The Netflix documentary series Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness has captivated viewers with a wild cast and a twist-filled storyline about big cat owners, bringing on a slew of memes and spirited debate about the motivations of each person involved in the show.
The introduction of personalities like Joseph Maldonado-Passage AKA Joe Exotic, Carole Baskin and Doc Antle has led to widespread fascination with the world of big cats and their off-the-wall owners — for good reason. Once you see Joe Exotic’s music videos or hear Carole Baskin greet fans with her signature line, “Hey all you cool cats and kittens,” it’s hard to avoid becoming fully absorbed in their lives. Since the series aired, many of the people involved have spoken out about their portrayals. Here’s where the cast of Tiger King is today.
The central figure of Tiger King, Joe Exotic, is introduced to viewers as the outlandish, polygamist, proudly gay, gun-carrying operator of the G.W. Zoo in Oklahoma known for breeding tigers and touring with his menagerie of exotic pets. The depth and details of Joe Exotic’s many romantic entanglements and his feud with Baskin over his breeding of animals are revealed over the course of the series, and by the end, he’s in prison after being convicted for his role in a murder-for-hire plot.
Today, Joe Exotic remains in prison after being sentenced in January 2020 to 22 years, in part because he plotted to kill Baskin. In March 2020, Joe Exotic filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Federal Wildlife Service and the U.S. Department of Interior seeking almost $94 million in damages, claiming his conviction was based on false testimony. Joe Exotic says in the lawsuit that he was prosecuted for being “an openly gay male with the largest collection of generic tigers and cross breeds,” the Associated Press reports.
The foil to Joe Exotic, Carole Baskin is the owner of the the non-profit exotic cat sanctuary Big Cat Rescue. Since Tiger King aired, Baskin has become one of the most talked-about figures, in part because of her very real obsession with exotic cats and because of suspicions around the mysterious disappearance of her first husband Don Lewis, who hasn’t been seen since 1997. Baskin has come out against accusations that she fed her husband to her tigers.
Following Tiger King‘s release, Baskin, who continues to operate the Big Cat Rescue in Tampa, released a statement refuting all allegations related to Don Lewis and rebuking her portrayal in the series, calling it “salacious and sensational.”
Howard Baskin, Carole’s current husband, also spoke in a video message posted to the Big Cat Rescue’s website that delves into the “lies” presented in the documentary.
“They never even gave us a chance to respond to many of the false claims that ended up in the documentary,” Baskin says.
Bhagavan “Doc” Antle
Among the many big cat enthusiasts and collectors in Tiger King‘s supporting cast is Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, the owner of Myrtle Beach Safari in South Carolina, which is also called “The Institute for Greatly Endangered and Rare Species (T.I.G.E.R.S). Antle, who appears throughout the series, is pretty memorable for his ponytail, a constantly fluctuating number of girlfriends and stories about his career as an animal trainer for film and TV (he was the animal handler for Britney Spears’ iconic 2001 VMA’s performance). Former employees of Antle’s who are interviewed in the series allege that he operated his big cat facility in a cult-like manner, noting that he started many romantic relationships with young women who worked for him.
Antle has disputed his portrayal in Tiger King. In a since-deleted Instagram post following the series debut, Antle wrote, “It is important to understand that this series is not a documentary; it’s sensationalized entertainment with paid participants.”
He added: “Over the decades we have heard every sort of fantasy scenario regarding our facility. Many of these less-than-flattering mistruths have been manufactured by those in the animal rights movement that oppose animal ambassador programs of any sort.”
Antle’s exotic animal zoo remains open. The facility was raided in 2019 in relation to lions it received from a zoo in Virginia that was under investigation for animal cruelty, Antle claimed.
Another bit cat enthusiast, Jeff Lowe took over the G.W. Zoo after Joe Exotic lost a lawsuit to Carole Baskin. Lowe, who appears in the series with his wife, Lauren, says he got to know Joe Exotic in 2015 and invested in the zoo after becoming aware of Joe’s dire financial situation. Lowe continues to own and operate the zoo in Oklahoma.
Rick Kirkham made an appearance in Tiger King as the producer behind Joe Exotic’s reality TV program. He has since cut ties with Joe Exotic and now lives in Norway, where he’s since gotten married and works as a freelance reporter, according to his Facebook page.
The ex-husband of Joe Exotic who was later revealed to have been in relationships with many women at the big cat zoo, John Finlay appears throughout the series to talk about how he became involved with Joe and the world of big cats.
Finlay has now set up a Facebook page to discuss his side of the story in the wake of Tiger King. While he is missing several teeth in his interviews in the series, he subsequently wrote on Facebook that Netflix did not show footage of him with his teeth fixed.
Dillon Passage is Joe Exotic’s current husband. The two appear to still be married after a wedding in December 2017.