What we know about Kate McKinnon's show 'Joe vs. Carole,' a series based on the infamous 'Tiger King' feud

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The outlandish story of Joe Exotic — the flamboyant Oklahoma zoo operator, big-cat breeder and convicted felon made famous with the hit docuseries "Tiger King" — and his volatile feud his chief critic, Carole Baskin, has inspired another streaming series.

The limited series "Joe vs. Carole" stars two-time Primetime Emmy Award winner Kate McKinnon, best known for her work on the iconic sketch series "Saturday Night Live," and LGBTQ+ icon John Cameron Mitchell, a Tony Award winner who co-created the groundbreaking musical "Hedwig and the Angry Inch." It debuted March 3 exclusively on NBCUniversal's Peacock streaming service.

Here's what we know about "Joe vs. Carole:"

John Cameron Mitchell as Joe Exotic in the Peacock series "Joe vs. Carole."
John Cameron Mitchell as Joe Exotic in the Peacock series "Joe vs. Carole."

How is 'Joe vs. Carole' different from 'Tiger King?'

The bizarre life and murder-for-hire trial of Joe Exotic — whose birth name is Joseph Allen Schreibvogel, although his lead attorney says he now prefers to go by Joseph Maldonado — first captured the world's imagination in Netflix's seven-episode documentary series "Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness."

"Tiger King" debuted in March 2020, just as the COVID-19 pandemic began confining many people to their homes, and quickly roared into a pop-culture phenomenon.

A streak of "Tiger King" memes, send-ups and spin-offs quickly pounced on the docuseries' popularity, including the official sequel, "Tiger King 2," which Netflix unleashed last fall. (Oscar winner Nicolas Cage was once slated to play Joe Exotic in a planned Amazon project, but told Variety last summer that he was no longer attached, implying that series had been shelved.)

Kate McKinnon as Carole Baskin in the Peacock series "Joe vs. Carole."
Kate McKinnon as Carole Baskin in the Peacock series "Joe vs. Carole."

But plans for a Joe Exotic series starring McKinnon actually were announced in November 2019, just seven months after Maldonado was convicted of hiring hitmen to kill Baskin — and four months before most people outside of Oklahoma had heard of the "Tiger King."

Nominated for six Primetime Emmys, "Tiger King" is a true-crime documentary series featuring Joe Exotic, Baskin and members of their respective inner circles as themselves. "Tiger King" co-directors Rebecca Chaiklin and Eric Goode spent five years exploring the shadowy world of big-cat owners, with much of their filming centered on the now-shuttered Wynnewood roadside zoo Joe Exotic founded as G.W. Exotic Animal Park.

Based on the Wondery podcast titled “Joe Exotic,” hosted and reported by Robert Moor, "Joe vs. Carole" is a dramatic series with actors playing the larger-than-life characters.

Kate McKinnon plays Carole Baskin and Kyle MacLachlan portrays her husband, Howard Baskin, in Peacock's new streaming series "Joe vs. Carole."  The limited streaming series tells the story of Joe Exotic - the flamboyant former Oklahoma zoo operator, big-cat breeder and convicted felon made famous with the hit docuseries "Tiger King" - and his volatile feud his Carole Baskin, a Florida animal sanctuary operator who emerged as his chief critic.
Kate McKinnon plays Carole Baskin and Kyle MacLachlan portrays her husband, Howard Baskin, in Peacock's new streaming series "Joe vs. Carole." The limited streaming series tells the story of Joe Exotic - the flamboyant former Oklahoma zoo operator, big-cat breeder and convicted felon made famous with the hit docuseries "Tiger King" - and his volatile feud his Carole Baskin, a Florida animal sanctuary operator who emerged as his chief critic.

'Joe vs. Carol' executive producer calls show a 'deep dive into understanding who these people were

Running eight hourlong episodes, "Joe vs. Carole" centers on Florida animal sanctuary operator Baskin as she "learns that fellow exotic animal lover Joe 'Exotic' Schreibvogel is breeding and using his big cats for profit," according to the series synopsis.

"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 synopsis continues.

Showrunner, writer and executive producer Etan Frankel (Showtime's "Shameless") has called the new series a "deep dive into understanding who these people were."

"'Joe vs. Carole' is a wild ride. It's a fun and rich journey into the story of people who live very extreme lives," Frankel said in a statement.

"I found Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin to be utterly fascinating, and this crazy tale about two big cat lovers quickly became an important story for me to tell. I hope that when people watch 'Joe vs. Carole' just maybe they'll see these people that they thought they knew in a brand-new way."

