“Tiger King” is the most addictive and disturbing docuseries on Netflix right now. It has nabbed the No. 1 spot on Netflix’s Top 10 list this week. Cardi B is watching in disbelief and so are Kim Kardashian West and other celebrities.
Directed by Eric Goode and Rebecca Chaiklin, the seven-part series dives into the big cat industrial complex through the lenses of several big players including animal rights activist Carole Baskin, animal trainer Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, investor Jeff Lowe, and of course Joe Maldonado-Passage, better known as Joe Exotic. “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness” is the full series name and, to avoid spoiling too much for folks who haven’t yet tuned in, it fully delivers.
People are so obsessed with this real-life story that there’s already a fictional adaptation in the works. Emmy-winning “Saturday Night Live” veteran Kate McKinnon has already reportedly been tapped to star as Baskin in the limited series, which has yet to be picked up by a network. This six-part production is based on “Joe Exotic,” the second season of the Wondery podcast “Over My Dead Body,” which is hosted and reported by Robert Moor. Moor wrote the September 2019 piece about Joe Exotic for New York Magazine.
Should Hollywood need any help casting this limited series, we’ve rounded up a list of actors who should be first on the call list. A few roles are going to be hotly contested, so we left a few polls for our readers to weigh in. So, hey, all you cool cats and kittens, take your rightful place alongside HuffPost as a casting agent for a hot new production.
To portray Joe Exotic, of course, the actor needs a bit of eccentricity and charisma — and the ability to grow out the perfect mullet. At first glance, you might immediately think of David Spade, who portrayed Joe Dirt in 2001. However, our vote is for Chris Elliott, most recently known for his role as Roland Schitt on the hit series “Schitt’s Creek,” where he rocks a very Joe Exotic-like mullet and is … well, weird AF.
Matthew McConaughey as John Reinke
Don’t you want good things to happen for John Reinke, the manager of GW Zoo? He is one of the few people on the show who isn’t the absolute worst. Matthew McConaughey has just enough of a rugged look and seemingly caring personality to make him perfect to portray Reinke.
Jeremy Allen White as John Finlay
We tapped Jeremy Allen White, known for his role as Lip Gallagher on the long-running Showtime series “Shameless,” to play Joe Exotic’s ex-husband John Finlay. Their clear blue eyes and penchant for being shirtless on screen is a match made in heaven. Just slap some fake tattoos on White.
Ser Anzoategui as Kelci “Saff” Saffery
Kelci “Saff” Saffery, who is reportedly trans and uses he/him pronouns, according to Robert Moor, the reporter behind the New York magazine feature story on Joe Exotic, was an animal keeper at the GW Zoo. To portray Saff, we tapped nonbinary Latinx actor Ser Anzoategui who recently co-starred on Starz’s drama “Vida.” Anzoategui, who uses they/them pronouns, portrays Eddy, a loyal widow who will do anything to protect the bar where she used to work with her late wife.
Nat Wolff as Travis Maldonado
Travis Maldonado was one of Joe Exotic’s husbands. He has a tragic storyline in the docuseries and dies of an accidental self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, according to The Oklahoman. Nat Wolff, perhaps best known for his roles in “Paper Towns” and “Palo Alto,” could portray Maldonado in the series.
Ryan Hurst as Erik Cowie
Erik Cowie was the head zookeeper at GW, who ultimately testified against Joe Exotic at the March 2019 trial. Ryan Hurst has appeared in “The Walking Dead” and co-starred on the FX drama series “Sons of Anarchy.” The long hair and beard makes this an easy pick.
Sean Penn as Jeff Lowe
Here’s another role that is up for debate. Jeff Lowe is the pretty sheisty investor who befriended Joe Exotic before their relationship went downhill. He is currently trying to get the Oklahoma Zoo up and running in Thackerville, Oklahoma. We like Sean Penn for this mainly because they kiiiiinda look alike. (Squint one eye, OK?!) But who do you think works for this one?
