Joe Exotic, the now-infamous subject of Netflix’s latest viral sensation “Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness,” has spoken out for the first time since the docuseries swept the country and has since incited huge social media reactions from a number of celebrities.
The seven-part series for the streaming giant follows Exotic, whose real name is Joseph Maldonado-Passage, 57, in his exploits as a zookeeper, country musician, aspiring politician and arch-rival of fellow big cat enthusiast Carole Baskin. Maldonado-Passage was handed a 22-year prison sentence for his involvement in a murder-for-hire plot to kill Baskin.
Now, in a recent interview with Netflix, Maldonado-Passage laments the fact that he’s cooped behind bars just as his fame has ascended to new heights and the former private zoo owner is basking in his notoriety.
"You know it would be nice if I could actually see me being famous out there, but I've seen these same four walls for a year and a half now," he told the streamer from prison in a video shared to Twitter on Friday.
In the interview, which took place on March 22, Maldonado-Passage displayed contrition for some of his behavior detailed in the film and added that in hindsight, he’s quite remorseful for some of his animals being encaged in the manner they were.
"Go sit in a cage with your animals for a week,” he said. “I mean, when I left the zoo and I sent my chimpanzees to the sanctuary in Florida and imagined what my chimpanzees went through for 18 years, I -- I'm ashamed of myself.”
Maldonado-Passage’s fourth husband Dillon Passage told Andy Cohen on Wednesday that the Tiger King hasn’t yet seen the project but is basking in the attention and notoriety he has received since the series began streaming.
“He’s in jail, so he can’t necessarily watch it, but once the show dropped he was getting hundreds and hundreds of emails to his jail mail, and he was ecstatic,” Passage told Cohen.
Maldonado-Passage, in his jailhouse conversation with Netflix, thanked his husband for remaining by his side during his legal battles and subsequent life behind bars, despite the fact that the pair was only married for eight months before the Tiger King was hauled away for his transgressions.
The big cat wrangler now says that in the light of the series’ popularity, he’s turning a new chapter and making it his mission to get himself out of prison and to clear his name.
"I'm done with the Carole Baskin saga,” he said. “It's now time to turn the tables and Joe gets out of jail a free man and exonerated from all these charges.”
Maldonado-Passage has reportedly filed a $94 lawsuit, asking for nearly $74 million in loss of personal property, 18 years of research, and the full care of 200 generic tigers and crossbreeds, as well as $15 million for false arrest, false imprisonment, selective enforcement and the death of his mother Shirley, according to People.