‘The Masked Singer’s Baby Alien on Building His Puppet’s Character
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Season 4, Episode 4 of The Masked Singer, “The Group B Playoffs – Cloudy with a Chance of Clues.”]
It was a crash landing for the latest Masked Singer contestant to be eliminated in Season 4.
The Group B singers returned to the stage for another performance in Wednesday’s episode, and while Serpent, Crocodile, Whatchamacallit, and Seahorse are all continuing on, it was the end for Baby Alien, who was unmasked. Operating that puppet was former NFL quarterback Mark Sanchez.
Here, Sanchez opens up about his experience on the show, operating that costume, and more.
How did you get involved with this season? Why was now the right time for you to do this?
Mark Sanchez: I thought with my broadcasting career, this would be something a little different, a nice little wrinkle, and it was presented to me by the people at Athletes First and specifically Savannah Foster, who I’ve worked with for a long time, and she knows Deena [Katz] very well, the casting director [who] does Dancing With the Stars and The Masked Singer. Savannah’s wanted me to do Dancing With the Stars for a while, and I’ve always shied away from it because dancing’s not my thing. I got a little rhythm, don’t get me wrong, but I’m more of a karaoke guy.
When this show started taking off, I was supposed to do Season 3, and it just didn’t work out, scheduling and timing-wise, and then we circled back for Season 4, and they’re like, “We’re actually glad you waited because we have this great costume,” and then enter Baby Alien.
Let’s talk about that costume. What appealed to you about operating a puppet?
[Laughs] I didn’t realize how involved that part was going to be because in the initial pitch, they’re just like, “Think of potentially a Baby Yoda-type character.” All this is an idea before it actually comes to fruition and is constructed by Marina [Toybina] and her team with the costumes, so I had no idea I was going to have to be part-ventriloquist essentially and singer and do some choreographed moves and wear this 40-pound costume. It went in stages, if you will, and each stage was essentially a new hurdle or hoop to jump through.
I was like, “Whoa, wait, so I have a Zoom with a puppeteer for an hour trying to figure out how to do this on my first day?” I was like, “OK, can I talk with this guy more?” This dude, Ron [Binion], he’s worked on Crank Yankers, he’s been on The Muppets, he’s got this long list of accomplishments as a puppeteer, and so literally in 20 minutes, he broke down how to make the puppet come to life and just gave me a step-by-step tutorial of what that entailed in a very, very basic, rudimentary form.
And then he’s like, “Your job is to practice because if you don’t practice, you’ll be very mechanical, and your job is to play a puppet, give a puppet a personality essentially.” And so that’s when we toyed around with the accents after the performances and messing around how I talk and change my voice inflection and all that kind of stuff. … So this character starts to come to life.
Meanwhile, I’m trying to figure out how to sing a decent pitch and hit the right notes and all that, which was in and of itself very difficult because I’m definitely not a professional there but it was an absolute blast and such a fun challenge. Definitely pushed me outside of my comfort zone, and I think people grow that way, and so I try to do that as much as I can and this was right up my alley.
And you did surprise everyone. At one point though, Joel McHale mentions a football player as he joked about your costume. Did you think after that, he or someone else would guess it was you?
Yeah, so that was close, right? Really close, and I was like, “Ooh, what am I doing that’s giving that away? Or maybe they know because of the height of the costume. Or the costume weighed quite a bit, and they could tell —” When you film the show, you go through your performance and that costume is really, really heavy. I had a position that I could get myself in and it’s almost like after you run a marathon or something, you’re like, hands on your knees, bent over. So I could get in a position like that where I could essentially rest.
Because it weighed a lot, and my shoulders and my neck would get a little tired and then I’d have to go sing, I needed a resting position, and I was doing that quite a bit. I think that tipped him off, “Oh, there’s a lot going on under that costume, so this has to be somebody in decent shape, maybe it’s a football player or some sort of athlete that could handle that.” Thank God I’ve been staying in shape because that was pretty intense. But it was fun and he was pretty darn close.
Speaking of that resting position, it’s good you had it considering the panelists’ guesses, especially Ken Jeong’s very long ones.
Holy cow, I didn’t know they even had enough space on their hard drive to save all the filming for that guy. He was awfully long-winded. He belongs in these Supreme Court hearings, he’d be a perfect filibuster.
Oh my God, and he had so many — It’s almost like that game you play when you name a movie and then you have to name another movie with one actor from that movie in the cast. We’re talking, “And this guy played a scientist in a 1967 movie called blah blah blah and because of that…” You’re just like, “What? You lost me.” It was really funny, but he’s obviously a very analytical guy, and that’s kind of his shtick. It was hilarious, but that costume got really heavy.
What went into your song choices? Was there anything you specifically wanted to show off with your vocals?
I thought one of the most important things was some upbeat, uptempo — unless you’re a professional singer and you can nail a slow song and hit some big-time notes, if you’re just accentuating your voice, then that’s one thing. But I have a ceiling on my singing talent, and I recognize that, so my next thought was, “OK, if I have this much talent and I’m not busting through the ceiling of singing talent, well, we gotta get something uptempo, fun, popular enough to get people to sing along that makes it a cool experience.”
You push on the experience, you push on the puppet element of it, bringing his personality to life, and then moving around just enough for the choreography to keep it light, keep it fun, and that’s really where these song choices came in. I thought it was great.
I’m appreciative to a good friend of mine who got the approval for “Faith” with George Michael’s estate and team, so that was not an easy get. I love that song, love George Michael, and I thought we nailed it. That was essentially a tribute to him and his team and a thank you to them for letting me do that, because that was really fun.
Did you have any songs in mind if you’d continued on or was there a song you wanted to do that didn’t work out?
We were thinking about trying to do songs that have to do with outer space, so we were looking at “Rocket Man” by Elton John, and that one didn’t quite work out.
What are you going to take away from the entire experience?
Well, hopefully a new album, coming up here, probably a Christmas album or something. An illustrious vocal career, clearly. [Laughs] I don’t know. It was just something fun to do, something different. My kid’s going to lose his mind tonight because I practiced with that puppet. They gave me a practice puppet to use at home, and so we read before he goes bed, and we would read [these] science books. … I would read the book as if I was the puppet and work on the accent, I would work on the hand motions and instructions I got from Ron to bring this puppet to life. That’s how he got his character.
Whether it worked out, winning the Golden Mask or getting as far as I did, that’s all secondary, right? It was a chance to really bond with my kid, have a blast doing it, learn a new skill, and learn some appreciation for some skills that I picked up along the way. I have so much respect for obviously singers, Broadway stars, people who perform on stage. That is, wow. I’m just blown away at what they can do. I did it two times with just a little bit of practice. They’ll go on tour for a year, and that is just incredible to me. It was really fun to learn that and gave me a deeper appreciation for music and performance and puppeteers.
Have your thoughts on Dancing With the Stars changed now that you’ve done The Masked Singer?
Like I said, I’m more of a karaoke guy. [Laughs]
The Masked Singer, Wednesdays, 8/7c, Fox