Right when America was forced into lockdown as a result of the coronavirus pandemic, Netflix debuted its biggest and most popular docuseries to date: Tiger King: Murder, Mayhem & Madness. As Joe "Exotic" Maldonado-Passage hysteria swept the nation, fans of the eight-part documentary begged for more, sparking an official foray into the pop culture realm through the likes of memes and merchandise. In light of popular demand, Hollywood also created a scripted series based on the wild lives of Maldonado-Passage and other famous faces in the tiger industry. A-list names like Nicolas Cage and SNL's Kate McKinnon are set to play roles of Maldonado-Passage and rival Carol Baskin, but longtime employee and face of Tiger King, Kelci "Saff" Saffery, has some thoughts.
In an exclusive interview with PopCulture.com, Saff revealed what he thinks about the scripted series idea and who he would love to see play him. "Kate McKinnon, I think she'd be awesome as Carol," he said. "Carol's a very [...] eccentric person, but she's got that very guarded thing going on and Kate McKinnon — I mean with SNL — she's going to nail it." With regards to Cage portraying Maldonado-Passage, Saff said he's "always just pushed for David Spade – it's just a personal opinion of mine — but I'm sure Nicolas Cage, I mean, he's incredible obviously, and I'm sure he'll nail it too!"
However, when it comes to who might play the role of Saff, he's all in favor of Brandon Baker, otherwise known as "Johnny Tsunami" from the movie of the same name. "I've spoken to close friends, and of course my family about this, and I watched him [Baker] as a child and I used to go to school, people thought I was him. So it's going to be an incredible, full-circle [moment] for me if he does actually play me."
With so much attention following Tiger King's release, Saff said he "always knew there was a story" to tell regarding Maldonado-Passage, but he never expected viewers to be so drawn into their story the way they did. "We have been interviewed countless times before this, there have been many, many documentaries made prior to this Netflix one, but as far as surprised that it got to the scale that it did, absolutely." While Saff quickly became a recognizable face in Oklahoma because he worked with tigers and following his accident that drew lots of attention, he said being known on a national scale is a whole other level of fame he wasn't expecting.
While Saff is a "reserved person by nature," he is embracing the attention and feels grateful he's been given a platform. One way he's using his new-found fame is by teaming up with Georgia-based law firm Bader Scott is to raise awareness for workers who get injured on the job. "Millions of Americans I'm sure get hurt on the job, injured on the job, and a lot of, I feel, the issues with pursuing anything is that they're not sure if they can, or they're not sure if they have the means or what [the] process is [like]," he explained. He highlighted how important it is for one to care for themselves following an incident that may take place while at work "because your employer will continue to carry on his or her business with or without you."
Following his accident — featured in episode two of Tiger King — he returned to work within a week. So now, he's using his platform to raise awareness on the importance of considering one's self if something bad happens while on the clock. He did note that while this may have been a life-changing moment, he's worked on getting his mind right after, because "your body is strong" and will adapt to change, but focusing on his mind is where he's attention drew and has found happiness in it.