The Masked Singer producers reveal how "military-style" operation keeps celebrity identities secret
The Masked Singer UK producers Dan Nettleton and Derek McLean reveal all the behind-the-scenes measures used to pull off the ITV show.
When it comes to The Masked Singer, we have to applaud the show for is the ability to keep the identity of all its contestants completely under wraps.
It's definitely what keeps us coming back for more, as the guessing game continues.
Each week, viewers tune in to guess who is behind the mask of Badger, Sausage, Blob, Grandfather Clock, and so on, however, the true identities of The Masked Singer contestants are only ever revealed once each celebrity is eliminated from the competition and made to remove their mask.
The show is renowned for its level of secrecy, with contestants rumoured to wear disguises backstage, including jumpers labelled "Don't speak to me", and members of staff said to be contractually bound not to disclose any information.
But, just how much of this is true? Plus, what exactly goes into making a show like The Masked Singer?
RadioTimes.com spoke to the show's executive producers, Dan Nettleton and Derek McLean, who talked us through a "military-style" operation starting from the moment celebrities are booked, right up until their unmasking.
"When we first book them they get a codename and that codename is loosely based on what we would know them for, and once they get allocated a character of their choosing, they become that character. Their name is not mentioned once on a piece of paper, on any email or any conversation between execs. It’s just not mentioned. They may not may not exist," Nettleton explained.
After booking each celeb, the work then begins, with McLean revealing a running order is used on stage as well as backstage to ensure celebs do not bump into one another between wardrobe changes and blow their cover.
He said: "We have a running order for the behind-the-scenes, so it'll be like, 'At 01:53, Badger will come out of his dressing room and walk down to quick change. Badger will then move at 01:56, so we make sure nobody else is in the corridor at that time. I think the thing people maybe don't realise is that all the performers have no idea who they're performing against."
As well as having a strict schedule, each contestant is disguised from head-to-toe during rehearsals, so no staff member can recognise them, and this applies to their entourage as well.
Nettleton continued: "When they [the celebrities] get to the studio, they’re basically taken around and we're wearing gloves, we're wearing visors, we're wearing sweatshirts, and anyone who wants to bring their entourage with them has to do the same for the simple fact that obviously we've got the big names and their booker or talent manager is just as recognisable to other people as they are, so everyone is under complete costume from head-t0-toe.
"They're then escorted around like a military operation and we have communicators saying, 'OK, Swan is heading this way or we need Badger in the dressing room.' It's done like a military operation, but with silly names."
Another thing the show is loved for is the weird and wonderful costumes the contestants wear on stage. This year, viewers have fallen in love with Bush Baby's cute and fuzzy onesie and the judges have commented on Dragon's rainbow costume, which is thought to be a clue to their identity.
In order to make these amazing costumes, surely the designers will have to get very close when measuring the celebrities, so they must have some idea who they are, or even have seen them, right?
"Not till right at the end," Nettleton revealed.
"So we have the costume design process, which is between us and the company Plunge, so we will all come up with some ideas for characters and Tim will go off and imagine those and then we will bounce them back and forth.
"He has no idea, but we know who's coming down the line and we might think that this star would be a good Badger for example. When the celeb is booked, we then get very specific measurements for from the celebrity and we give those to the designer."
These measurements include: "The wrist, the ankle, you know every single bit of their body that can be measured will be measured. It’s a huge amount. It’s like 50 different measurements – the size of their head, circumference, everything," McLean said.
And it doesn't stop there, with the producers booking body doubles for each celebrity to ensure nothing gets out.
"Yes, we will find someone for them who is exactly that shape and we’ll use that person." Nettleton said.
It's only right before the celebrity is about to go on stage when only one designer is allowed to see their face when fitting their mask - and of course this person is sworn to secrecy.
"The first time the star has the costume on for the first time will be at studio. Until that point it’s design work and body doubles, so it’s kept so secret," McLean added.
While some shows have suffered when it comes to filming in the pandemic, Nettleton and McLean tell us that in some ways it has made it "easier" for The Masked Singer.
"I mean, for example, we were having people in masks last year before the world caught up with us, so in terms of the confidentiality and the security, I think it has potentially made it a bit easier this year. Everyone's very happy to be as covered up as they can be so that helps with the secrecy," McLean said.
However, extra precautions have had to be put in place, which McLean says has made everyone's job "harder".
He added: "Putting the show on was hugely more complicated because there’s an extra layer of complication right from the start of production. We had a COVID production manager whose job is just to manage the COVID situation and how everything would change. Because of that, we were in what they called 'cohort bubbles' within the show. So we had to cut the number of people who were costume fitting. Normally you would be able to have 10 people run up to that person and pull everything off them and quick change, but you couldn’t have that this time."
Despite the changes, The Masked Singer season two looks very similar to its launch year, with Nettleton saying: "It resembles mostly like a 2019 big entertainment show. We’ve got everything that we had last year but we managed to pull it off within a COVID secure environment."
The Masked Singer is on ITV on Saturday at 7pm. Looking for something to watch? Find out what is on with our TV Guide.