Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem and Madness may have faced some backlash from some of the subjects of the breakout Netflix show, but John Reinke told PopCulture.com he thinks the documentarians got the story "spot on" when it comes to his former boss and friend Joe Exotic, currently serving a 22-year sentence following murder-for-hire allegations.
"Netflix got it spot on. Everyone says, 'It isn't me, it isn't me,'" the former big cat keeper at Oklahoma's most famous animal park said, referencing complaints by Carole Baskin and "Doc" Bhagavan Antle that they had been misled and misrepresented while filming the series. "Bullcrap! They got everyone spot on."
"When I see it on film, no wonder everyone thinks it can't be real. But it's real! I lived it," he continued, adding that there were even more insane moments that viewers didn't get to see, like physical fist fights between Joe and Jeff Lowe that would go on for upwards of 15 minutes before the two would wear themselves out.
"And then you got people who try to analyze everything and turn it back around," Reinke said, adding that of all the misconceptions people have about what went down at the big cat park, he was most disturbed by the animal abuse allegations. "There was no animal abuse. Those animals were being taken care of — I made sure of it," he claimed. "There's no way they could be turned loose. The wild doesn't exist anymore."
Reinke also balks at the suggestion that his former boss would have actually gone through with the supposed murder-for-hire plot to kill Baskin. "Joe would have never went that far," he told PopCulture. "I truly believe that. ...He doesn't need to be in [prison] for 22 years. I feel like he's already been in there too long."
When the controversial animal handler was first sent to prison, Reinke said he did reach out to him, but he refused to take the call. With how "flamboyant" a personality Joe is, his friend said he didn't want him to say something he shouldn't in the recorded call and "getting in more trouble." As for the other people involved in the documentary, Reinke said he's only spoken briefly to Joe's ex-husband John Finlay, saying everyone is "scared to do anything" amid the ongoing federal case.
Reinke could have never imagined the fame that would have come from his participation in Tiger King, although he says he didn't make a dime off of Netflix's series. He did, however, enjoy making his film debut with the new Full Moon Features movie Barbie & Kendra Save the Tiger King. The campy mockumentary comedy follows two women who fall in love with Joe and features the voice of Will & Grace star Leslie Jordan as a young Joe after a plane crash in the jungle.
"It was a blast," Reinke said of filming the movie. The comedy is the perfect fit for home viewing amid the coronavirus pandemic, he added: "What it is is something to get rid of all the intensity. We need a laugh right now." Barbie & Kendra Save the Tiger King is available online now at Full Moon Features.