Interview with “The Masked Singer” panel and host on FOX by Suzanne 3/2/21
This was a very fun panel at the FOX Television Critics Association. The panel is filled with comedians and they were all being hilarious (especially Ken Jeong). There was a lot of laughing.
The panelists included Host Niecy Nash; panelists Jenny McCarthy-Wahlberg, Ken Jeong, Nicole Scherzinger and Robin Thicke; and executive producers Craig Plestis, James Breen and Rosie Seitchik.
I’ve never heard Robin Thicke speak before. I was amazed at how much he sounds like his dad, Alan Thicke! For those of you who are younger folks, Alan Thicke starred in the hit 80’s sitcom “Growing Pains.” He passed away about 5 years ago.
I didn’t get a chance to ask a question, but I was there watching it with the hundreds of other reporters.
I’ve put in quite a bit of quotes here because the cast was just so funny, and I wanted to share with you how they joke around and make fun of each other. Normally I would just summarize it a lot more.
Introduction: The smash hit competition series THE MASKED SINGER returns for its game changing fifth season with major format twists and all new costumes you really have to see to believe. The season premieres Wednesday, March 10th, with our fabulous guest host, Niecy Nash, serving as ringmaster of our very weird and wonderful three ring circus. We are excited for you to be the first to see this show stopping performance from the new season of THE MASKED SINGER.
The first question asked about the wild card. The questioner said that “one of the appeals of the show is connecting with the masked celebrities” but the wild card just jumps on stage. Would there be any connecting with a wild card?
Producer Plestis answered that yes, they do connect with the wild because of the story and clue packages, where they find out a little. He said that it just adds some freshness to the show. They’re excited by it and think the viewers will be, too, and be able to connect with them. Wahlberg added that she thinks that the wild cards have had some of the “most moving stories.” She thinks that the audience will expect that they’re “coming too late in the game” but they’re not. She thinks they’ll be surprised. Producer Breen agrees with that and added that one of them gives a very emotional performance.
The second questioner asked about whether there was any concern about too much franchise spinoff and posited two possible examples as “The Masked Chef” or “The Masked Athlete” Jeong said, jokingly, “I mean, look, we are getting the message out to wear a mask, guys. If you want to wear a mask out in public, if you want to wear a mask on broadcasting, on television, I mean, how better than to get the message out and profitability, you know, than to wear a mask, so no.” Everyone was laughing at his dry humor. He said seriously that the Masked Chef was exceptional and the Mother Ship (implying that any spinoffs would not be a problem). He praised the production team. Thicke added that, although they love the Masked Dancer as well, he feels that the “level of star power in Season 5 in THE MASKED SINGER is at another level.” Scherzingers said, “We also love your gold chains, Robin.” Thicke joked back, “Thank you. You know, I figured I’d shower and put on some clothes this time.” Nash said, “Very good.” Jeong joked, “Oh my goodness. Talking about Mr. T, literally.”
Wahlberg was impressed by the high caliber of celebrities they had on the show this season. It shocked her. Nash and Thicke agreed with that. Plestis added that they had so many celebs that wanted to be on the show, but they had to ask them to “Come back for a future season.” They felt very lucky this season to have so many.
The next questioner asked if there would be more competition between the judges this season. Thicke replied succinctly, “Yes.” Wahlberg said, “Well, I’m a very competitive person.” Thicke joked, “Ken and I will be doing bare hand boxing.” Jeong joined in on the joke, “Yeah. It’s really great.” Nash put in her two cents, “Listen, let me just say, as somebody who was blessed and honored to show up and stand in the gap, the competition between these judges is a real — they go hard because–” Scherzinger interjected, “What are you talking about, Niecy?” Nash couldn’t believe she said that. She went on. “Oh, you know what I’m talking about. The competition is real.” She said they put pressure on themselves to get it right. Wahlberg agreed that they get harangued on social media if they don’t get it right. She continued, “But I will say this: The game changing in terms of the panelists is Ken Jeong went from Ken Jeong wrong to Ken Jeong strong.” Thicke added, “Ken Jeong is competitive.” Wahlberg said, “He comes as a real competitor this year with the Golden Ear.” Nash joked, “Ken Jeong is not so wrong.” Jeong kept the joking going, “Yeah. I go ‘Queen’s Gambit’ on this, guys. I go ‘Queen’s Gambit.’ I really just… it’s just a whole new look for your boys over here.” Wahlberg said, “He stares at the ceiling just like, ‘Shit.’ It gets crazy.” There was a lot of laughter. Scherzinger had been pointing, gesturing, so Jeong said, “Great pointing, Nicole. Great pointing.” Scherzinger agreed, “I get to point my finger. I was, like, wait a minute.” Jeong joked, “You have to find your finger first. Yeah, no. That’s how you make a point, by pointing. That’s how you do it.” They were clearly having a good time.
