You'd be hard pressed to find a more unique, more bizarre, more puzzling, and more ridiculously addictive series on television right now than the Fox musical competition series The Masked Singer. The series finds household names from all worlds of celebrity competing in lavish costumes in hopes of being crowned the top singer in a competition that features athletes, singers, actors, television personalities, and more.
Given all that goes in to the staging of each episode from an audience member's perspective, it's not hard to imagine that there are a lot of rules that all parties involved in the series have to follow - and strictly, too. We've rounded up some of the most surprising of them here.
10 If the contestants have any guests, the guests have to conceal their identities, too
Part of the undeniable appeal of a bizarre series like The Masked Singer is, of course, the elaborate masks and costumes themselves. But as it turns out, the talented (and not so talented) contestants that are taking part on stage aren't the only members of the series who are forced to wear a mask.
If the contestant brings any guests along to an episode filming, regardless of whether they're friends, family, co-stars, spouses, or more, the guests are also required to wear a mask of some kind. This is done to prevent any other eagle-eyed audience members or cast members from discovering their identity.
9 Contestants wear identity concealing items even when the cameras aren't rolling
If you thought the costumes were over-the-top when the cameras were rolling, you clearly haven't heard about the elaborate measures taken between scenes. As they're traveling from their transportation to set and back again, contestants are forced to don identity concealing costumes.
"We wear capes and hoodies. You are not able to show your face to anyone," the Alien Mask (also known as singer Latoya Jackson) recalls in a promotional video for season one's security measures.
8 The contestants don't even know each other's identities
Because of the elaborate measures taken to protect the identities of contestants at all time, even during what would normally be considered down time, not even contestants are aware of who's behind their opponents' masks.
In a post-exit interview, Ricki Lake (who appeared in season one as the Raven Mask) explained, “We were sequestered for the most part. Whenever we were in the same vicinity, we were completely covered. They were diligent about making sure you had the hoods and the visors and the whole thing.”
7 Contestants are also not allowed to interact if not on stage
As a result of this emphasis on secrecy and not knowing each other's identities, contestants have never been allowed to interact on the series, unless they are facing off on stage.
"We have to be totally anonymous. You can't talk to anybody," the Poodle Mask (also known as comedian Margaret Cho) explained in the season one promotional video. That standard still holds for season two, as Dr. Drew Pinsky (also known as the Eagle Mask) recently reported, "You don’t talk to anybody on this show. You’re allowed zero contact with anyone."
6 None of the core production team knows who the contestants are
It might be surprising enough to learn that the contestants had no idea regarding each other's true identity. But the series' cast members aren't the only ones in the dark.
According to Executive Producer Izzie Pick Ibirra, "We never, ever, ever refer to anybody by their real name and that goes for the entire production. The director didn't know. The writers didn't know. The studio team didn't know. I was extremely, extremely careful about how many people were really privy to that information. People were learning who the cast were as we were taping the show."
5 NDAs are required for anyone attending the show
Whether the competitors are inviting guests along to enjoy the ride, or casual audience members are filling the seats, the series has some particularly strict guidelines regarding legal and digital security for all parties involved in the show.
As Executive Producer Craig Plestis explained during the first season, "On the production side, everyone who came to the set, and everyone who was in the audience, had to sign NDAs. And when we actually had an unmasking, the audience was mainly composed of friends and family."
4 Even after being unmasked, the contestants can't talk to the judges at all
We've already established the fact that the contestants can't talk to one another, even after a contestant's identity has been revealed. But as it turns out, the contestants also aren't allowed to interact with the judges at all, except for when they're on stage, regardless of whether they've been unmasked or not.
For example, Dr. Drew, who has a pre-existing work relationship with judge panelist Jenny McCarthy, recently admitted, "The only conversation you can have with them is on the stage. I was on her show two weeks later, on her radio show, and we couldn’t discuss it."
3 The contestants choose from pre-designed costumes, but can add their own touches
The series' costumes are known for being both adorable and terrifying, mesmerizing and awe-inspiring. And while some contestants clearly have strong emotional ties to their costume, it might come as a surprise that the costumes are not entirely the contestant's choice.
As recent castoff Laila Ali (also known as the Panda Mask) explained, "They have the concept, and the designer is amazing. Their team is really great at what they do, and you always want to defer to the experts. But yeah, there’s definitely say in terms of the Panda’s clothes, the jewelry that the Panda had on her hands — those were my ideas."
2 Contestants are allowed to freshen up their makeup before being unmasked
The Masked Singer might be a reality based competition series, but is it really a reality television series if its competitors aren't perfectly made up at all times? We didn't think so.
It's no real surprise, then, to learn that the contestants are given time to have their hair and make up redone prior to the grand and dramatic removal of their mask. According to Entertainment Weekly's report on attending a taping, the makeup retouching can take upwards of 20 minutes, but it doesn't lessen any of the excitement or suspense.
1 All routines are actually performed live, not with vocals fed back in after taping
Lip syncing has become increasingly common in this age of music and television mixing so frequently. But when you can't see a performer's lips, how can you really tell whether they're actually singing, or whether they're performing to a backing track, or whether the music was actually ever there at all?
Apparently, in the case of the series, the singing is all real, all live, and all untouched. Craig Plestis explained,"The great thing about the show is that everyone had to sing live and they only had one take each. It was really difficult designing the masks and getting that great audio level.”