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The Performances Make Joe vs. Carole
This show was cast perfectly.
Joe vs. Carole is, let’s face it, completely unnecessary. And, on the whole, a little sloppy. It’s thematically flat, the jumps in time are confusing and haphazard, and it doesn’t give us much we haven’t gotten before from the numerous versions of the story on multiple platforms.
However, it’s worth revisiting Wynnewood for the performances alone.
The great clash between Joe Exotic and Carole Baskin has become almost Shakespearean. Let me explain.
Most of us that seek out Shakespeareances stop coming for the story after a while. I love Hamlet, it’s maybe the greatest text ever written, but at the end of the day it’s blah blah avenge father yeah yeah we get it. You get to the point where you start seeing these shows for the people behind them and less for the stories. I want to see him play Hamlet, or they’re old enough for King Lear now — it’s time! I don’t need to see another Macbeth, well, unless Daniel Craig is playing the part.
In my mind, Tiger King has become this repertory story now. How many tiger-adjacent projects were greenlit in the summer of 2020? Many of them were scrapped (and perhaps Joe vs. Carole shows us why), but Kristin Chenoweth had fun singing Carole online and Nicolas Cage came very close to playing Joe.
Yes, we know the story already. So if we’re going to do it again, you might as well do it with the perfect cast — classic Shakespearean repertory style. Find the people who are right for these characters right now and let them do what they do best.
The casting on this show is phenomenal and lets some underrated performers shine. Let’s talk about those folks.
John Cameron Mitchell as Joe Exotic: I love John Cameron Mitchell. He was absolutely brilliant in his mainstream breakthrough project Hedwig and the Angry Inch and aside from a handful of directing projects, we haven’t gotten enough of him. He gives Joe so much honesty. It’s amazing how you can watch Tiger King and so often feel empathy for Joe and JCM finds that in his performance. I’m so glad people are getting to see him do what he does best. It feels so special.
Kate McKinnon as Carole Baskin: This is exactly what I mean with my Shakespeare repertory company idea. Is Kate the perfect choice for this? Maybe not. She’s a little young for the part, (Carole herself agrees and says she wanted Meryl Streep — who wouldn’t?) but sometimes Paul Giamatti plays Hamlet. Casting doesn’t have to perfectly mirror the real-life person. Kate McKinnon plays the Carole Baskin type often on SNL, and she uses her SNL-style repertory experience with this part. She’s hilarious and that’s what you want her to do.
Kyle MacLachlan as Howard Baskin: On the flip side, MacLachlan (63) seems a little old opposite playing opposite Kate McKinnon (38), but once again, it doesn’t matter. He plays the schlup perfectly (I loved watching him do it as Trey on Sex and the City) and just like Kate, he’s cast because he plays this one thing so well. And he does that blockhead thing excellently here.
Dean Winters as Jeff Lowe: Mayhem himself! He’s literally best known for being the guy who comes in and ruins your life. And that’s exactly what he is for Joe here.
Brian Van Holt as John Reinke: To be a complete contrarian to my own theory, Brian Van Holt looks and sounds exactly like John Reinke. It’s awesome. I don’t mind Kate being 20 years too young to play Carole, but it is great to have Van Holt here to make you double-take every time he comes on screen.
William Fichtner as Rick Kirkham: One of the best “That guy in from that thing!” guys around, so he fits in perfectly with the repertory company here.
Nat Wolff as Travis Maldonado: The former Naked Brother has been acting seriously for almost a decade now and he’s been getting better and better roles. I liked in another miniseries, The Stand, last year and I liked him in this.
Sam Keeley as John Finlay: Didn’t realize what character he was playing for two episodes because he had teeth. Anyway, he’s a great addition to round out the company.
Maybe you didn’t love the show (I didn’t), but I think there’s still plenty of value there. Maybe because I love Hedwig, SNL, Rescue Me, and Sex and the City, this cast became my perfect company while it might not be yours. Who you have cast from your repertory troupe?