The next question was a two-parter. First he asked if the judges are getting better at picking up on the clues, or are the producers finding new ways to challenge them.
Thicke jumped in to admit that it’s gotten more difficult with each new season and that in this one, they’re “pretty much inadequate in most ways.” He said that Wahlberg studies the clues hard. Then he joked,”Ken gets lucky because every dog has their day.” He bragged that he and Scherzinger usually can get it after a few times listening and also admitted that the new “first impression guess” had really been challenging them. Scherzinger said that the new character Cluedle-Doo makes it difficult. She has difficulty saying that name, but the others helped her out. Wahlberg said, “And he messes with us. So even when we think he’s going to give us an amazing clue, sometimes he does, but sometimes he’ll steal it or not tell us or turn it around.” Thicked agreed, “A lot of the clues line up, and a lot of them are misdirects,” and Wahlberg agreed.
The second question was for Niecy Nash. The questioner asked if there was anything she noticed, as a viewer, when watching the first 4 seasons, that she brings as a host? Nash answered her part of the question. She was able to sit with the judges and be a guest, which was very different from hosting. When she’s hosting, she can’t be guessing about who’s who like the judges do. She’s supposed to “lead the charge, lead the circus.” Whenever she wasn’t hosting, though, she tried to figure out the clues. She felt like one of the home viewers even when she was hosting.
Executive producer Rosie Seitchik joined the call late, so they welcomed her.
The next question asked about the various changes they make in the game each year and whether they’re worried about messing with success. Plestis answered that their challenge every season is to make it fresh and making things a little different without really varying the format. He added, “And, honestly, it was fun filming it. And I know with the panel, you know, the twists and turns, they had a ball doing it, and I think America will as well.” Breen agreed. Scherzinger added, “Keeping them guessing.” “Exactly,” Plestis agreed. Jeong joked, “Point again, Nicole. Just point again, please.” Scherzinger said, pointing, “Let me find it.” Jeong replied, “There you go.” Scherzinger said, “There it is. Is that good?” This brought more laughs.
The next question asked about the fake audience (that they use during the pandemic) – whether it changed at all this season and whether they’re worried people at home might think it’s a real audience (and thus breaking protocols). Breen thinks that people are more sophisticated than that and know that it’s not a real audience because of what’s going on in the world, so they don’t worry that people will think it’s real. Breen added, “I also think big, communal events are what everyone’s missing right now, and we wanted to keep that atmosphere and that fun for everyone at home. I mean, I think it would be a very different show without any audience. So, yeah, this season is going to be the same as Season 4 in terms of there’s a virtually created audience and there’s audience cutaways from previous seasons, but I think that’s the best we can do, unfortunately, right now.” The panelists agreed with that, and Thicke said that they like giving people something to celebrate and give them hope that good times are coming soon again. “It’s all about positivity,” he said.
Scherzinger shared her praise, “Yeah. I think it’s really cool how you producers did that and used old footage to make it feel like a real audience as opposed to just doing what a lot of people are doing with a Zoom and just this screen behind everybody.” Thicke mused, “When I watch basketball games, I miss that intensity. You miss that crowd. You miss the crowd’s reaction. You miss seeing how they would jump up and down to something, and that little bit of fantasy is necessary for us to fully dive into the experience.” Wahlberg said, “Right. And cardboard cutouts just don’t cut it.” Seitchik: “To each his own. … I was going to say, for such an interactive show, the premise of this show is so much guessing and so much participation that, without that element, it would be a very different show. So, we were really keen on holding onto that selling point and everyone’s ability to engage on that level and see everyone on the floor, engaging with the panel’s guesses and guessing who is under the mask. It’s so much a part of what this show is.” Thicke said, “Yeah. A lot of times, when we are watching it at home, we feel those emotions that rise and fall of oohs and ahs. We feel those emotions, and so you want to see that represented in the people in the audience also. I think it’s wonderful how they figured that out.”
