Fox’s The Masked Singer is kicking off its tenth season with a bit of a celebration.
The popular game show, where masked celebrities compete in a singing competition, returns to the airwaves on September 10. But before a new slate of contestants hit the stage, a few familiar faces are back once more. Sunday’s episode will feature duets from past contestants Michelle Williams (Butterfly), Rumer Willis (Lion), Joey Fatone (Rabbit), Bow Wow (Frog), Victor Oladipo (Thingamajig), and Barry Zito (Rhino).
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It will also include another special performance from a new masked singer, though they won’t be competing in the upcoming competition. Instead “Anonymouse” will be unmasked at the end of the episode as a fun surprise for viewers.
It’s all part of the master plan to make Season 10 of The Masked Singer bigger and better than ever before, said executive producer Craig Plestis.
“Since we’ve had lightning in a bottle since Season 1, for us, it’s just the idea of reinventing it, getting bigger names, and just making sure that we keep the fun within the show,” he told Deadline.
While the celebration kicks off on Sunday, Plestis also teased plans to keep it going all season long with plenty of surprise performances from past contestants, as well as some record-setting costumes. In the interview below, Plestis gives a sneak peek of what’s in store for Season 10.
DEADLINE: Since Season 10 is a milestone, what were your goals for the season?
CRAIG PLESTIS: First of all, we’re just honored that America has kept watching us for 10 seasons. That’s a surprise itself in today’s marketplace. Since we’ve had lightning in a bottle since Season 1, for us, it’s just the idea of reinventing it, getting bigger names, and just making sure that we keep the fun within the show. For Season 10, this was the opportunity for how we can make it bigger, better, and also bring back so many past people. We’re having the kickoff episode after two big football games on September 10, and we’ve been wanting to do that for a long time. It was our anniversary season here to do something like this, to have a megastar come out and perform as a kickoff for us to start the guessing game and also bring back several combinations of past contestants to not only honor them but to show America who we had on our show in the past and just remember those smiles that they brought to us.
DEADLINE: You mention reinventing. Is there anything new we can expect this season?
PLESTIS: I think that what we’re doing for Season 10 is we’re looking back at the past nine seasons. What we did was cherry pick the best of everything about it, between formats and what we’ve learned throughout the whole show. It just made a super great season like we’ve never done before. We’ve upgraded. We’ve learned from our past seasons doing themes to just make them bigger and better. This season [we have] Harry Potter, an Elton John music night, Trolls night, NFL football… as well as several other great themes. So I think that’s part of it, but also just bringing back certain elements [from past seasons]. We have our groups competing against each other back again. We have the ding dong bell coming back. So we’re cherry picking the best parts of all the formats we’ve ever tried out to make it a super mega fantastic format.
DEADLINE: I’m glad you mentioned some of the themes. I was going to ask about them. They are usually really fun!
PLESTIS: They are! For the contestants who are in the shows, it makes it really fresh for them, and they feel special. Like, when we did the Harry Potter one…that just makes it incredibly different for any of these performers who’ve done another show when they walk into this and just feel something magical happened. Same thing happened again when we did Elton John music. You just feel special, and it stands out as well. So you don’t feel like watching the same thing over and over and over again. Each episode is unique and different along with an incredible journey.
DEADLINE: After 10 seasons, do you ever feel like you run out of costume ideas?
PLESTIS: Oh my god. We have enough ideas for a hundred more [seasons]. I have a secret bible of unused ideas that we’re just itching to do, so that I’m not worried about that. The day when we run out of ideas, yes, cancel the show. But we’re not anywhere near that. I think this season we have the best costumes ever and if you talk to our panel, they will agree. There’s a few you already know of. We have Donut, which is incredible. We have Anteater. We have Hibiscus and a life-size S’more, which we’ve been dying to do. I can tell you right now — I’m not gonna tell you the costume, but for the first time, we have, without a doubt, the largest, tallest costume ever built in the history of The Masked Singer.
DEADLINE: Do you find yourself always wanting to one-up whatever you did the previous season?
PLESTIS: I think so. I mean, between myself and our mask makers, there’s always a competition. How can I outdo myself? What can I do differently? Luckily, we have just an incredible team of craftsmen here who take great pride in their work…Sadly, what you don’t see on TV is a level of intricacy you can see within some of these outfits. They embroider them for hours. It’s so sad, because I wish we could do an hour and just do close ups of all the costumes to see all the details. Especially for a lot of these costumes, there’s clues embedded in some of the stitching that we don’t even talk about on the show.
