The Netflix documentary Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness (2020) took the world by storm after its release on March 20th, 2020. The memes were incredible, and the people were taken aback by the crazy, unbelievable world of exotic cats and especially the colorful folks who inhabit it. It feels like that documentary came out years ago, but as of this article’s publishing, it was only 37 days ago.
It was announced on Monday, May 4th, 2020, that a limited series based on Joe Exotic titled Tiger King in the works from Imagine Television Series and CBS Television Series had cast Hollywood star Nicholas Cage as the titular Tiger King. The internet responded as it typically does, getting both Danny McBride and David Spade trending as their preferred choices for the lead role. While that discussion is valid, I want to focus on the remaining characters in and around the G.W. Zoo and who my dream cast to fill out the remaining roles will be.
The TV series will be based on a Texas Monthy article, Joe Exotic: A Dark Journey Into the World of a Man Gone Wild. After reading the article, it doesn’t appear that everyone featured on the Netflix docuseries will be present. There is no mention of Bhagavan Antle and his harem in the article, so rather than omit him I’m going to kick things off with an honorable mention.
“Doc” Antle – Played by Tim Robbins
As previously mentioned, I don’t think Bhagavan Antle will appear in the series. His name doesn’t come up in source material, but with the popularity of the documentary and the polarity of Doc, the showrunners may choose to include him. I went back and forth on who I thought would be the perfect actor to select. While I really wanted Ron Pearlman, Tim Robbins has the superior skill set and has the look down pat. Furthermore, Robbins is an Academy Award-winning actor, and I think this TV show is going to lean heavily into former accolades when advertising the series.
John Finlay – Played by Channing Tatum
John Finlay was the most predominately featured lover of Joe Exotic in the documentary. He was built country thick, never wore a shirt, and had a genuinely good nature about him. When it comes to well-built actors I want to sign up for a shirtless role, Channing Tatum would be near the top of that list every time. The fact that Tatum already has crushed his role as the gimp in This Is the End (2013) is all the better. And yes, I fully recognize that he was beholden to Danny McBride in that scene. Danny McBride should have been the Tiger King!
Travis Maldonado – Played by Adam Driver
Poor, sweet Travis. His story pulls at the heart, and as such, we need someone who can deliver a powerful performance. Adam Driver can peer into your soul using only his eyes. The fact that neither Travis nor Adam seems to be able to grow the facial hair connecting their goatee to their mustache seals the deal. The icing on the cake? The marketing will get to include “Academy Award Nominee Adam Driver.”
Dillon Passage – Played by Dylan and Cole Sprouse
Dillon is the puppy. The cute baby face who brings Joe joy in the most turbulent of times. Why cast both of the Sprouse twins to play one role? Why not. They crushed the twinning role as Julian in Big Daddy (1999) and the fact they no longer look indistinguishable from one another only adds another fun wrinkle. The duality of Dillon, if you will. Plus they’ve grown accustomed to working together, living that suite life.
The G.W. Zoo Staff
John Reinke – Played by Garret Dillahunt
John was a hard-working man who just plain loved his animals. I know he’s said in the past that Matthew McConaughey would be his choice to play him, and boy if that wouldn’t be a match. I wanted to get someone even grittier to play John, and that’s why I’m calling in Garret Dillahunt. You’ve probably seen him on the small or big screen before; Dillahunt has been a quality actor for years. He’s equal parts badass (see Deadwood and Fear the Walking Dead) and hilarious (see Raising Hope). Plus we once nodded at each other approvingly on an elevator, so he’s got mucho bonus points there. McConaughey and his Academy Award aren’t enough to crack through here.
Kelci “Saff” Saffery – Played by Dante Basco
Who doesn’t love Saff? By far the nicest person in the Tiger King stratosphere, he trusted the animals more than the humans around him, rightly I’d say. All that DESPITE the fact that a tiger bit his arm off! You need someone legendary to play Saff, someone above reproach. You may not know the name Dante Basco, but the vast majority of you probably know him for his most famous role, Rufio in Hook (1991). Dante doesn’t need an Academy Award; he can fly, he can fight, and he can crow.
Eric Kowie – Played by Chris Elliott
Talk about a no-nonsense kinda guy. Eric Kowie has no fucks to give about you or what you think. He tells it like it is and he has the hipster meth look all the kids aspire to. Maybe the last part isn’t totally true, but nevertheless. Eric Kowie and his unique look are perfectly suited for another uniquely hilarious actor, Chris Elliott. Elliott has played over-the-top characters to perfection over the years, and his recent run as Mayor Schitt on Schitt’s Creek is the perfect backdrop for his turn as Eric Kowie.
