‘Tiger King’: John Finlay Says Producers ‘Focused on the Drama,’ Reveals What the Series Didn’t

John Finlay, the consistently shirtless star of Netflix’s Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness revealed what the docuseries got wrong about life with Joseph Maldonado-Passage, better known as Joe Exotic. Here’s the story he wishes the documentarians would have told. 

John Finlay Tiger King
John Finlay | Netflix

People are obsessed with ‘Tiger King’ 

Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem, and Madness pulled back the curtain on the big cat underworld in the United States. Several eccentric zookeepers are featured in the soon-to-be eight-part docuseries, including Bhagavan “Doc” Antle, Carole Baskin, and Maldonado-Passage. 

Maldonado-Passage quickly becomes the main character of the series. As cameras follow him on his journey to become the best exotic animal zoo in the country, they also capture Maldonado-Passage simultaneously trying to take down Baskin, maintain a career as a country music singer, and run for governor of Oklahoma. 

John Finlay’s role in ‘Tiger King’ 

Finlay was Maldonado-Passage second husband. He began working at the G.W. Zoo after graduating from high school. At the time, Maldonado-Passage was traveling across the country, putting on exotic animal shows in malls. 

Maldonado-Passage and Finlay fell in love, marrying in 2014 in a three-way ceremony with 19-year-old Travis Maldonado, whose accidental suicide was captured while filming the docuseries. Finlay was only married to Maldonado-Passage for one year, at which time he claimed Maldonado-Passage became controlling and manipulative. 

Despite their differences, Finlay continued to work in the park and later had a child with the park secretary, Stormey. 

John Finlay explained what really happened 

In an interview with Variety, Finlay explained everything that happened behind the scenes when cameras weren’t filming. Finlay said the documentary crews never included footage of “what it was like to be around the animals or anything.” Instead, Finlay accused the creators of Tiger King of “focus[ing] on the drama” at the G.W. Zoo. 

That wasn’t the only thing the documentarian’s editing misconstrued. “I was never married to Joe or to my baby’s mama,” Finlay admitted. “We’re engaged now, he said, clarifying: “They never showed that because they knew I was engaged at the time.”

Finlay also mentioned that he had been sober for six years at the time the documentary was being filmed, despite Finlay’s opinion that the crew portrayed him as a “drugged out hillbilly.”

What John Finlay wishes were different about ‘Tiger King’ 

Having watched the docuseries himself, Finlay told Variety he wished the show captured “more of the positive.” Instead of focusing on the mistreatment of exotic animals in captivity, Finlay said the creators could have showed “that we helped quite a few people with their last, dying wishes to be able to pet a tiger, pet a bear, pet a wolf.” Finlay said those experiences gave him a different perspective on life and forced him to think about why people do the things they do before they die. 

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Despite wishing the show portrayed the zoo in a different light, Finlay doesn’t regret his time working there. He said he and his fellow crew members came to work for the well-being of the animals. “The animals and the experience are what I’ve missed the most,” Finlay said. 

Finlay will be a guest interviewed on the eighth installment of the docuseries titled The Tiger King and I. Joel McHale will talk with Finlay and others about the series that has captivated millions. Hopefully, Finlay takes advantage of his screen time and clears the air. 

Related: Not Everyone Enjoys ‘Tiger King’: Larry David and Howard Stern Aren’t Fans