First Hedwig, now Joe Exotic.
John Cameron Mitchell, who won Tonys for writing and starring in Broadway’s Hedwig and the Angry Inch, will take on the role of Joe “Exotic” Schreibvogel in the scripted limited series that is set to air across NBCUniversal’s linear and streaming platforms. As previously announced, Saturday Night Live Emmy winner Kate McKinnon will star as activist Carole Baskin in the drama from Universal Content Productions and showrunner Etan Frankel.
Based on Wondery’s Joe Exotic podcast from host and reporter Robert Moor, here’s how the studio describes the untitled entry: centers on big cat enthusiast Baskin, who learns that fellow exotic animal lover Joe “Exotic” Schreibvogel 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. (The show has no connection to the Netflix docuseries Tiger King, which was one of the early streaming breakout hits at the outset of the pandemic last year.)
“I’m thrilled to take on the role of this modern folk antihero,” Mitchell said. “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.”
Etan Frankel (Sorry for Your Loss, Shameless) will write the limited series via his overall deal with UCP, a division of Universal Studio Group. McKinnon will exec produce alongside Frankel, Wondery’s Hernan Lopez, Marshall Lewy and Aaron Hart. “It’s clear that an over-the-top character like Joe needed someone very special,” said Steven O’Neill, exec vp casting and talent development at 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.”
Mitchell co-created the stage musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, earning a Tony for best revival of a musical and a special prize for his performance. His film adaptation earned him a Sundance best director price in 2001. His credits also include features Shortbus, Rabbit Hole, Hulu comedy Shrill, Paramount+’s The Good Fight, with Netflix’s Sandman also in the works.
Mitchell becomes the latest actor to take on the role of Joe Exotic. Nicholas Cage is playing the part in a scripted TV series for Amazon. Others, including one starring Rob Lowe and from Ryan Murphy, are rumored to also be in various stages of development.
The McKinnon-Mitchell Joe Exotic show is slated to air across NBC, cabler USA Network and streamer Peacock as the first in a larger corporate strategy at NBCUniversal under the new executive regime led by Frances Berwick and Susan Rovner. A premiere date has not yet been determined.
Mitchell is repped by CAA and Peikoff Mahan.