The next question was to Robin Thicke about whether the singers try to sing in a different style to throw him off, since he tries to guess by singing style. Daughtry mentioned that, so he wondered if others did that, too. Thicke replied, “In fact, it’s become part of the game. They want to go as long as they can into the competition, but they don’t want to be guessed. So, they want to throw us off, and the producers want to throw us off so we get to go on this adventure with the performers. But sometimes Nicole and I will look at each other from across the table, like, ‘We know who this is, right?’ And then some of the clues will take us down another path. And then Jenny will say something that now, all of a sudden, we are thinking an athlete. And then Ken goes on some rant, completely unnecessary, that won’t help us at all.” Jeong, mock-angry, replied, “How dare you.” Thicke joked, “And somewhere in the middle, we don’t get it right even after all of that.” Wahlberg said, “Very true.” Thicke added, “That’s pretty much what happens, and it’s a lot of fun the whole time.” It’s clear that this cast has a lot of fun with their job.
The next press person asked, “When you make your guesses, how much of it do you think is based on the clues, how much is based on what you just heard, and how much is just a gut feeling?” Jeong joked, “I’m all gut. I mean, you really have to just not think and just don’t listen. I’m not trained. I don’t have any musical talent. I’m not a recording artist. I’ve never been signed to any label, my choice, which is why I feel I’m the most authentic voice because I only listen to my gut and nobody else, including my peers, producers, network, studio, and that’s why I’m very necessary, Robin.” Everyone laughed because it was very funny. Wahlberg shared that she was “90 percent clues except when I get the first impression,” because she loves clues. “I love going to escape rooms on the weekends. I love to figure things out. So, I really lean heavily on those because it makes it even more fun for me. ”
The next question asked about the condensed filming for the season, and how often we’ll see Niecy Nash hosting and how often Nick Cannon will be hosting. Breen replied, “Well, Nick rejoins towards the second half of the season. I won’t be too specific about how many shows, but Niecy kicks things off. And I did want to say, actually, we got incredibly lucky there because Niecy just stepped in… it was pretty last minute… and immediately had her own chemistry with the panel.” He kept praising her, and the cast agreed. Plestis also replied, “She is part of our game changing season,” which Breen agreed with. Scherzinger praised, “Niecy is the boss. She’s a queen. She’s so fast but fun, relatable. And she took over from Nick’s spot, and she put her son in his place, Ken.” They all laughed. Nash was thankful for all the praise, saying, “You guys, I have never felt so welcomed. You know, it’s not like we all started together or we… do you know what I mean? I just walked in the door, and every single person supported me and was so kind. And the producers, I have to take my hats off to you because they gave me such a beautiful surprise.” She went on to reveal that the producers surprised her with a video message of her new wife, which made her cry.
Jeong also praised the producers and how safe they make them feel. “We’ve never been on a set where we’ve had so much love and support and especially during COVID. Even before we’ll do episodes, the producers will do a completely edited package for each panelist, and, you know, whether they’ll bring in friends and family and highlight old clips, it’s just for us. It’s not for public consumption. It really is. And it’s not just for shallow morale. It really is just how much we genuinely love and support each other and especially during these times. It’s the best TV job I’ve ever had. It’s just been incredible.” Wahlberg agreed, “A hundred percent. Well said.” Nash joked, “Well, if y’all need anything, an extra grip or somebody to hold up, like, done.” Breen also joked, “Done. You are hired.”
The next question from the press was asking how COVID impacted the filming and whether they got bigger stars than they would normally get because people aren’t out there performing. Plestis replied that they definitely got people whose schedules would not normally be free and that they were “really blessed this season to get some exceptional talent.” He added that the premiere is phenomenal and we won’t believe it. Scherzinger said, “There’s been celebrities who have said to us that they… oh, wait. What was the question again?” Everyone laughed at that. Jeong joked, “Just point. Just point, Nicole.” Thicke added, “Welcome to THE MASKED SINGER.” Jeong also said, “We told her backstage “Just point.” Scherzinger said,”When you looked at me, all I kept thinking was “Premiere energy, premiere energy,” and then I forget what the question was.” Jeong joked, “Good point.” Wahlberg agreed that there were “amazing celebrities” this year. Scherzinger said,”No. Wait. Celebrities have said… I know what I was going to say. Celebrities have said… oh, my gosh, yes, to what you are saying! Their schedules are more free but also that they want this platform, that they miss performing, that they miss the stage, and this is the perfect opportunity to get back out there. So, a lot of people aren’t touring, like me and Robin. So they are, like, ‘Get me out there.’ Yeah, even LeAnn Rimes said that the other day.”