Josh Dial – Played by Jonah Hill
Technically speaking, Josh was not a member of the zoo staff. But he was a constant presence around the G.W. and as you’ll see by the title of the next section, he doesn’t belong there. A likable guy, Josh just wanted to live out his dream of running a political campaign. Poor guy got waaaaaay more than he bargained for. We need someone with acting chops, is known as portly, and can rock glasses like a champion. Insert two-time Academy Award nominee Jonah Hill. He’s basically going to be playing Peter Brand from Moneyball (2011), just at a zoo. He’s gonna crush it, I’d put him on the lookout for an Emmy if this were to come to fruition.
The Nefarious Elements of the G.W.
Rick Kirkman – Played by Robert Englund
Rick Kirkman never specifically did anything all that bad, depending on who you ask at the G.W. Zoo I suppose. But nefarious is just the perfect way to describe him. If not for his focus on turning Joe Exotic and his eccentricities into a marketable and profitable reality show, who knows how this all shakes up. He also looks like if he were caught in a fire he’d 1,000% look like Freddy Krueger, so who better to play him than the man himself, Robert Englund? Having Englund toss out witty oneliners from behind the “camera” would be a great callback to his Freddy heyday.
Jeff Lowe – Played by Anthony Michael Hall
The shadiest of the shady. I almost decided on having Eminem play this role for that very reason. Jeff Lowe looks like he hit peak cool ~15 years before the cameras started rolling and just never decided to do anything to refresh it. Anthony Michael Hall is most known for his Brat Pack heyday of John Hughes movies, but he’s still very much in the game. In fact, his role as the bully on an episode of Community is what immediately came to mind when thinking about who to play Jeff Lowe. AMH is also no stranger to marrying someone more than a few years his junior, so he’s got that going for him too.
Lauren Lowe – Played by Ellie Kemper
Poor Lauren Lowe. Young, pretty, and naive. Or, chooses to be naive. All I can tell you is she appears to have come to terms with her life choices, and you can respect that in a way. Sort of like how Erin’s relationship with Gabe goes on The Office. That and a similar shade of hair color led me right to Ellie Kemper. Also, if you haven’t seen Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, the current shelter-in-place is a great chance to rectify that.
Allen Glover – Played by Michael Chiklis
henchman handyman. Unless taking a very bizarre, clearly drug-induced bath, the man will burn through your soul with his gaze alone. Allan was terrifying. If Michael Chiklis can bring 1/3 of the intensity he brought on The Shield, he’s gonna give us all nightmares. Plus, mark my RSVP as a yes when it comes to Emmy Award-winner Michael Chiklis in a bathtub.
James Garretson – Played by Louie Anderson
The jet ski bandit himself. Everything about him screams greasy. He’s been rocking the center-parted bowl cut for easily 25 years I reckon, but what a character. Based on his bulbous features and overall look, my mind went straight to Louie Anderson, but like with Anthony Michael Hall, it is a specific role Anderson played, the mother on Baskets. They share an uncanny look, and as with many of my other picks, we get a marketing boost from the Emmy Award-winning actor.
Big Cat Rescue
Carole Baskin – Played by Kathy Bates
Carole Baskin, occasionally known as “some bitch down there in Florida,” is one crazy lady. The murder mystery nature of her past deserves hours of content alone, but I don’t think this series goes too deep, especially if it stays true to the article. That said, we need someone who can give you a glowing smile and also convey that they will wear your skin as a Halloween costume on the drop of a dime. Who better than Kathy Bates, the actor who would make that character type synonymous with her after an Oscar-winning performance in Misery (1991)? She would kill this role. Pun intended.
Howard Baskin – Played by Keith Carradine
Everything I said about Lauren Lowe applies to Howard times a million. The dude just wants to help animals and love his wife. He’s willing to overlook 20 tons of crazy, we should all be so lucky to find someone to love us like that. He had a bit of a flair for the dramatic in his own way, occasionally serenading Carole, so we need an actor with some serious chops. Insert Keith Carradine. The dude only needs like 30 seconds of screen time to steal a show or movie and he’d be well-suited to do so again here. As for the singing? Homie won an Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1976, so he’s gucci there. Just give me Special Agent Lundy with more of a southern drawl and we are gold here Ponyboy.
Do I think that any of these casting options are likely? Hell no. But it would be incredible to see some serious star power in this project. Considering they opened with Nick Cage, I may be reaching.