Entertainment

Scot behind The Masked Singer admits 'The world has caught up with the show'


With celebrities hiding behind costumes and in self-isolation, and the audience in bubbles, no wonder the Scots boss of TV hit The Masked Singer says: “The world has caught up with the show.”

Derek McLean, who runs TV company Bandicoot, based in Glasgow’s Govan, has revealed the huge logistical challenges involved in making the second series of the guessing game, which kicks off on Boxing Day.



Six of the 12 new characters for the second series of The Masked Singer - Viking, Blob, Harlequin, Bushbaby, Grandfather Clock and Sea Horse
Six of the 12 new characters for the second series of The Masked Singer – Viking, Blob, Harlequin, Bushbaby, Grandfather Clock and Sea Horse

The 12 secret celebrities will be singing to win behind costumes including Sausage, Dragon, Swan, Viking, Bushbaby, Grand-father Clock and one just known as Blob. The prize is The Masked Singer crown, won last year by Nicola Roberts as Queen Bee.

Derek, 48, from Ayr, said: “It’s the perfect programme for PPE and we had it all bought. The world has caught up with the show.”

Given the secrecy involved in the series – where the public have to guess who is behind each of the masks – there was always a level of self-isolation and social distancing.



Derek McLean, right, is the Scottish boss behind The Masked Singer with his co-founder Daniel Nettleton
Derek McLean, right, is the Scottish boss behind The Masked Singer with his co-founder Daniel Nettleton

Derek added: “The pandemic has helped us keep things more under wraps.

“We were already a very security-conscious show and were secret squirrel about everything. But Covid helped us put a layer of control over everything.

“During the first series, we had lots of grumbles from stars who didn’t want to be stay in their dressing rooms or be cooped up so much. It was a challenge as they aren’t allowed to see who else is on the show. But this year, no one wanted to leave their dressing room. They were happy to sit there and didn’t want to bring people with them.”

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The health and safety of the 12 – who could be anyone from singers to politicians, sports people to actors – and the crew was top of Derek’s list.

During the first series, there could be up to 10 people putting a costume on or off and others getting make-up. None of this could happen the second time around.

He said: “It was very limited who was allowed to handle the costumes, who could help the person into the costumes, how they would get out of the costumes, how the costumes were managed in downtime and how they were cleaned. We had very strict rules.”

The costumes were still challenging. While they had been altered, they were still hot.

Derek said: “It was boiling when we were filming and the celebs were stewing. A couple of the celebrities had to have emergency ice packs put down their back to keep them cool.”

Last year, Derek promised we’d see a Scottish-themed costume as a nod to the company’s tartan roots. But while there is a dragon and a sausage supper, there’s no Nessie or haggis.



Who is Sausage one of the new characters for the second series of The Masked Singer which kicks off on Boxing Day?
Who is Sausage one of the new characters for the second series of The Masked Singer which kicks off on Boxing Day?

He added: “When the celebrities are booked, we work with them to come up with costume ideas. We had more than 20 ideas but have to work with the celebrities to find a costume with clues or to fit with their personality or where they come from.

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“A couple were very Scottish-themed. But, in the end, they didn’t come through this year because they weren’t the right fit for the right person.

“There is one we wanted to hold back for the right person, who might come through another year.”

Once they got the celebs, Derek and The Masked Singer team were able to keep them in bubbles but he admitted it was difficult getting the stars to sign up this year.

While there were plenty who were interested because of the success of the first series, the pandemic played havoc with celebrity diaries.

When the world went into lockdown in March, many had open diaries then restrictions were eased in the summer.



New Masked Singer panellist Mo Gilligan, left, joins Davina McCall, host Joe Dommett, Rita Ora and Jonathan Ross for the second series of the guessing game
New Masked Singer panellist Mo Gilligan, left, joins Davina McCall, host Joe Dommett, Rita Ora and Jonathan Ross for the second series of the guessing game

Derek and ITV had to juggle celebrities’ availability and when they should film at RAF Bovingdon airfield, near Hemel Hempstead in Hertfordshire.

He said: “We were meant to be filming in summer but the easing of the first lockdown meant some people then had to do something else and others we thought couldn’t do it suddenly said they could.

“The good thing about filming in late autumn was we could get a studio ­audience. It made a huge difference to the performers. It’s hard for people who are not professional singers if they have to sing in an empty studio with only crew cheering them on.”

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The Masked Singer will be presented by Joel Dommett, with comic Mo Gilligan joining Davina McCall, Rita Ora and Jonathan Ross on the panel. This year, there will be more disguising of accents, harder clues and a new spin-off series Unmasked.

The Masked Singer is on Boxing Day, on STV at 7pm.





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