John Cameron Mitchell Set to Play Joe Exotic in Upcoming ‘Tiger King’-Based Series for NBC

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The Tiger King-based series, starring Kate McKinnon as Carole Baskin, has found its Joe Exotic. ET has confirmed that John Cameron Mitchell will be playing the “Tiger King” himself in Joe Exotic, the working title for the upcoming limited series which will roll out across NBCU’s scripted entertainment platforms, NBC, Peacock and USA.  

Joe Exotic is based on true events following big cat enthusiast Baskin, who sets out to shut down Joe “Exotic” Schreibvogel’s venture after learning he is breeding and using his big cats for profit. A quickly escalating rivalry ensues as Baskin works tirelessly to take down Joe and all animal abusers.

In a statement released following the casting announcement, the Hedwig actor said he was “thrilled” to take on the role of the “Tiger King.”

“I’m thrilled to take on the role of this modern folk antihero,” Mitchell said in the 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.”

Steven O’Neill, EVP of Casting and Talent Development at UCP said the role needed an LGBTQ icon like Mitchell to take on the over-the-top character.

Tiger King
Netflix

“It’s clear that an over-the-top character like Joe needed someone very special,” O’Neill said. “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 based on Wondery’s Joe Exotic: Tiger King, podcast, hosted and reported by Robert Moor. In addition to taking on the role of the “Big Cat Rescue” head, McKinnon will executive produce the series along with Wondery’s Hernan Lopez, Marshall Lewy, and Aaron Hart.

In August, it was announced that Joe Exotic would be coming to NBC just months after McKinnon was revealed to be starring as Baskin, following the release of Netflix’s docuseries, Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness. Baskin reacted to the news in a statement to ET at the time. 

“Big Cat Rescue implores Kate McKinnon to not use real big cats and cubs in the making of her series,” the statement read. “The Wondery podcast, which is the basis for her series, explores the rampant breeding, abuse and exploitation of big cats by breeder and exhibitor Joe Exotic. It would be cruel to use real big cats in a television series about cruelty to big cats.”

“We urge McKinnon to utilize computer-generated imagery (CGI) of cats in the show rather than forcing real big cats to suffer just to entertain the audience,” the statement continued. “We hope McKinnon has a passion for animals and that her series will focus on the horrible lives captive big cats lead when exploited by breeders like Joe Exotic. We further hope she urges the public to support the Big Cat Public Safety Act that would end the cub petting abuse in America.”

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