The next questioner said that “Jenny is very good at figuring out who is behind the mask. Do you guys have to have conversations with her about slowing it down in terms of the guessing?” Jeong replied jokingly, “Yes. I’m glad you brought that up. I really do, on and off camera, just really slow it down.” Nash confirmed “that conversation isn’t planned.” Plestis praised cast for being so smart and that they have find tougher ways to trick them. He made sure that everyone knows that “no one knows who is behind the mask. There’s only a few people on our production who does. Our director doesn’t know. Most of the crew doesn’t know, definitely not the panel. We don’t tell the host. So, it is a big secret.” They make the clue packages to just give a little “nugget” of truth for them to play with. Wahlberg agreed and added, “They’ve never approached me to say, “Slow it down,” because all they do, like he said, is just change it up to make it more difficult.” Jeong added, “But slow it down, please.” Plestis joked, “Let Ken catch up, Jenny. Come on. Let him catch up.” Wahlberg joked, “He can slow it down.”
Another person asked a very good question about whether there had been “an accidental reveal? Like, somebody tripped on a wire, and their costume might have come off, or someone walked in a room at the wrong time? And then, for the judges, who to this day has been your most shocking unmasking?” Wahlberg replied, “Well, I’d love to answer both of those questions, which is Mickey Rourke, because he just decided ‘I’m done. I’m hot. I want to take it off.’ We were, like, ‘What?’ So that was a true unexpected surprise.” The person who asked the question was amazed. “That was genuinely unplanned?” Wahlberg confirmed it, “Yes.” Jeong agreed, “Yeah, that was unplanned.” Breen also agreed, “Yeah, absolutely. That was all legit, real, and we were–” Thicke cut Breen off by accidentally. “Yeah. Mickey Rourke was tired. He wanted to go.” Jeong said, “He wanted to go, and we were being told, ‘Just go with it. Just go with it.’ And we were, like, ‘What is going on?’ That was a hundred percent real.” Wahlberg said, “He just didn’t want to be in it.” Thicke agreed, “Yeah.” Jeong said, “It was crazy.” Scherzinger joined in, “He did whatever he wanted when he wanted. I think, for me, the biggest surprise, I was really impressed with my guess. I guessed the Ying Yang Twins when it was Bob Saget.” Jeong joked, “They do get confused, to be fair.” Scherzinger added, “The biggest surprise for me was Lil Wayne, and I think it was, for all of us, when Lil Wayne took the robot mask off.” Thicke agreed again, “Yeah.” Scherzinger continued, “We were, like, “What?”” Wahlberg added, “That was embarrassing.”
The last questioner asked, “Whose skills have gotten sharper? Whose have maybe gotten less sharp? And feel free to talk about each other.” Of course, this set them up for more joking. Thicke remarked, “Oh, I can answer this loud and clear. Well, Ken has definitely finally shown up.” Wahlberg agreed, “Yeah.” Jeong joked, “How dare you.” Scherzinger pointed out, “Ken is not so wrong Jeong.” Thicke answered, somewhat seriously, “Nicole and I started off stronger the first couple of seasons. Now we are just more confused than ever.” Scherzinger agreed, “Yeah.” Thicke continued, “I think we try to trust our guts, and then the clues take us on another path. Nicole and I need help. We need help in whatever way you can send it to us.” Wahlberg countered, “That’s not true.” Scherzinger chimed in, “I think our ears are pretty golden because we have good ears, but our clue master is definitely Jenny.” Jeong agreed, “Yes.” Thicke said, “Yes. I’ve decided to just have a good time this season.” Scherzinger said, “You sure have.” Wahlberg agreed, “And because of it, we all have a good time.” Thicke said, “Yeah. I’ve never had more fun and gotten…” Jeong interrupted to say, “Robin really is just… if you look at his attire and unfortunately his chains today, it really has been amazing to see his evolution on the show, and he is so funny this season and is just a ray of light, just pure sunshine. I think we can all say that.” Thicke added, “I think Ken and I kind of switched places. Ken is getting more right now, and I’m just going for the jokes.” Nash joked, “Let me just say this: Being able to come and host this season, I don’t know how well I would have done on the panel because everybody who stood next to me in the costume I thought was somebody I dated. I’m, like, “Did we go out?” Scherzinger added, “Just like Nick Cannon. It was the same for him as well.
