Hedwig and the Angry Inch‘s John Cameron Mitchell has been tapped to play the title character opposite Kate McKinnon in Joe Exotic (working title), UCP’s limited series based on the Wondery podcast, which is set to air across NBCU’s Television and Streaming Entertainment portfolio, including NBC, USA Network and Peacock.
Mitchell will play Joe “Exotic” Schreibvogel, the larger-than-life zoo owner in Oklahoma who loses himself in his hatred for Carole Baskin (McKinnon), a big cat activist and sanctuary owner working tirelessly to take down animal abusers.
“I’m thrilled to take on the role of this modern folk antihero,” said Mitchell. “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.”
The limited series 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.
“It’s clear that an over-the-top character like Joe needed someone very special,” said Steven O’Neill, EVP, Casting & Talent Development, 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.”
Etan Frankel writes and executive produces under his overall deal with UCP, a division of Universal Studio Group. McKinnon also executive produces along with Wondery’s Hernan Lopez, Marshall Lewy, and Aaron Hart.
Joe Exotic is one of two high-profile scripted series adaptations of the stranger-than-fiction true story popularized by Netflix’s hit docuseries Tiger King, along with one starring Nicolas Cage as Joe Exotic, which is in development at Amazon.
Mitchell co-created and starred in the stage musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, for which he received a Tony Award for Best Revival of a Musical and a Special Tony for Performance. For his Hedwig film adaptation, he won Best Director at the 2001 Sundance Festival and earned a Golden Globe nomination for Best Performance by an Actor in a Musical or Comedy. Mitchell currently appears on Hulu’s comedy series Shrill, Paramount+’s The Good Fight and will be seen in Netflix’s Sandman. His musical podcast series Anthem: Homunculus stars Glenn Close, Patti Lupone and Cynthia Erivo.