SPOILER ALERT: Do not read ahead if you have not watched the Season 2 finale of “The Masked Singer” on Fox, which aired on Dec. 18, 2019.
Another season of “The Masked Singer” has come to an end, which means the winner has been revealed — but more interesting than the winning character is the celebrity who was revealed behind the mask.
Wayne Brady was revealed to be the Fox on Wednesday night, coming in first place ahead of the Rottweiler (Chris Daughtry) in second place and the Flamingo (Adrienne Bailon) in third place.
“This whole thing has just been the most fun ever, and it’s the first time in my life that I’ve kept a secret for months on end,” Brady tells Variety, relieved that he no longer has to keep the secret that he’s the man behind the Fox mask.
Speaking to Variety over the phone from Atlanta where he’s filming The CW’s “Black Lightning,” in which he’ll have a four-episode guest arc, Brady is beaming with excitement over his time on “The Masked Singer.”
The multi-talented performer is especially thrilled that his experience on the series gave him the opportunity to show millions of viewers everything that he does. Brady — who’s been hosting the long-running gameshow “Let’s Make a Deal” for over 10 years, and is also known for the improv show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” — is a skilled dancer, singer, actor and comedian, but admits that many people aren’t aware of his plethora of skills.
“People are like, ‘You sing?’ And I’m like, ‘Hell yeah, I sing!’ This is how I made my money all my life,” jokes Brady.
Brady, who earned a Grammy nomination for best traditional R&B vocal performance in 2009 for his version of Sam Cooke’s “A Change Is Gonna Come,” dropped a new single called “Flirtin’ With Forever” after his crowning moment on “The Masked Singer” finale. He also has a brand new album of original music being released at the end of January, following his debut album, which was released in 2008.
“The biggest feeling that makes me feel good that I did the show is because I wanted to stop the disconnect of people who didn’t know that I sing and the people who didn’t know that I dance and the people who didn’t know what else I do,” Brady explains. “It lets me bring all the pieces together, and it’s an amazing opportunity.”
Here, Variety talks to Brady about the biggest challenges of “The Masked Singer,” who he had to keep his secret from and who knew he was the Fox the entire time.
How hard was it to keep the secret that you were competing on “The Masked Singer”?
The nature of [being] a performer is you always want to be lauded for what you do, and the fact that you’ve done something that you can’t talk about at all, it’s funny. And then to be doing something that’s the biggest secret on TV right now and then to listen to people speculate and see the internet chatter each week, and the judges talking about it, and your friends and family guessing that you’re on it, I’ve had to lie to people straight to their faces. It’s so nice that I will not have to anymore.
Many of the judges and especially a lot of the viewers guessed you were the Fox. Are you surprised that people were guessing it was you?
The thing I didn’t count on is that more people knew my voice than I thought they did. Thousands of people on Twitter every single week guessed it. I thought it was so cool that people on Twitter knew more than the judges.
Did you keep up with fan theories on social media?
Yes, I have to admit I did. My ex-wife and daughter would play social media cops and they would send me quotes and screenshots. It was very cool to read the things that people thought, and it was overwhelmingly always positive. People knew it was me because they bought my record and knew my voice, so it showed me that more people had checked out my music than I thought.
In the first season, people thought you were the Monster. This year, people thought you were the Thingamajig. Do you have any idea why people keep guessing that you’re on “The Masked Singer”?
I cannot even tell you! It was so weird. Of course, as a singer and performer, you always want to have a distinctive voice. So the fact that people thought it was me on Twitter — I knew the Monster was T-Pain because I already knew that T-Pain had an amazing voice behind everything — so I was like, “No, that’s not me!” But the more you protest, the more people think it is you, so I finally stopped protesting. But I pretty much guessed everyone last season — I was dead-on and I knew it.
A lot of people did guess you, but a lot of people also thought the Fox was Jamie Foxx. What did you think about those comparisons?
I think it’s an amazing compliment to me because I love, with a capital L, Jamie Foxx’s voice. In fact, Jamie Foxx is kind of the template for how I wanted to pursue things in the business. I have Jamie Foxx’s record called “Peep This,” which came out years before he got the Oscar for “Ray” and years before doing the song with Kanye West, but nobody was really buying the record. So to be mentioned in the same sentence as him is a career high-five for me.
The celebrity contestants are allowed to select who they want to tell at the beginning of the season, and then those people sign NDAs and have to keep the secret. Who did you tell?
The very first people that I told immediately was my daughter, Maile, and my best friend, who is my ex-wife, Mandie. I had to tell them first because I asked my daughter’s permission.
Clearly you ended up getting your daughter’s permission. What did she think about her dad being on the show?
