Each episode features a person looking for love — but they will have to choose a match based purely on personality: The contestant picks the winner from three candidates, and everyone’s face is hidden by a mask, often complete with a prosthetic headpiece. The reveal comes after the decision has been made.
The masks were created by Kristyan Mallett, a leading prosthetics artist who counts “The Theory of Everything” and “Mission: Impossible — Fallout” among his credits. He also worked as a makeup designer on the BBC’s original “Sexy Beasts,” which aired in 2014.
His development process began with concept art, which he presented to Simon Welton, creator and executive producer of the series, who showed the ideas to Netflix. Among his many eventual full-head creations were a demon, a panda, a beaver, a troll, a scarecrow, a zombie and a witch. “They wanted fun, safe, friendly and silly,” Mallett says, speaking with Variety from his home in the U.K.
“Sexy Beasts” presented a challenge, since he didn’t know who was going to be wearing a given design, and masks and prosthetics are normally fitted to a specific person, as in “The Masked Singer.”
“I was asked to produce 44 different characters, and they all had to be ready for day one,” he explains. From sculpting to molding to adding feathers, Mallett and his workshop team built masks from foam latex and additional prosthetic pieces.
One of his favorites appears in Episode 3 — the tin man, which involved a full back of the headpiece, a face piece and a chin. Another challenge: the beaver mask for Episode 2. “We had to work out how to not make it massive and scary,” says Mallett. He used a process called flocking to add fur. “We put nylon hairs into a flocking applicator, which would punch the hairs into the latex face,” he says.
Since the designer couldn’t rely on the traditional method of molding a mouthpiece for a specific individual, he built the beaver’s acrylic teeth into the mask. “When you watch the episode, you can never really see his lips moving because his teeth were in the way of his lips. He goes to take a drink in one clip, and you see him trying to manipulate the straw.”
Each person on the show presented a different issue, so the makeup artists stretched the latex to make the masks fit everyone. “Someone could come into the chair with lots of hair that didn’t fit under a bald cap, or they had a large head, or they had a small head,” Mallett says.
The application process took approximately three hours, depending on what the contestant was wearing. If they were showing more skin, the artists had to do more body-paint work than if they showed up in turtlenecks and long sleeves, Mallett says.
A show in which participants wear masks throughout might seem perfect to shoot during a pandemic. But just because a person is covered with a panda head doesn’t mean COVID precautions can be abandoned.
“It meant there weren’t that many opportunities to come in and retouch or fix the makeup,” Mallett explains.