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‘Masked Singer': Russian Dolls on Costume Trickery, Being Mistaken for Those Other Famous Siblings

Unmasked trio also tells TheWrap their favorite incorrect guesses

After featuring its first-ever two-person costume, the Snow Owls, on Season 4, “The Masked Singer” stepped its multiple-celebs-competing-as-one-contestant game way up in the currently airing Season 5, which included the Russian Dolls costume. From the first day the nesting contestant was introduced until they were eliminated on Wednesday, the judges and viewers didn’t know exactly how many people were inside the dolls. But their unmasking confirmed three people were part of the costume — three siblings, in fact.

Yes, Isaac, Taylor and Zac Hanson were the trio inside the Russian Dolls, and TheWrap spoke with them about how they pulled off that trickery until tonight’s quarterfinals. We also asked what they thought of all the judges’ incorrect guesses — including Ken Jeong’s theory that they were the Jonas Brothers.

TheWrap: When you signed on for the show, did you know you would be doing it in this crazy complicated, tricky costume?

Taylor Hanson: It was clear that, from the beginning, the request for us to be on the show was about being a group and being something that had never been done before on the show, which we liked. We were asked about participating and then they said, “Particularly, we like you guys because we’ve never had a group of people. We want to change it up.” And so we knew that part of our decision to do it, and what was interesting to us about it was, we’re going to stretch ourselves, we’re going to feature something that is really important, we are singers. But the game for us is going to be about twisting and surprising people on the number of people, because one singer is expected, two had never been done before until the last season, and then three had never been done before at all. So the fact that people might think there were four of us was that much more interesting.

Isaac Hanson: There’s sort of two parts. There’s this spectacle part — there’s the costumes and the AR and the sets and the confetti cannons and the dancers, that sort of thing that surrounds the performances — and then the focus on great singing and great songs. So it’s how do you make the most of both of those elements and keep people guessing as long as possible and keeping them off the clues? It’s how you make the most of that game on the show.

What were the actual logistics that went into you guys being inside the dolls, with it constantly changing how many dolls were physically part of the costume?

Zac Hanson: It was an interesting experience. Every day was a new challenge because you would come in and decide how many dolls were going to be on stage based on the song you probably picked only a day or two before that and we’re still arranging the parts for. There’s a lot of decisions made really fast, and you really have to stay on your toes. There’s a great team of people working with you. They are pros, but you’re not, so you still have to live with the fact that you’re doing it for the first time. So sometimes there would be two of us in one doll, sometimes we’d have the dancers pushing a doll on set when the cameras were looking the other way to give that sensation of maybe there is a fourth or fifth person, is there something I’m not seeing? And you’re trying to do that little bit of sleight of hand, almost magic to get the judges to not see those things happening at the same time. So it was a fun challenge.

How did you decide what songs you wanted to sing and did you try to use your selection to hide your recognizable voices?

Taylor Hanson: We presumed people would guess, because of course we do have a relationship with our audience and so, guys, we’ve been out there for a while, somebody is going to guess it from the harmonies. In fact, the show was more like, “Oh no, they won’t know.” No, they will. But I don’t think anybody guessed that it would be that fast. I think it’s got to be the combination of just the actual difference in our voices and the harmonies. There’s just not that many people that have that particular combination. The way we approached it was we really worked at every level. We worked on the clues with the show and the song selection and picking a mix of current, modern songs and throwbacks. And then we purposely moved around who was singing lead. So the first song you heard, you heard my voice singing the lead on the Michael Jackson tune. But then you go and you have lots of Zac on the [Jason] Derulo track and then on “Shallow,” you have Isaac starting off the song. So we felt like, at that point, each song is so different. “24K Magic” has all the hype man stuff. So we felt like we pretty much used every tool at our disposal to keep people guessing. And we thought that our inability to really dance would show that we were Hanson pretty quickly. We tried to focus on the singing.

Isaac Hanson: I’d like it if that were the headline of the article, “Hanson: Clearly Not Dancers.”

Taylor Hanson: It’s official, they are not a boy band, because they cannot dance.

In connection with your unmasking Wednesday, you’re announcing your seventh studio release,
“Against The World,” which is going to premiere via seven consecutive monthly singles throughout 2021. What was the reasoning behind this as the time to release new music and in this unique rollout?

Zac Hanson: The last few weeks in particular, we’ve been very quiet because there’s so many questions from our fanbase about “The Masked Singer.” We knew we weren’t going to release a project until right when the show was over because we’d just been inundated with these questions… It also doesn’t hurt that it’s a hugely successful show, and it seemed like a great opportunity to introduce something new to anyone who just isn’t familiar with Hanson. I mean, there’s millions of people in the world who just don’t know anything about our band. And so you take this opportunity to say, hey, here’s something if you’re watching. The album is all about these individual songs released, one song every month, and in November, it will be officially a product that people can buy as an album. Going into our 30th year, it seemed like a great way to just put the spotlight on each song and each story.

Tonight, Ken Jeong guessed you were the Jonas Brothers. What was your reaction to that, along with the other incorrect guesses you got?

Taylor Hanson: As far as the guesses, it made sense to us. As soon as they thought there were three of us, the Jones Brothers would be one of the artists that is a trio. And there were some interesting guesses. I’ve never heard the Jonas Brothers harmonize quite the way we do, but I know that they probably could. But no vocal cords are closer than brothers…They referenced the Jacksons; that was my favorite reference.

Isaac Hanson: And then Boyz II Men. Boyz II Men may be the all-time greats as far as harmonizing. No better singers.

“The Masked Singer” airs Wednesdays at 8/7c on Fox.