“The Masked Singer” wrapped its fourth season earlier this month with another big-name celeb being crowned the winner of the wacky Fox singing competition. And while we await that show’s Season 5 premiere next spring, its spinoff series, “The Masked Dancer,” will begin cutting a rug in its absence.
At first blush, “The Masked Dancer” might seem like the exact same show as “The Masked Singer,” except for, you know, dancing rather than singing. But it turns out there are several components to “Dancer” that deviate from “Singer’s” format.
Here to walk TheWrap — and all of you “Masked” fans — through the key differences is Craig Plestis, the executive producer who adapted “The Masked Singer” from its iconic South Korean format for U.S. audiences and who developed “The Masked Dancer,” which was originally a parody sketch on “The Ellen DeGeneres Show,” into the full-fledged competition that premieres Sunday.
The panelists and host
Well, it’s mostly different, with the exception of Ken Jeong, a fan-favorite panelist on “Masked Singer” who will join the spinoff series. The rest of “Dancer’s” lineup of judges has Paula Abdul, Brian Austin Green (a former “Singer” contestant) and Ashley Tisdale, versus “Singer’s” Jenny McCarthy, Robin Thicke and Nicole Scherzinger. And instead of “Singer’s” host, Nick Cannon, fans will see Craig Robinson acting as emcee.
“We gotta have Ken! He’s our lucky charm,” Plestis told TheWrap. “The one thing that we wanted to get was a panel that got along, that worked as a family and worked well together and clicked. So that was always a very scary thing, when you’re trying to get that lightning in a bottle the second time. And I think we really did that, not only with the panel, but also with Craig Robinson as host. He brings a completely different flavor of comedy and hosting than Nick does. Nick is fantastic and we love Nick, but it’s nice to have a different angle to come at stuff.”
Plestis added, “I think that’s what makes ‘Dancer’ fresh, is a whole change of a panel, outside of Ken, plus our host. On top of that, the great thing is with Paula, it’s almost like a secret weapon on the panel. She’s too good. She is so observant and knows so much about dance and about the different celebrities she’s worked with who can dance. And with Ashley, her experience in the dance world and everything she knows in pop culture, especially with her TikTok fame now, as well. They are just jewels beyond belief. And then Ken has been there before, but it is a brand new game. It’s a new game of observation.”
The clue packages are “more in-depth” and “much more story-based”
“You get a deeper feel for who the celebrity is underneath the mask,” the “Masked Singer” executive producer said. “We’ve also included a lot more clues within those packages as well, since you don’t get to hear their singing voice — but you get to hear their speaking voice. On top of that, there are clues within the dance routine, all around. Now and then, a couple times, we did that in ‘Singer.’ But in this one, in every one, there’s clues. There’s clues in the screen content, there’s clues in the outfits, there’s clues with the dance moves themselves. If you’re watching it, you’re not only watching a great performance, but you’re also looking for clues all around the place.”
The number of contestants
There are 10 competitors on the first season of “Masked Dancer,” which is a smaller number than “Singer” has ever featured in its four-season run. Those competitors will be broken into two teams of five at the start, Plestis told TheWrap, and they will merge throughout the course of the season as more celebs are unmasked.
The costume team isn’t led by “Masked Singer’s” Emmy-winning designer, Marina Toybina — because she’s busy getting ready for Season 5 of “Masked Singer”
“We had a different team of costumers … but we had a team of individuals who worked on ‘Singer’ as well, to ensure the DNA,” Plestis said. “It becomes difficult. These costumes were a lot more work than ‘Singer’ is. ‘Singer,’ you have to sing in the costume, so there’s an acoustic element that we have to have. But with these costumes, you have be able to move around, lift someone above your head. You had to take a beating and survive. And then on top of that, we had to make sure there was great airflow with these costumes, that they didn’t become overheated. So there’s a lot of R&D that we had to do with these to make sure that they meet the criteria of endurance.”
It’s going to require more sleuthing on your part than “Masked Singer” does
“You could listen in on ‘Masked Singer’ and just maybe close your eyes and think in your head. This one, you have to pay attention,” the “Masked Singer” boss told us. “You have to pay attention to the moves, to the physical characteristics of these individuals. It’s a whole new game when you’re looking at it through this perspective of actually watching. Because all of them have clues all over the place, but you can tell a lot from when someone just walks on the stage. Are they young? Are they old? Are they male? Are they female? Are they athletic? Are they not? And [the judges] were picking that up right from the get-go. So that turned out to be just a fun element to have in the mix that we don’t really get to have that discussion that much in ‘Singer.’”
The big prize is an upgrade from “Masked Singer’s” Golden Mask Trophy
“The trophy is the Diamond Mask Trophy. It’s a giant, diamond-encrusted trophy. It’s so sparkly and beautiful,” Plestis said. “It just might be the heaviest trophy we’ve ever made for the series. When we got it delivered we went, ‘Oh my gosh, can anyone lift it?’ But it’s going to look great on someone’s mantel.”
The contestants’ speaking voices will be revealed
The biggest difference between “Singer” and “Dancer” — again, apart from the dancing versus singing — is that “Masked Dancer” will include a new “Word Up” Clue element that allows the judges and viewers at home to hear the speaking voices of the contestants, something that never happens on “Singer.”
As Plestis previously told TheWrap, this addition was a tricky one that took some time to sort out.
“The ‘Word Up’ is an incredible clue for anyone who wants to replay it a couple times on their DVR and listen to it. You’ll get really close,” Plestis said.
The level of celebrity you’ll see unmasked might be a little bigger than what you’ve seen on “Singer”
Between all of the celebrity competitors on the first season of “The Masked Dancer,” they’ve amassed more than 38 million albums sold worldwide, 20 Emmy Award wins, 20 Grammy Award nominations, 10 World Dancing titles, five New York Times best-selling author titles, four Olympic gold medals and three Broadway show appearances, per Fox.
“I think the accolades say it all. Anything more than that and I’d be tipping the hat,” Plestis said. “But I will tell you, it’s a reach of many different kinds of personalities we were able to get. We were really lucky because ‘Masked Singer’ is so popular, especially with a lot of celebrities’ kids. That was our calling card for ‘Masked Dancer.’ So [for] people who normally can’t sing, but would want to dance, it opened up a whole new treasure trove of celebrities we could tap.”
And just in case you were wondering: There won’t be “themed” weeks on “Dancer” that dictate what kind of dances the contestants perform, like on ABC’s “Dancing With the Stars”
“We really want to keep the unexpected nature of what happens on stage. So at any moment, when someone comes out on stage, you don’t know what it’s going to be,” Plestis said. “Someone might do a jazz dance. Someone might do a big Bollywood routine. Someone might do a solo, tap or ballet. You just don’t know what style is going to come next. You also don’t know how many people are going to be on the stage. We liked the idea of keeping this unexpected, so you could be surprised at any moment when one of the celebrities comes out in their mask to perform.”
“The Masked Dancer” premieres Sunday at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT after an NFL doubleheader on Fox.