Nat Wolff on shooting the Joe Exotic series in Australia: 'Greatest experience ever'

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·Lifestyle & Entertainment Producer
·7-min read
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When Tiger King became a huge cultural phenomenon at the start of the Covid pandemic in March 2020, actor Nat Wolff was insistent that he play Joe Exotic's late husband Travis Maldonado should there ever be a show or film based on the docuseries. 

After putting the idea out to his agent, the star was lucky enough to audition for and score the role in the new Joe Exotic series.

Nat Wolff
Nat Wolff reveals what it was like shooting the highly anticipated Joe Exotic series in Australia alongside Kate McKinnon. Photo: Getty

Speaking to Yahoo Lifestyle, the 26-year-old, who currently stars alongside Andrew Garfield in Mainstream, spoke of his love for the Tiger King series and what to expect from the new show, which also stars Kate McKinnon as Carole Baskin and John Cameron Mitchell as Joe.

The 'wild world' of Joe Exotic

"I was in Brisbane for five, maybe six months," Nat shared about the series. "It was maybe the greatest experience I've ever had. It was an unbelievable character and show and Kate McKinnon, you know, Sam Keeley, and all these amazing writers and actors. It was incredible."

When asked if the story will follow that of the Netflix series, Nat responded, "I'm probably not allowed to completely say, but it is based off the podcast Joe Exotic."

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"Honestly, it tells a slightly different story, but [Travis] is expanded on in the podcast and in the show in a way that the Netflix docuseries wasn't," he explained. "But it was a wild world to live in!"

"I watched the documentary series at the beginning of Covid, and I emailed my agent saying, 'Hey, I have no idea if they're ever going to make this into something, but if they do, I want to play Travis Maldonado.' And then cut to like, a year later, I get to play the part, which is so exciting, but we were doing scenes that I'd watched in the documentary series, like it was exact, you know, exact! Like, you know, the same f***ing costumes and the same you know, lines, and it was really really trippy."

Travis Maldonado and Joe Exotic
Nat will be playing Travis Maldonado, Joe Exotic's first husband, in the new series based on the zookeeper. Photo: Facebook

He continued: "I had the whole tattoos, and I had like a f***ing big tiger tattoo and you know, the tattoo of his mum and stuff. It was really awesome."

Nat added that he "loved" being in Australia to shoot the show, revealing he got to do some travelling around the country, "I loved it. I got to do a trip in a caravan when I was there, and I got to go down the southern coast like from Sydney all the way down, and I got to go to all these places like Hyams Beach and Berry, this little town. It was incredible."

He spent a bit of time in Byron Bay, and when jokingly asked if he had seen one of the Hemsworth brothers in the beachside town, the actor shared he had, in fact, been lucky enough to spot the A-listers.

"I saw two out of three, which is nice. It's like, 'A wild Hemsworth!'" he joked. "Anywhere else in the whole world. You'd be like, 'Wow, those are the two most beautiful big guys you have ever seen in your life,' but in Byron, everybody f***ing looks like the Hemsworths. So I may have not even seen them. I think I saw like 10 different people who I thought were them."

'The dangers of social media'

Nat Wolff and Maya Hawke
In Mainstream, Nat reunites with director Gia Coppola and childhood friend Maya Hawke (daughter of Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke). Photo: Supplied

Another one of Nat's exciting projects, Mainstream, is available for digital download now. The film, which also stars Andrew Garfield and Maya Hawke, sees Nat reunited with filmmaker Gia Coppola, whom he worked with on the 2013 movie Palo Alto.

Mainstream sees young filmmaker Frankie (Hawke), who runs a struggling YouTube account with no clear vision for her creative goals. Then, one day she meets Link (Garfield), an eccentric man working as a mascot at the mall. A video she films of Link soon becomes her most popular video, so she enlists him and her writer friend Jake (Wolff) to create the No One Special channel.

The trio quickly become a viral sensation with Link as the face of the channel, but what goes up must come down with the film offering an almost surreal take on the toxicity of social media fame. 

Nat explains he was really excited by the film, mostly because he would get to work with Gia again, as well as Andrew and Maya, who he has known for some time.

"I've actually known Maya since I was a little kid, and I think my brother asked her to be his Valentine when they were six years old," he said. "With Andrew, he's somebody that I love. He's one of my closest friends, and to get to be just total assholes to each other was a blast."

Speaking of the film, Nat, who currently shares an Instagram account with his brother Alex Wolff, said: "It's a movie about the dangers of social media and the Internet and how toxic it could be. And, you know, that doesn't mean there aren't so many great things that come from social media and come from the Internet. But also there's this whole, just like online cycle of abuse that I felt when I had Instagram on my phone for like a year when I was 19. 

Andrew Garfield in Mainstream
Nat described Andrew Garfield's Mainstream character Link as a 'toxic, narcissistic, gross, gross f**ked up person'. Photo: Supplied

"It almost felt like I had a drug addiction or something like I would wake up and check it, and always I felt sick to my stomach after looking, so now I try to stay away as much as I can."

"You know, I think it can be really toxic and really dark," the actor added.

Andrew's character in the film is quite a chaotic and psychotic person, but, thankfully, Nat explains Link couldn't be further from the actor's true personality.

"[Andrew] played a narcissist and a psychotic person, and I'd say that he's one of the most altruistic and soulful and thoughtful people I know, but he has a massive amount of energy," Nat explains. "And he was able to channel that, he does have this like hunger and energy and drive and like super passion. 

"And he was able to put it through the little like hole of this character, and then it kind of transferred into this, you know, toxic, narcissistic, gross, gross f**ked up person, who you kind of end up feeling bad for mostly just because he's played by Andrew Garfield."

On getting pranked by Robert De Niro

Cast of The Intern
Nat Wolff with the cast of The Intern including Anne Hathaway and Robert De Niro. Photo: Getty

Nat has been working in showbiz since he was a teenager and while he might be used to being on set, he still has moments of being starstruck.

Before we ended our chat, the star shared a story of his time on set with Robert De Niro on The Intern.

"Once you're acting with somebody, really, if they're worth their salt, any of that 'star-ship' goes out the window really quickly," he said. "But I got to do a scene with Robert De Niro, and I was told by somebody like, 'He's very shy and quiet.' So then I was like, 'Yeah, I'm not gonna say anything.' 

"So I was quiet while working with him, and then I was chewing gum in between takes, and he was like, 'What are you gonna do with that gum before we shoot?' And I was like, 'I don't know I was gonna throw it in the trash?' And he's like, 'Put it under the table,' and I'm like 'OK, Robert De Niro's telling me to put it under the table.' So I took the gum and put it under the table and then it goes, 'Hey! This kid's put his gum on set!' And I'm like, 'You motherf***er!'"

Mainstream is available for digital download now.

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