Joe Exotic for Tiger King (2020)

When Netflix’s Tiger King docuseries premiered last year, it took the world by storm, effectively solidifying Joe Exotic’s place in pop culture. The former zoo owner actually proved to be so popular that a few scripted adaptations were soon greenlit. One hails from NBCUniversal and is set to star Kate McKinnon as Exotic’s rival Carole Baskin. Now, the show has found an actor to play McKinnon’s Exotic.

Actor, director and playwright John Cameron Mitchell has been tapped to play Joseph Schreibvogel (or Joe Exotic) in NBC’s upcoming Tiger King limited series, per Variety. As of this writing, Mitchell and McKinnon are the only cast members to be confirmed for the series. In addition to the report, Mitchell responded to his casting with a statement of his own:

I’m thrilled to take on the role of this modern folk antihero. 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.

John Cameron Mitchell on Girls

Steven O’Neill of UCP also commented on the casting of John Cameron Mitchell. In his statement, he explained just why Mitchell was the actor to embody Joe Exotic:

It’s clear that an over-the-top character like Joe needed someone very special. 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.

John Cameron Mitchell has amassed quite a resume over the course of his career. From the ‘80s to the present, the actor has had roles in shows ranging from MacGyver and Law & Order to Girls and The Good Fight. He’s also directed on acclaimed shows like Nurse Jackie and GLOW. Of course, he’s best known for co-creating the musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which first debuted in 1998. The play was later revived in 2014 and would win Mitchell the Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical and a 2015 Special Tony Award for his performance. He would also write, direct and star in the 2001 film adaptation of the play.

Based on his body of work, John Cameron Mitchell seems to be a good fit for the role. The actor has plenty of experience playing over-the-top characters, but he’s also shown that he can go past the theatrics and find the humanity in his characters. The fact that he can relate to some of Exotic’s life experiences will surely also help Mitchell better identify with the controversial figure.

John Cameron Mitchell won’t be the only one to take on the role of Joe Exotic within the next few years. Nicolas Cage is also set to play the incarcerated former entrepreneur in a scripted series for CBS Television. Both actors are sure to give distinct takes on Exotic, and it’ll be fun to see how they pull it off.

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