“The Masked Singer” wrapped its second season on Wednesday night, but the bizarre reality competition won’t be off TV for too long. The Fox hit is returning with a brand new season in less than two months, landing the plum post-Super Bowl slot in early February.
Season 3 was cast back in September, and the team behind the show is pleased with their celebrity contestants.
“We’ve got some really good, big names. And we’ve got a real variety of people, which is fantastic,” showrunner and executive producer Izzie Pick Ibarra tells Variety of the new cast.
“We have a wish list,” Ibarra explains of the casting process. “We do our research for who might be interesting for the show, so the way we cast is mixture of things that we look for — we look for people who have amazing stories that can drive that person’s narrative throughout their singing on the show, and then there are people who are very much in the zeitgeist.”
This past season, which was won by “Let’s Make a Deal” host Wayne Brady, boasted a lineup that included “American Idol” rocker Chris Daughtry, “The Real” co-host Adrienne Bailon, NBA player Victor Oladipo, “SNL” alum Ana Gasteyer, “Destiny’s Child” singer Michelle Williams, former co-host of “The View” Sherri Shepherd, gamer Tyler “Ninja” Blevins, figure skater Johnny Weir, Dr. Drew Pinsky, Paul Shaffer, Kelly Osbourne, Raven-Symone, Laila Ali and legendary musicians Seal and Patti LaBelle.
The showrunner explains that while the show has become more popular, casting has not necessarily gotten easier.
“Yes and no,” she says when asked if it’s easier to lure celebrities onto the show now, than it was when the show began. “I think certainly people are more keen to do it because they know we are a show that doesn’t have a bad bone in its body and we’re certainly not looking to ruin careers. People can see we’re a show that wants to have fun. No one is singing for their life. It’s not a show that creates stars — it’s a show about celebrating them, and I think that celebration has helped us a tremendous amount.”
To Ibarra’s point, Season 2 winner, Brady, told Variety that he was asked to join the show in its first season, but turned it down, since he was worried the show might be more interesting in showing celebrity train wrecks for entertainment value, rather than showcasing real talent. When Brady watched the first season on TV, he was wowed by the level of talent and knew he wanted to join the show.
Now that the series has proven successful, musicians and performers are interested in joining the show, but Ibarra explains that public figures who are not traditional performers, such as athletes or TV personalities or politicians, are still timid to come on board.
“I think to try to get people who are not performers or not from the entertainment industry, it’s a huge deal to perform on stage and dress up as a banana or whatever it is. That’s a big leap for some people,” the executive producer says.
Another reason celebrities are timid to sign on? The thought of wearing a mask scares people away.
“A lot of people out there are very claustrophobic and they don’t always realize that they are, until you get quite far down the line with someone and explain to them exactly what it is to wear a 360-mask. You’re completely encased and closed-in,” Ibarra says. “We’ve had quite a few celebrities who were going to do the show and then decided not to.”
The level of talent on Season 2 surprised everyone who works on the show, Ibarra says, but it’s not necessary that every celebrity needs to be a highly-skilled singer to join the show.
“There’s got to be a reason for someone to be there,” Ibarra says. “If you think about it, you can’t see the whites of anyone’s eyes and you can’t read any emotion in their performance, which is not like any other singing show, so we’ve got to make sure that we compensate for that in some way — either the voice has to be very strong, or it has to be a comedic performance. Otherwise, it’s hard to connect with our singers. We’ve taken away all of the ability to get to know somebody. We’re only seeing a blank state, essentially, since they’re wearing masks, so really, the vocals have got to do something for you or they really have to engage with an audience with their performance — maybe they’ve got a great dance, or they’re funny, or maybe they’ve just got a fantastic story.”
Aside from a brand new cast, Season 3 will feature some new changes. For one, the clue packages will be a bit different, in order to conceal clues a bit better, due to the fact that fans of the show have become passionate in their guessing game — the the point of figuring out how to remove the characters’ voice modulation, so that they can hear their real voices.
“They seem to analyze everything. We actually found out that some of those rabid followers were taking off our voice modulation. It gets that serious. We’re trying to constantly adjust ourselves to all of that,” Ibarra says. “I think for next season, we’ve realized how people work things out faster than other clues, which clues are ones that maybe get too definitive answers, so we’re trying a slightly different approach for how we do our clue packages for next season.”
The show will also be more comedic, in general, Ibarra shares, adding that she’s excited about the guest panelists they’ve lined up and the new costumes, which each take three to five weeks to hand make.
The show will feature new video packages where people who know the contestants will talk about the singer. Of course, these people will also be in disguise, so that family and friends of the singers don’t reveal themselves. “There’s more disguising going on with everyone,” Ibarra laughs.