Who makes up the 'Joe vs. Carole' cast?

Best known for her uproarious impressions and sketches on "SNL," McKinnon has been attached to the series since it was first announced, both to star as Baskin and as an executive producer.

"I listened to this podcast on Wondery (and) I thought, 'That's a kooky lady; she'd be fun to play.' And then as I did more research, I began to really admire her," McKinnon says in a behind-the-scenes video. "I really want people to see that she is a kick-ass businesswoman, a very passionate activist and is a survivor."

John Cameron Mitchell plays Joe Exotic in Peacock's new streaming series "Joe vs. Carole." The limited streaming series tells the story of Joe Exotic - the flamboyant former Oklahoma zoo operator, big-cat breeder and convicted felon made famous with the hit docuseries "Tiger King" - and his volatile feud his Carole Baskin, a Florida animal sanctuary operator who emerged as his chief critic.
John Cameron Mitchell plays Joe Exotic in Peacock's new streaming series "Joe vs. Carole." The limited streaming series tells the story of Joe Exotic - the flamboyant former Oklahoma zoo operator, big-cat breeder and convicted felon made famous with the hit docuseries "Tiger King" - and his volatile feud his Carole Baskin, a Florida animal sanctuary operator who emerged as his chief critic.

A Tony winner who co-created the trailblazing musical "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" — including directing and starring in the 2001 film version — Mitchell takes on the role of Joe Exotic. He describes the series as "realistic, but there's a heightened sense of comedy and tragedy."

"I found I had a lot more in common with him than I expected: He was gay in an inhospitable land," Mitchell says in a making-of featurette. "The more vicious parts of Joe were harder to access. He reacted to the various traumas of his life by becoming a bully."

The series co-stars Kyle MacLachlan ("Twin Peaks," 1984's "Dune") as Baskin's supportive third husband, Howard Baskin; Brian Van Holt ("Cougar Town") as John Reinke, the loyal manager of Joe Exotic's Oklahoma animal park; and Sam Keeley ("Anthropoid") as John Finlay and Natt Wolff ("The Stand") as Travis Maldonado, two of Joe Exotic's husbands.

William Fichtner ("Armageddon") will appear as reality television producer Rick Kirkham; Marlo Kelly ("Dare Me") is playing Jamie Murdock, Carole Baskin's daughter; and Dean Winters ("Joe Wick," "30 Rock") is portraying Jeff Lowe, a fellow big cat enthusiast who started out as a partner and ally to Joe Exotic but eventually became another of his enemies.

It's appropriate that there's been a bit of mystery surrounding who David Wenham ("The Lord of the Rings" movies, "300") plays in the series: The Australian actor is rumored to be portraying Carole Baskin's second husband, Don Lewis, whose mysterious disappearance became a jaw-dropping twist when "Tiger King" debuted.

Joe Maldonado, aka "Joe Exotic," works with Boco, the male Li-Liger at Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 in Wynnewood, Okla.
Joe Maldonado, aka "Joe Exotic," works with Boco, the male Li-Liger at Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park on Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016 in Wynnewood, Okla.

What's the latest on Joe Exotic and his tigers?

Due to judicial error, Joe Exotic was resentenced in January to 21 years in federal prison. The former U.S. presidential and Oklahoma gubernatorial candidate's new punishment is only one year less than his original sentence handed down in April 2019.

Although public interest in Joe Exotic's case has waned over the past two years, The Oklahoman reported that fans filled the courtroom at the Oklahoma City federal courthouse for the resentencing.

Joe Exotic's attorneys plan to bring up their accusations of outrageous government conduct, lying witnesses and entrapment in a motion for a new trial.

In February, Joe Exotic, who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer, tested positive for COVID-19. His lead attorney, John M. Phillips, subsequently posted on Facebook that Maldonado was recovering after being "sick as hell."

After experiencing a surge of popularity with "Tiger King," Lowe and his wife, Lauren, shut down the Greater Wynnewood Exotic Animal Park once owned by Joe Exotic in 2020, with Baskin and her husband taking control of the property and putting it up for sale.

The Lowes moved the big cats to Thackerville with plans to establish a new Tiger King Park, but the new location never opened to the public.

The U.S. Justice Department filed a federal civil complaint against the Lowes in November 2020 over their care of the animals. A U.S. district judge in January 2021 ordered the removal of 10 tiger cubs and their mothers.

In May 2021, federal authorities completed the removal of the remaining 68 big cats from the property a few miles north of the Oklahoma-Texas border.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Kate McKinnon's 'Joe vs. Carole' explores Joe Exotic vs. Carole Baskin