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There has been no shortage of TV programming featuring or about Mike Tyson since his reign as boxing’s heavyweight champion, from a document of his one-man show by Spike Lee to a show about his pastime of pigeon racing.
Hulu’s limited series Mike adds to that canon, but the team behind the show hopes it will also spark conversations about current issues ranging from mental health to prison reform.
“A lot of the things we’re struggling with today … have roots in his story,” writer and executive producer Steven Rogers (I, Tonya) told reporters Thursday during Hulu’s time at the Television Critics Association press tour. “I think he’s endlessly fascinating.”
Mike traces Tyson’s (Trevante Rhodes) rise through the boxing ranks to become the youngest ever heavyweight champion, the fame that came with it, his fall after a rape conviction in 1992 and his return to the ring. Rogers and showrunner Karin Gist both said they didn’t want to portray Tyson as either a hero or a villain.
“Redemption was never the goal of this story,” Gist said. “We want to challenge what people think they know about him” and how larger societal forces may have shaped the story of his life.
Tyson himself is not involved in Mike and has criticized it previously, calling it a “tone-deaf cultural misappropriation of my life story. He is involved in another scripted TV project about his life from star and executive producer Jamie Foxx and director Antoine Fuqua.
Rhodes said he sees Tyson as one of a few “specific Black men who give us an understanding of the Black male experience, and even more specifically the special Black male experience.” He drew on that idea in his portrayal of the boxer, he said: “It’s my time — not as Trevante but as this iteration of a Black man.”
Mike is set to premiere Aug. 25 on Hulu, and Gist said she thinks now is “the best time” to tell the story.
“We’re not just retelling [the events of Tyson’s life] but seeing what layers we can add to it, what conversations we can pull out of it,” she said. “It doesn’t mean we can’t tell stories about other figures as well, but I don’t think we have to put this one aside. There’s still something here to explore.”
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