Carole Baskin. 

"I'm thrilled to take on the role of this modern folk antihero," Mitchell said in a statement. "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."

Kyle MacLachlan as Howard Baskin

Twin Peaks star Kyle MacLachlan will portray Howard Baskin in the Joe Exotic miniseries.

Dean Winters as Jeff Lowe

As for who will play Joe's backstabbing friend and fellow big cat enthusiast Jeff Lowe? That will be none other than Oz's Dean Winters.

William Fichtner as Rick Kirkham

Initially, Dennis Quaid was cast to play producer Rick Kirkham. However, due to a scheduling conflict, The Parent Trap actor had to exit the series. In July 2021, it was announced that Mom's William Fichtner would step into the role.

Brian Van Holt as John Reinke

In May 2021, it was revealed that Cougar Town's Brian Van Holt was cast as John Reinke in the Joe Exotic miniseries. As fans of the Tiger King saga well know, John was the manager for Joe's zoo, a loyal employee until things got too out of hand.

Nat Wolff as Travis Maldonado

The Peacock series began rounding out its cast when it tapped Nat Wolff to play one of Joe's husbands, Travis Maldonado, who passed away in 2017 due to an accidental suicide. Nat confirmed the casting news on Instagram, writing, "Couldn't be more excited to go on this wild adventure with this talented group of people!"

Sam Keeley as John Finlay

On Tuesday, June 1, the second of Joe's husbands was announced. Specifically, Sam Keeley will be joining Joe's throuple as John Finlay, who was often shirtless and had a headline-making smile in the Netflix docuseries.

In regard to his new role, Sam took to his Instagram story and said he was "very excited to be apart of this."

Who Will Play Doc "Baghavan" Antle?

Australian actor Damien Garvey will play mysterious animal trainer Doc Antle

Lex Mayson as Saff

A newcomer, named Lex Mayson, will portray Saff, an employee of Joe's who lost their arm after a brutal tiger attack.

Joel Marsh Garland as James Garretson

Following his work on Orange Is the New BlackJoel Marsh Garland is set to play James Garretson, Joe's friend-turned-FBI informant, in the upcoming series.

Justice For Don Lewis

Depending on the timeline, there could be new evidence brought to light in the disappearance of Carole's husband Don Lewis. The Hillsborough County sheriff wrote on Twitter, "Since @netflix and #Covid19 #Quarantine has made #TigerKing all the rage, I figured it was a good time to ask for new leads." If this happens, the show could have new info to inspire their script. 

(E! and UCP are both part of the NBCUniversal family.)

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