Capturing Mike Tyson’s Spirit in Hulu’s “Mike” – Behind-the-Scenes of the Unauthorized Biographical Series

“You could go to any country on this planet and say the words Mike Tyson and you're gonna get a reaction,” said Steven Rogers, creator and executive producer of Hulu’s Mike. The eight-part biographical series may not be authorized by the legendary heavyweight champion, but  that didn’t discourage the creative team behind I, Tonya from telling this story. “When I was first doing the research, the very, very first video that I looked at on YouTube, Mike Tyson was talking about his face tattoo. And I remembered it as sort of the punchline that comics on the late-night talk shows would use and people were laughing at it. But in this interview, Mike Tyson was saying the reason that he got the face tattoo was because Mike Tyson hated Mike Tyson so much that he didn't wanna see his face when he looked in the mirror. And I was just floored by that. I was so surprised by that. And it really made me want to go behind the sound bites and show not just what happened but ask why. I like the idea of taking a story everybody thinks they know and show them, actually, there's a lot more to it.”

(Patrick Harbron/Hulu)

(Patrick Harbron/Hulu)

Playing Mike Tyson in the series is Trevante Rhodes, who revealed how he connected to the big shoes he was filling during a recent TCA press conference. “As a Black man, there’s specific Black men who gift us with a very beautiful understanding of the complexities of the Black experience, specifically the Black male experience,” Trevante said. “The thing about Mike Tyson is he's such a public presence, and he gives you bits and pieces about him throughout his life, and so it's just a really interesting meal to just sink your teeth into. So, I just kind of fell into the spirit of it for real.”

“A lot of the characters that we portray as actors, you have to have that essence from within you,” added Russell Hornsby, who plays Don King. “There are very few true chameleons in our business. Any character that we take on, there is, in essence, that person or that character inside us. So, not only do I believe are we tapping into the spirit of who Tyson is or the spirit of who Don King is but we're also tapping into I would say the spirit of who Russell is and the essence of Russell that may have a Don King in that level of theatricality, that need to be a carnival barker, the presence of having stage charm and things of that nature.”

The series includes Mike Tyson’s relationship with the women in his life, an aspect that showrunner and executive producer Karin Gist was eager to tackle. “That was one of the first things I talked to Steven and the other producers about,” Karin revealed. “What about the women I think was my exact question in that first sit-down because I wanted to make sure that the women including Lorna Mae and the women in Mike's life, I wanted to make sure that they were three-dimensional and humanized. Just like we're trying to challenge the perception of Mike in the series, I also wanted to do the same thing with the Don King character, the same thing with the women. I wanted to make sure that we were telling full stories so that, for example, Lorna Mae didn’t just come off as just a mean mom. But there is something underneath that. She's a single Black mom raising children in an environment that could be scary. So, I wanted to bring some layers into that for her. With Robin, we really wanted to make sure that we remembered that these were two kids who fell in love and were in front of the world and what that must've looked and felt like for her. And then with Desiree, the same thing… We wanted to make sure that we were able to at least bring some kind of fullness to that story. And I think we accomplished that.”

In the director’s seat is Craig Gillespie, who worked with Steven Rogers on I, Tonya and recently directed Disney’s Cruella and a few episodes of Hulu’s Pam & Tommy. “If I just work with Craig from now on, I’m happy,” confessed Steven Rogers. “When I was writing it, I wanted each episode to feel like a round of boxing. I wanted it to be fast-paced and punchy and then when something emotional happened to slow down. Everyone’s going to their own corners, but then just jump right back and make it bam, bam, bam, bam which is why all the episodes are only half-hours.”

Mike premieres Thursday, August 25th, exclusively on Hulu.

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