Conclusion: As a reminder, THE MASKED SINGER will premiere on Wednesday, March 10th, at 8 p.m. Eastern/Pacific. New episodes of the show will be available on Tubi shortly after the linear premiere, and all prior seasons of THE MASKED SINGER as well as more than 30,000 other titles are currently up and available. So, we encourage you to download the app and check it out.
FOX BET SUPER 6 TEAMS WITH
TELEVISION’S #1 ENTERTAINMENT SERIES, “THE MASKED SINGER,” FOR SEASON FIVE,
PREMIERING WEDNESDAY, MARCH 10, ON FOX
Free-To-Play App Introduces Awards
Totaling More than $250K Throughout Season Five
Players Try to Predict Six Outcomes Per Episode For a Chance to Win Cash Prizes
When the fifth season of the hit singing competition series THE MASKED SINGER debuts Wednesday, March 10 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX, the FOX Bet Super 6 app will offer viewers an enhanced entertainment experience, by making predictions about what they think will happen in each episode throughout the season.
In advance of each episode of THE MASKED SINGER, viewers who download the FOX Bet Super 6 app will be presented with six questions to predict what will occur in the show that night. For every correct answer, users of the app will receive an entry into a prize drawing where a total of $20,000 will be given away each week. There will be multiple winners each week. Users who enter the sweepstakes every week will receive an extra entry into a grand prize sweepstakes with a $100,000 grand prize, which could be awarded to a single player following the show’s season finale in May.
Starting Monday, March 8, in advance of the season premiere episode of THE MASKED SINGER, FOX Bet Super 6’s weekly contest will launch each Monday at 8:00 PM ET, and entries will be open until the end of Act 1 of the East Coast airing on Wednesdays at 8:00 PM ET.
“We are thrilled with the opportunity to build on the app’s popularity with sports fans and expand the fun and excitement into an entirely new audience,” said FOX Bet CMO, Andrew Schneider. “The app has proven to be an engaging complement to live events and, through this partnership, will help to drive viewership and enrich the experience of MASKED SINGER fans.”
This season’s #1 entertainment series among Adults 18-49 in Most Current ratings, THE MASKED SINGER is hosted by Nick Cannon and will feature guest host Niecy Nash this season, along with panelists Ken Jeong, Jenny McCarthy, Nicole Scherzinger and Robin Thicke. Celebrities who have performed on the show include T-Pain, LeAnn Rimes, Gladys Knight, Donny Osmond, Seal, Patti LaBelle, Drew Carey, Lil Wayne, Mickey Rourke, Rob Gronkowski, Wayne Brady, Tori Spelling, Dionne Warwick and many, many more!
Beyond the sports arena, the versatile FOX Bet Super 6 app grew exponentially with contests during the 2020 Presidential Debate and Election. The first Presidential Debate in September generated over 479,000 entries, followed by October’s Presidential Debate with more than 678,000 entries, and culminated with November’s Presidential Election contest registering over 1 million entries. Additional pop culture contests include FOX Bet’s Super 6 Stock Market Challenge and Quiz Show.
Since launching in September 2019, the FOX Bet Super 6 app boasts a user base of 4.4 million with more than 90 million contest entries and has awarded 22,000 nationwide winners with approximately $4 million in prizes. Since the return of sports at the end of July 2020, FOX Bet Super 6 has garnered the most downloads in the free-to-play category of Sports Prediction Apps (includes Fantasy). For the Super Bowl LV Super 6 contest last month, the app scored more than 1.4 million entries – the most entries for a single contest ever.
THE MASKED SINGER is produced by FOX Alternative Entertainment. James Breen, Craig Plestis, Rosie Seitchik and Nick Cannon serve as executive producers. James Breen serves as showrunner. The series is based on the South Korean format created by Mun Hwa Broadcasting Corp.
FOX Bet Super 6, is a free-to-play prediction app under the FOX Bet umbrella, which is a division of Flutter Entertainment. No betting or wagering of any kind is made on the FOX Bet Super 6 platform. No purchase necessary. Open to legal residents of the U.S., excluding WA, 18 and over. Each contest closes at 8:15pm ET. See terms and conditions at FOXSuper6.com. Sponsored and prize supplied by TSG Interactive US Services Limited.
Proofread and Edited by Brenda
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