Top producers say that secrecy is a critical component to the success of The Masked Singer.
Talent shows all abide by a sacred text a that helps outline character descriptions, show format, and everything in between. This document is critical for keeping the show on track and running smoothly. However, The Masked Singer has an added “secrecy” text they have to adhere to, on top of the traditional one. “The secrecy bible is thicker than the format bible,” says executive producer Craig Plestis.
The Masked Singer
The Masked Singer showcases astonishing acts performed by celebrities wearing head-to-toe disguises to protect their anonymity. The performers are able to drop a few subtle clues as to who they are before they hit the stage. In addition, a panel of high profile judges are given the challenge of guessing who might be behind the mask. The Masked Singer contestants must wear their costumes for the entirety of the show, only removing them upon elimination. Not only do they have to keep their identity secret from the judges, but also from the public, the media, and the majority of the crew.
Need to Know
In an interview with Variety, Plestis divulged that only 7 people on the production team know the contestants true identities. To keep this secret the candidates had to “wear masks and special visors and couldn’t show any of their skin at all – they had to wear gloves and long pants.” Production even provided the The Masked Singer contestants with large sweatshirts reading, “Don’t talk to me”, to deter any interactions with the crew.
Contestants are driven to and from set anonymously, being picked up from a location that won’t give up their identity. If they want to bring family or associates, they are also required to wear costumes.
The breath-taking costumes are not the only means of disguise for the contestants, their voices are also altered when announcing the clues hinting on who they really are. Despite the audio magic on their speaking voice, the performances are un-altered and not pre-recorded.
In a word from Plestis, he said “A lot of research and a lot of energy was spent on sound quality and testing out these masks,” including a trip to Asia to observe the production quality on other sets. “It’s about constructing the mask so there’s not an echo; it’s about making sure there’s enough screens in front of the mouth — there are certain ways to construct these masks so the voice can come out and project the voice properly. We tested it and tested it and then retested it with singers before our celebrities even put the masks on, to make sure it’s not impeding their vocal quality at all.”
An additional draw for The Masked Singer viewers is being able to. take part in guessing who’s behind the mask. Not only do they get to watch a dazzling performance, but they also get to take part in trying to solve the mystery. To do that, Plestis says, “[Fox] really rode us hard in the sense of getting people in these costumes that America would recognize.” The goal was not to have someone pull off a mask and leave the audience Googling the person, but instead “when the mask comes off, they’re well-known — and they’re especially well-known in their fields.” The show chose contestants they thought anyone would recognize, regardless of age.
Selling the Show
Plestis says that it didn’t take much convincing to get the stars on board because the show is such a major hit abroad. It’s currently the No. 1 show in Korea, where Ryan Reynolds even made an appearance during his ‘Deadpool’ tour.
Although the secrecy is an intriguing component, it does bring it’s own set of challenges. Publicity is a major draw for contestants in reality TV, and The Masked Singer keeps your identity secret until their last moments on the show. Plestis admits that this made it a hard sell to contestants, fans, and the networks.
“You can’t use the big names, at all, to sell,” says Plestis. “I can only say there are 65 Grammy nominations here, four Emmy winners, four people who are Walk of Famers, three who have best-selling books. You can use that to sell it, but that doesn’t help American understand who they are. What it does help is the game play.”
The Masked Singer gives celebrities a chance to shine in a whole new way. Antonio Brown, wide receiver for the Pittsburgh Steelers was the first to be unmasked on the show. This is a prime example of how someone from the NFL has the chance to show his talent in a completely different way.
Speaking about Brown Plestis told Variety, “We were really looking at people not just who were names but also wanted to sing [and] had some singing talent that we could coach a little bit and prep a little bit. We wanted them to shine, but they did have to have the chops to begin with. And he was great; he had no fear at all.”
Another challenge was keeping these big name celebrities to keep their lives looking like business as usual. The Masked Singer producers wanted the celebrities to go about their normal lives so no one started asking questions. Therefore, this meant they had to reschedule filming to accommodate the stars busy schedules.
Plestis hopes that after unmasking the star power will help draw people to the show for future seasons. “We wanted them to be our brand ambassadors,” Plestis says. “So for the next season [new contestants] would see our contestants had a positive experience and learned something about themselves, as well as made a great TV show.”
To see who gets unmasked next, tune into Fox Wednesdays at 9 p.m.