Hulu’s “Mike” takes yet another look at the life of embattled boxing champion Mike Tyson, and series creator Steven Rogers told television reporters on Thursday he hopes the athlete, who has criticized the show, may change his opinion if he gets a chance to see it.
“I would hope that if he watches it, that he would change his opinion,” Rogers said during Thursday’s Television Critics Association summer tour panel for the upcoming show.
Shortly after the project, which stars “Moonlight” breakout Trevante Rhodes as the embattled boxer, was announced, Tyson slammed the series, calling it “a prime example of how Hulu’s corporate greed led to this tone-deaf cultural misappropriation of my life story” in a now-deleted Instagram post. He followed up a few days later with the announcement of another project about his life, in which Jamie Foxx will portray him, calling the biopic the “authorized” version.
Those involved with “Mike” didn’t speak to the boxer when heading into production because Tyson’s life rights had already been sold, Rogers explained.
“We actually couldn’t talk to him because his life rights were already taken,” he said. “So that was never on the table.”
To write the show, Rogers instead turned to various accounts to put the puzzle pieces together.
“For me, as a writer, as a storyteller, I don’t really like to be reliant on just one source. I really like to do the research and get all these different opinions and then put a story around all of that. I don’t like to be beholden to just one person,” Rogers said.
During Thursday’s panel, a reporter asked about whether another story about Tyson’s life was necessary, and Rogers responded by insisting that the series isn’t so much a redemption story as an “unbiased” look at the person the world thinks that they know.
“We never wanted to say he was a hero or the villain,” he said. “We really just wanted to say: Take a look at this really polarizing, interesting, unique story and then you decide how you feel about it.”
That treatment wasn’t exclusive to Tyson. Showrunner and executive producer Karin Gist said Thursday that the writers tried to craft all of the characters with “some depth” and “respect,” including Tyson’s ex-wife Robin Givens, and Desiree Washington, who accused Tyson of rape in 1991.
“When the case happened, there was a lot of talk around why would she go to a hotel room; there was a lot of chatter that didn’t really humanize her,” Gist said of Washington. “And we wanted to make sure that we were able to at least bring some kind of fullness to that story.”
Since he couldn’t consult Tyson for the project, series star Rhodes said he studied him and “his understanding of boxing” as much as possible through media and other outlets.
“The thing about Mike Tyson is he’s such a public presence and he kind of gives you bits and pieces about him throughout his life,” he said. “So it’s a really interesting meal to just sink your teeth into. I just fell into the spirit of it, for real.”