One of the big twists on the “game-changing” fifth season of Fox’s “The Masked Singer” was the addition of wild cards. As producer Craig Plestis reveals during Gold Derby’s Meet the Experts: Reality TV panel (watch above), “We had the idea since Season 3 about doing wild cards, where we bring people into the game.” He continues on, “Every time our show airs I watch the feeds at night and see what they talk about. A lot of fans say, ‘What if we had a new celebrity that entered the game at the last minute?’ We kept thinking about it, pondering about it, and this was the season to do it.”
Because of the Covid-19 pandemic, the show was getting flooded with requests from celebs who wanted to take part, and the wild card twist allowed them to join a little bit later than the other contestants. “The fans love it,” notes Plestis. “It’s just another way to get something fresh in these episodes as the competition goes along.” The four wild cards for Season 5 were Nick Cannon (Bulldog), Mark McGrath (Orca), Bobby Brown (Crab) and Omarion (Yeti).
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Speaking of Cannon, he missed the first five episodes of the Spring 2021 installment because of his Covid-19 diagnosis. The show hired Niecy Nash as his temporary replacement, who unmasked Bulldog in the fifth episode, revealing Cannon himself. “We didn’t know when Nick was gonna come back to the show, [but] we knew he would be back at some point,” the producer confirms. “We kept thinking as we were going in production, we wanted Nick to come back with a bang and do something … We suggested to come in as a contestant, we’ll build a costume, you’ll have to sing a song, you’ll have to play it for real and do all the hard work that all the contestants do. And he was up for it.”
Nash had previously been a guest judge on the panel, but how did she get wrapped up into hosting the show while Cannon was away? “That was a peculiar time for ‘Masked Singer,’ because when we found out that Nick couldn’t do the show, we kept thinking, oh my gosh, who could replace him, because he is just one of the best hosts on television,” Plestis says. At first the producers considered having a revolving host each week, but then settled on one who had a history with the program. “Niecy was one of the first names that was brought up internally as well as with Fox. And since she knew the brand already … we asked her and she kindly said yes.”
Also in our exclusive video interview, Plestis talks about the show receiving Emmy attention for Best Competition Program and winning Best Reality Costumes, how it’s gotten “easier to cast” as the seasons have gone on, and whether the often-guessed Jamie Foxx has actually been approached to put on a costume for a future season.
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