Isla Fisher as Lauren Lowe
Yes, Lauren Lowe is still with Jeff and is helping to open up the Oklahoma Zoo with her husband this summer. Isla Fisher is perhaps best known for her role in “Wedding Crashers” with Vince Vaughn and Owen Wilson. “It was an interesting character to play, because she was so crazy,” Fisher said of her part in that film. “She doesn’t care what anyone thinks.” Sound familiar?
Haley Joel Osment as James Garretson
This might be our favorite matchup. James Garretson is the guy who ultimately got Joe Exotic arrested for the murder-for-hire plot. And to see Haley Joel Osment, of course most known for work as a child actor in “The Sixth Sense” and “Forrest Gump,” take his turn as a manipulative and shifty businessman would be great television.
Joey Pollari as Dillon Passage
Dillon Passage married Joe Exotic in December 2017 a few weeks after the death of Maldonado. In the docuseries, Passage talks to Joe Exotic multiple times a day while Exotic is in jail, and, according to reports, they are still married. We nabbed Joey Pollari, who is perhaps most known for his recent role as Lyle in “Love, Simon,” for this role.
Dean Norris as Allen Glover
Dean Norris, most known for portraying Hank Schrader in “Breaking Bad” and more recently Uncle Daddy in “Claws,” just gives us stern, no-bullshit vibes whenever we see his image. In “Claws,” he shows audiences that he shows no mercy. And well, Allen Glover, who worked at GW Zoo alongside Jeff Lowe and was in on the plot to kill Carole Baskin, clearly gives IDGAF vibes.
John Corbett as Bhagavan “Doc” Antle
OK, this may seem random! There’s a softness to Antle’s face that John Corbett — yes of “Sex and the City” fame — shares. Antle was the jovial yet seemingly shady owner of Myrtle Beach Safari. There were a few other top choices for this role, so vote!
Richard Belzer as Howard Baskin
Don’t you miss John Munch on your television in weekly episodes of “Law & Order: SVU”? He was always a straight shooter with perfect deadpan delivery. He’d be perfect to portray Howard Baskin, Carole’s husband, who doesn’t play around too much either.
Ed Harris as Rick Kirkham
There were many moments in “Tiger King” when we screamed at our TV asking, “Are you serious?” One of those moments was when all of Rick Kirkham’s footage and equipment burned up in what seemed to be an intentional fire. Kirkham, a former “Inside Edition” reporter, followed Joe Exotic around for years to document his life in a reality-TV series. Ed Harris just looks the part.
Jonah Hill as Joshua Dial
Jonah Hill brings just the right amount of energy to his roles to take on Joshua Dial, Joe Exotic’s campaign manager.
Tony Plana as Mario Tabraue
Mario Tabraue, the former drug dealer who once stuffed drugs inside snakes, was the leader of a 10-year drug ring in Miami. In the series, he is shown playing with his animals at Zoological Wildlife, his foundation. Cuban American actor Tony Planas, known for portraying the father in ABC’s “Ugly Betty,” would be perfect for the role.
Sam Trammell as Tim Stark
So yes, Wildlife in Need founder Tim Stark was pretty heinous in the series. He can keep his lewd remarks about Doc Antle’s wives/girlfriends. But we did want so much more of Tim Stark’s colorful commentary about the process of rehabilitating Joe’s zoo with Jeff Lowe. Sam Trammell starred in HBO’s “True Blood” as Sam Merlotte and more recently in Showtime’s “Homeland.” Though Trammell’s role as Sam Merlotte was mostly good-natured, he did show his angry and vicious side a few times and could tap into that should he portray Stark.
Shirley MacLaine as Shirley Schreibvogel
Joe Exotic’s mother was dragged through court proceedings by Carole Baskin and a lot of money-grabbing from her son. If nothing else, this matchup deserves to happen because they share the same first name.
Additional casting support contributed by Leigh Blickley, Hilary Hanson and Ivylise Simones.