[This story contains the identity of the celebrity eliminated from Tuesday’s episode of Fox’s The Masked Singer.]
The penultimate episode of The Masked Singer saw not one but two major unmaskings — season-long standouts Rabbit, who turned out to be former NSync member Joey Fatone, and Lion, who turned out to be Empire guest star Rumer Willis.
The Hollywood Reporter spoke with Fatone after his elimination to find out how he chose his clues, what he thought about the Internet’s guesses, and just how method he planned to go with the rabbit-in-a-straitjacket costume.
You’ve been keeping this secret for months, but who did you end up telling?
It’s been pretty tight-lipped. I did tell my parents, and of course my manager knew, and a few close friends knew. But I’ve had so many people ask me and so many fans — and then it would have to be the craziest time because obviously I was doing a promotion for Common Knowledge for Game Show Network, when Masked Singer just came out, and after episode two or whatever. Of course, people were like, “You’re the Rabbit, you’re the Rabbit, you’re the Rabbit.” And I’m like, “No.”
I didn’t know what to say, but honestly I felt like a douche lying to everybody. But it’s one of those things where it’s in good fun. I’m not lying about something tragic or anything like that, or trying to cover up. It was one of the more fun experiences that I’ve ever had on a show, and the weirdest experience just because you were kind of isolated, in the whole realm of things.
What was that isolation like? Did you bring anyone with you to set?
I brought some friends of mine and my manager. They all had to wear the masks and they all had to wear these robes, almost like graduation gowns to cover the identity of everybody because they didn’t want to be associated. [My manager] also reps Boyz II Men, so people would also think maybe Boyz II Men is there. That kind of thing. So, they really kept it under wraps. It was only the choreographer, I believe, and the vocal coach, and then some of the audio guys are the only ones that knew who we were.
Did you see anyone you knew?
One of my best friends, Tom, his wife Shannon was one of the dancers in the show. And throughout, when I was walking around with the mask, I saw her. And I never got a chance to do any performances with her, except right before I got kicked off there was a rehearsal that we were doing for the finale, and we all had to rehearse it because we didn’t know who was getting kicked off [and if] I was staying, we already had the performance for the finale already set, choreographed, and done.
So when I came in for literally one of the last rehearsals — “Mustang Sally” is what I was going to do — and my friend Shannon was there. The crazy thing was that there was another woman [who] was actually one of my dancers from the Singing Bee show back in the day on NBC.
Let’s rewind a little bit. I was at dinner at my buddy Tom’s house and Shannon goes, “Oh my god, there’s this show that you would be amazing on.” And she’s telling me this and I’m like, “Oh, really? All right. What?” She goes, “It’s called The Masked Singer. There’s a Monster and a Bee, a Rabbit. They only work with a few people.” I’m like, “Oh, that’s crazy.”
My buddy Tom kept it tight-lipped too, and never told her. So when we were doing the rehearsal … I start to sing; she starts to look a little bit like cockeyed to me, like, “I think I know that person.” And all the sudden after I stopped, I just stood on her foot. She goes, “You son of a bitch.” She figured it out. It’s so hard for people that really know me. My mannerisms, the way I sing, how I cover stuff. People kinda knew it was me. People backstage, even the contestants. They all give that look like, “I think I know you,” but they don’t want to say anything and they can’t say anything.
Did you think you knew who anyone else was?
I knew nothing about the competition. I heard “Stay With Me” when Monster was singing. I think that was the only time I ever something backstage, right before you go on, the other performance is going. That is the only time you hear. I never wanted to see anything. I was in my trailer the whole time. Sometimes you can come out with a mask on. It’d be this green room area. I didn’t do it. I stayed in the trailer the whole time. I tried to make myself isolated.
So do you know who the Monster is now, or are you still waiting to figure it out?
I know who a lot of people are. I pretty much know who everybody is — I found out later on. Hilariously, I ran into Monster on a plane. … We kind of talked a little bit. He had so much fun doing it. I think we all did. It’s grueling, it’s hard, but it was fun.
You mentioned that your friends could recognize your voice, and plenty of NSync fans can recognize your voice too. But were you trying to disguise your voice, especially at the beginning?
I was putting twangs in there, I was doing a whole bunch of stuff. I think the cool thing about it is other the other celebrities definitely were going outside the box on their comfort zone as far as songs are concerned. And on top of that, they were very strict with that stuff. I was like, “Can I do ‘Mustang Sally?’” And in the beginning they would literally be like, “No.” I’m like, “Why not?” They go, “Well, if you Google your name, videos pop up of you singing it.”
That’s how extensive they actually went. They did not want you to ever have sang that song once in your life. So with the Aviici song that I sang, and “Living La Vida Loca,” those songs I’ve never sang before, really