Trevante Rhodes & Russell Hornsby on Balancing Comedy & Drama in HULU Series “MIKE”

Mike Tyson is a man of many layers. We know his history; there’s a lot of darkness in it. But there are a lot of comedic elements that are also key parts of his story. The new Hulu limited series “MIKE,” starring Trevante Rhodes as Tyson, Russell Hornsby as Don King, Laura Harrier, and Harvey Keitel tells the story of the legendary heavyweight fighter over eight-half-hour episodes.

Both Tyson and King are known for their vocal inflections, exaggerated mannerisms, and physical hallmarks. During the AAFCA Roundtable Discussion series, I spoke with series stars Rhodes and Hornsby, along with showrunner Karen Gist about balancing the tone in the series to ensure the characterizations didn’t come off as parody or to cliche.

Trevante Rhodes as Mike Tyson

Trevante Rhodes as Mike Tyson in the HULU series “MIKE” via HULU

Gist shared that the tone was modeled after the “I, Tonya” series and how each episode is meant to feel like a boxing match:

“The tone of the show was born out of Stephen Rogers’s writing which is very similar to the “I Tonya” tone. Taking that approach and putting it into this series. One of the things we wanted to do is make sure that each episode was was tight and almost felt like a boxing match.”

Gist offered more insight, “So that when you did stop to have those moments, those conversations between Mike and Don, or a moment where Mike is reflecting, or in some of those more important moments, it would be more impactful.”

Trevante shares that as an actor, he was focused on embodying the spirit of Tyson.

“As a performer, I don’t really look at it in that regard. I just guess it’ll be a thing I say, but it’s just, it really is embodying a spirit. It really is you’re trying to educate yourself and arm yourself as best you can. With as much information as much aesthetics, you can, and just be present, and be the spirit.”

Tyson has spoken out about the series saying his story was stolen. The first two episodes dropped on Hulu on August 25, with new episodes dropping every Thursday.