My daughter and I are kind of talent snobs. [Laughs] Any show that starts off with “celebrity,” we go, “Hell no!” Because in my mind, people tune into those things — like “Dancing With the Stars” or celebrity ice skating or whatever it is — not because they want to see the talent, but because they want to see the train wreck. I don’t like the train wreck. I like the talent. But I saw how good the show was when I watched last season and I said, “I’ve got to do this.” So, I asked Maile, and then her mom, and those were my two people. The whole circle that’s known throughout the entire time has been limited to maybe six people in my camp. My daughter and her mom were really my team.
Since your daughter is a tough critic for reality competition shows, how did she think you did when she watched the show?
At first, she was like, “Ah hell no, Daddy!” And then I told her, I said, “Look, this is a good show. The music is really good. It’s one of the biggest things on the planet. Trust me on this.” So when she saw week-after-week that I approached this show like I do with everything else in my life with commitment, she slowly came over to my side. I was asking her for advice on what song I should sing. She was both feet in by the first episode, and it’s been funny because she comes home every day because some kids at her school will say, “Hi, Little Fox.” And she’ll say, “I don’t know what you’re talking about.” But she would come home and say, “Dad, I have to keep lying to everybody!” But she also thinks it’s really cool because not everybody can say they have a parent doing a show that everyone is talking about. She is 100% behind me and she is my biggest fan.
You said that you watched the first season, so it sounds like you’re a fan. Is that how you became interested in joining the show?
When I finished watching the finale for Season 1, I had to sit on it for a second and I said, “Okay, I think I can do this show and I think I can win it. There’s no reason to do it if I don’t think I can win it.”
So did the show reach out to you to join? Or did you reach out to them because you were a fan?
Both. They actually reached out during the first season and because I never heard of it and I didn’t know if it would be one of these train wreck weird things, I said no. When I saw the sheet explaining the show, I went, ‘What!?” I couldn’t wrap my head around the idea that you’d be wearing a mask. But when I saw it, I went, “Oh!” And I got it from the first episode. They do such a good job of producing the human interest part of the story. I listened to everybody’s stories and that’s how I got into it, and I wanted to tell my story.
How involved were you with creating the costume and character of the Fox?
I was very much involved. I’ve got to say though, those producers, wow, what a great bunch. From the first time we all started talking, they asked me what I saw in terms of the costume and then they laid out all these designs in front of me. At first, I looked at the Rottweiler, and I thought it would be cool to have this hip-hop dog, so I kind of helped to design that look, but then I saw the fabulous Mr. Fox and I thought, “Wow.”
Why did you want to be the Fox?
A fox is a wily creature who’s underestimated, and sometimes, when you underestimate a fox, a fox can take your hand off. The fox uses its brains in nature to succeed against bigger animals, and that’s how I think of myself. I’ve had to use my smarts, whether it was growing up and being bullied in my neighborhood, or growing up and using my brains for improvisation to make a living for myself to get down this path, or being constantly underestimated and not being seen as a Swiss army knife of entertainment. So I just thought, “Wow, that’s exactly me.”
What was the toughest part of being on “The Masked Singer”?
Pulling the double duty and sometimes triple duty with my schedule. I was shooting “Let’s Make a Deal” and shooting “The Masked Singer” and I was on tour. And then on top of that, learning to navigate with the mask on and breathe and sing and dance.
How difficult is it to operate in the giant mask and costume?
The tail was a belt strapped around by my waist. But I did have a slight advantage over everyone else because I was a character at Walt Disney World when I was a kid, like 16 or 17, and I did Tigger from “Winnie the Pooh.” And Tigger was built the exact same way as the Fox, so I knew how to dance with the costume because Tigger’s tail was the exact same thing. As you saw, I could get down and dance, but I couldn’t do as much as I normally could because I was worried about the head, and I was worried about not passing out. But I knew what to expect because I talked to T-Pain and I talked to Joey Fatone.
What sort of advice did T-Pain and Joey Fatone give you?
Joey Fatone gave me great tips. He said, “Breathe!” [Laughing]
You have to go through tons of training when competing on “The Masked Singer” — choreography, vocal coaching and learning how to operate in a mask. Did you also have to be trained on how to keep spoilers from fans?
No one trained me. I think I’m just good at thinking fast on my feet. But I learned by watching people [in interviews] from Season 1. When people come at you and you immediately go, “No, no it’s not me!” It’s like, “Nope. You were protesting too much.” I already had the advantage of people thinking the Monster was me last year, so I could say, “You thought it was me last year, and then you thought it was the Thingamajig, so you should go download my previous record and then you’ll see if you see it’s my voice!”
So basically, you used the guessing game as an opportunity to promote your music?
Exactly! [Laughs] It was the best opportunity ever.