DEADLINE: How interesting that there’s clues in the stitching. You’d have to have quite the eagle eye to figure those out.
PLESTIS: I do a clue call with the future celebrity in what we do is, every costume, there’s a concrete reason why they should be that costume. We do heavy research before we get to talk to them. We don’t do Wikipedia. We really call friends. We talk to other people. We figure out connections that very few people know. So it may not fully be explored within each episode, but the goal for us is to find a connection in their soul, in their heart to this costume. You will see that this season, for many reasons. There’s a reason why donut is donut… When I mentioned a couple of the connections to our contestants, they literally broke down and started crying because it just touched them so much. That helps them fall in love with that character before they put the costume on.
DEADLINE: You’ve said before that, at this point, you get plenty of interest from celebrities who want to do the show. But do you have a dream list of contestants?
PLESTIS: Yes, I do. I have the list and I’m slowly checking it off each season. [Someone] that was on the list in Season 9 was Dick Van Dyke. We were very lucky. The phenomenon that we have with The Masked Singer is it is really important for us to treat each celebrity, not only with respect, but as a future ambassador to Masked Singer in the hopes that they will say ‘I loved going on the show,’ and they talk to their friends and they come on. It really has happened that way. Eric Idle, who came on [Season 8] and who was the Hedgehog loved it so much. And he was talking to Dick Van Dyke, and he told him how much of a great time [he had], and Dick Van Dyke called us up and said ‘I want to do it.’ So it’s that connection that helps us get bigger and better stars each season because they have friends who’ve done it and they want to do it, or their kids watch the show and they want to surprise their kids. It still is that magical.
DEADLINE: There have been some impressive contestants throughout the years. It feels like, at this point, it really could be anyone behind the mask.
PLESTIS: It could be anyone. I watch the socials after every show, and I gotta tell you, not everyone gets it right. It’s hard, because when you hear [and] you see a dancing hedgehog, it’s kind of hard to figure out who’s underneath each mask. If you close your eyes and just listen to the voice, that’s the only way you’re gonna figure it out. But it’s hard to do that when you want to watch that dancing hedgehog on the screen. The costumes really do play a trick on your mind as to who is that voice.
DEADLINE: A few seasons ago, you had said you were leaning more into the interactivity of the show. How have the past several seasons been, now that the audience is more directly involved in the outcome?
PLESTIS: I think that that’s the key. We are only around for the 10th season because of our audience, because of our fan base. So it’s really important to listen to their opinions. Myself and my producers, we read every post almost as much as we can. We consume the good and bad. We listen, and we try to improve it and make it better each season. That’s why, when you do see Season 10, what we include from past seasons…I think we did listen to them. And as for interactivity, it is really important to have them here, voting within the show. Our set right now is probably one of the largest sets we’ve ever had. We have over 500 people who attend each taping of the show, and if we can fit in more, we will do it. So it’s making sure that we have an open door policy to get as many fans that we do.
DEADLINE: You have several past contestants coming back to perform duets during this premiere episode. How did you come up with that idea?
PLESTIS: We’ve had this idea for a long time because it’s been waiting for Season 10 to happen to be able to do the [kickoff] episode. But also, we read all the fan sites. So many people said, ‘I want to see this contestant come back. We want to see them do this.’ So we’ve asked a select group to come back and perform. Luckily enough, everyone said, ‘Absolutely. Just tell me when. I want to be there back on the stage.’ It was just so great to see Joey Fatone from Season 1 come back. They still live and breathe this experience, because there’s been no other show like this before for all of them. They’ve done other performance shows. Nobody else has had that experience of being incognito, of not talking to anyone, being hidden from the whole staff, to be called by that character’s name for the longest time and then they have the show air and are not able to talk about it. It goes against everything a celebrity is used to, promoting weeks in advance about their appearance. We’re the only show that asks everyone, ‘Don’t talk about the show.’
DEADLINE: Is there anything you’ve learned over the past 10 seasons of working on The Masked Singer?
PLESTIS: It really is one of the last family shows on TV. I see this all the time online where families are watching it together. They’re posting pictures together. You see a little bit of the parents and grandparents sitting on the couch together. You don’t see that anymore. So we’re one of the last family friendly shows that exist on any broadcast or platform, and I take great pride in that. For one hour, we don’t have to think about politics. You don’t have to think about the disasters in the world. You can forget about everything. Play a fun guessing game. Make you laugh. It’s really important that we’re a fun show…It’s not a judging show of who sang better. It’s about who made me smile. Those are the people that go forward. So I think that’s the key here is it just brings a smile to everyone in the audience’s face.
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