‘The Masked Singer’s Turtle on the Finale: ‘I Wouldn’t Have Changed Anything’
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for the Season 3 finale of The Masked Singer.]
The Turtle came out of his shell Wednesday night on The Masked Singer.
The Season 3 finale saw the final three celebrities perform for a shot at walking away with the golden trophy, and Turtle’s performance of Lewis Capaldi’s “Before You Go” was strong enough to get him second place. When he was unmasked, it was none other than singer, songwriter, and actor Jesse McCartney in the shell.
Here, McCartney discusses his experience on the show, performing in that costume, his finale song choice, and more.
You spoke about being apprehensive about doing this, so what made you say yes?
Jesse McCartney: There is certainly the exposure element, particularly because I was producing and finishing my next album and I hadn’t released an album in five, six years. It was an exciting time for me musically and I thought what better way to reintroduce people to my music than to be on national television every single week on the number one television show?
But also just the challenge of being able to be on stage and turn out a new performance every single week. For me, I am very particular about my live show. It takes me months to prepare a set list and rehearse with my band before I even hit the road, and I love to practice over and over and over before I even perform for the first time. So this was a scary proposition because I knew I would have to perform and then within seven days have a whole new song picked, arranged, rehearsed, and then choreographed with only two rehearsals before you perform it live. I knew that was a huge challenge, and I was up for that.
And I love to be on stage, and I thought if there was a competition I had a shot at winning, it was going to be a singing competition.
Speaking of being used to singing on a stage in front of a crowd, what did you find to be the most surprising challenge during the season?
Certainly the pace of it was a whirlwind, a tornado, and when it’s all over, you’re like, “did that just happen?” There’s so many moving pieces.
The anonymity thing, too, is just incredibly difficult: having to lie to all your family and friends, wearing these ridiculous masks leaving my house every morning, driving to set, not being able to expose any part of your body, your skin. I showed up to set one day, and I had no show socks on, and I had to wait in the car for 15 minutes for them to go find knee-high socks so that no one could see my ankles.
Wearing these outfits, having to perform at a high level with this added weight and the cumbersome costumes you’re wearing, it really does limit what you’re able to do, so that was something I had to overcome.
What was the appeal of being the Turtle? You spoke about growing a thicker shell, so it encapsulated that, right? But anything else?
As far as my performance goes, I knew I wanted to have an outfit that wasn’t going to limit my mobility, and wearing pants definitely helps. I knew I was going to dance, I knew I wanted to be able to move around, and when I looked at some of the other costumes, where you can’t even believe a human being is inside them, there’s not even legs. There’s just these huge garments that don’t look comfortable at all. That was definitely an element.
But also over the course of this 20+ year career that I’ve had, I’ve seen it all and I’ve had to develop a thick shell, and that fit the narrative for the show very well. I have developed quite a thick skin over the years, but I’m still a big softie on the inside. That comes with the territory when you’re in an industry like entertainment.
Speaking of the limits of the costume and the weight of the shell, were there any songs you had to rule out performing because of it?
No, but there were certainly songs that were more challenging than others that we had to just rehearse over and over and over again until we figured out what sections of the song would work.
For instance, the Shawn Mendes song, “Nothing Holdin’ Me Back,” is incredibly challenging to sing just standing still. There’s a ton of lyrics, vocally, it’s challenging and then you add all the variables — the costume, the breathing, the heat of the lights. You would rehearse on Thursday, and they wouldn’t have any lights. Then on Saturday, you’d perform the song and the lights had been on sometimes for five hours because there’s five other performances before you and it is 100 degrees in there.
All of those things came into play, so you do end up editing the song a certain way or vocally arranging it a certain way to prepare for all of those variables and you do the best you can. Always there was something on stage that happened that you didn’t prepare for and it’s just about how you could overcome it in the moment.
The other thing is you had to make quick decisions, because you only had a week in between each performance, so you had to make a decision, you had to stick with it, and hope it was the right one and be very decisive and not try to back track and swing for the fence every single week and hope not to strike out.
What went into your song choice for the finale? Any other options you were considering that you wish you’d chosen with hindsight?
No, in hindsight, I would’ve chosen the exact same song. I love Lewis Capaldi, I love that song. It was a song that was bubbling. It was not as popular as some of the other songs but I wanted to do something that was true to me, that I thought really represented what I’m capable of vocally. Singing a big ballad is my wheelhouse and something that is one of the stronger parts of my voice. I wanted to pull at people’s heartstrings. It wasn’t enough to win this time, but it was definitely something if I had to do it all over again, I wouldn’t have changed anything. I think it’s still a very powerful moment.
The panelists did guess it was you, but what’d you think of listening to them try to figure it out all season?
Some of them were hilarious. The funniest one for me was Jaden Smith, just because I never in a million years would have ever guessed somebody would guess that. Some of them were really flattering, like Billie Joe [Armstrong] and Gavin DeGraw, who is a buddy of mine. That was really interesting. There were the obvious boy band guesses, just because I’m a white guy singing soulful pop music up there. That was a natural guess.
When Jenny finally did guess it, I had a freak out moment under that costume. I was like, “oh, shoot, what do I do?” I was just trying to play it cool and act like it was any other guess. That was always a nerve-racking part of the competition, waiting for them to guess who’s under the shell.
You spoke about “almost moments” in your career and about taking risks, so what are you going to take away from the overall experience?
I’m validated in the sense that I’ve chosen the right career and I’m most comfortable in my own skin when I am on stage or in my own shell, as they would say on Masked Singer. It’s a good testament to the amount of work I put in for so many years, that I deserve to have a spot in the finale of the show and that with the help of my incredible team and all of my family and friends and people who have supported me, I’ve been able to get this far. That for me was the biggest takeaway and it was one of those moments afterwards, I look back on, I reflect, and I think this is what I was born to do and I’m so happy I’ve been able to have the longevity I’ve had because of the support I’ve had.
Were you able to guess any of the other Season 3 contestants’ identities?
Some of them. I thought Bow Wow was Bow Wow pretty early on just because he’s got some pretty staple moves. When I looked online, he moved a certain way that is pretty distinct to him. Chaka Khan was an obvious voice to me because she’s such a legendary sound.
There were several I had no idea. Up until the reveal of Night Angel, I had no idea who that was. I had no idea who Kitty was. The Banana, didn’t know who that was.
The Masked Singer, Season 4, Fall 2020, Fox