‘The Masked Singer’s Orca: ‘The Wildcard Format Messed Me Up’
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for The Masked Singer Season 5, Episode 6, “Group A Finals — In the Nick of Time!”]
Orca just wanted to fly…but didn’t quite make it to the season finale.
In the Group A Finals, Orca is eliminated and unmasked as Sugar Ray’s lead vocalist Mark McGrath. (Russian Dolls, Robopine, Seashell, and new wildcard Yeti are moving on to the Super 8.)
McGrath opens up about the challenges of being a wildcard, his love for the Orca, and more.
You were fun to watch, so it’s sad to see you go.
Mark McGrath: No one’s more sad than I. I feel like I let my pal Orca down. He was so good to me and that show was so much fun to do. I needed that show so much more than it needed me after this last year. It is a competition, but it’s more of an experience. I don’t care if you’re LeAnn Rhimes or Mark Sanchez.
When you got the call to do the season, was being a wildcard part of the pitch?
No, not at all. They are wonderful at The Masked Singer at keeping everybody in the dark. Information is on a need-to-know basis only. I had thought that they’d be going with the same format that they had before: Groups A, B, and C.
I believe the wildcard aspect puts a bullseye on your back because it seemed, “OK, this guy has got to be someone who can sing.” I don’t think someone would be a wildcard if they’d never been on stage before. But then I saw the production for my first number — it looked like one of the old Hollywood movies from the ’40s. It was amazing. I settled into the wildcard role nicely when I figured how they big upped you when you went out on the stage.
Did you say yes because, as you said, you needed it after this year?
That was a big part of it. I wasn’t doing anything and it’d been 30 years since I hadn’t played a gig in that amount of time, in a year. I was itching to get on stage and just do something. Everybody got the blues during the pandemic and you can’t be blue when you’re watching or performing on The Masked Singer.
But the other huge part of it is it scared the heck out of me because it’s a singing competition. I would never enter a singing competition as Mark McGrath. On American Idol, I’d never get by the first round, but in a mask and a costume as the Orca, I thought maybe I could finesse my way with some energy and charisma and sneak past a few rounds. At my age, you have to do things that scare you, and this is certainly one of them. And I have 10-year-old twins that love the show who have no idea that their daddy’s being eliminated. [Laughs]
You looked like you had as much fun being the Orca and talking to the panelists as you did during the performances.
They nailed that costume. It was the first thing they showed me, and I was in. I think I might be the only person in the history of The Masked Singer whose costume was way cooler than they ever were. I thought it might be a little too on the nose because I grew up in Newport Beach, California, but no one ever picked up on that.
The Orca had a lot of movement. I had the big tail and head, but I could move my arms and I could get my little groove on. I got a bit emotional taking the hat off the last time because it was the last time there was going to be life inside that Orca. And I know it’s crazy when you get this emotional connection to the show, the producers, the vocal coaches, the choreographers, the judges, the host, everybody. It becomes this all-encompassing thing, this world that you enter.
What went into picking the songs? The first [Twister Sister’s “We’re Not Gonna Take It”] was so much fun and very rock. And the second [Poison’s “Every Rose Has Its Thorn”] was very emotional, especially after hearing the story about your father in the clues package.
We go out and perform. I don’t see how they’re putting the things together. I’m glad I didn’t because if I saw the package before I went out to sing “Every Rose,” I probably wouldn’t have made it through it. You do a lot of pre-production meetings to [share] your history, but they put this beautiful story together about my dad that I wasn’t really counting on. I didn’t sing “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” because of my dad, but they made it such a beautiful tribute.
To be honest with you, as we mentioned, the wildcard format kinda messed me up. I didn’t know about that. I thought I would get past the first couple of rounds. I was going to do “It’s Tricky” by Run DMC next. If I had known about the wildcard format, I think I would have switched the two songs. Now I don’t know I would have lasted any longer — there were some unbelievable singers this season. I’m glad I got to do “Every Rose” because I love Bret Michaels. He was awesome as the Banana.
The show reveals more about your life than you even remember. I told one of the producers, “‘Every Rose’ is a song that my dad heard once and said, ‘Hey, you could sing a song like that.'” I forgot I even told him that. For them to craft that into this beautiful package, there’s no mystery why the show is the biggest show on TV.
You completely fooled the panelists.
I was shocked they weren’t even close because they were guessing Rock & Roll Hall of Fame members: Bon Jovi, Dave Grohl, Billie Joe Armstrong. Then they got into fitness: Laird Hamilton. I’m like, “Has anybody seen this little belly I have here? This is not part of the costume.” [Laughs] But their guesses really were incredible. They go to Robin [Thicke] for the technical aspects [since] he’s such an incredible singer. After I did “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” he said, “This guy’s an international arena stadium performer. He’s been there before. This guy is so huge.” He really started the ball rolling on these incredible names that were thrown at me. My head was swelling inside my Orca costume. That was kind of a great red herring on their part.
I’ve met them all before and I have a pretty familiar voice. During “We’re Not Gonna Take It,” I literally just went into my own voice. I was shocked no one was really in the wheelhouse.
What’s your takeaway from the experience?
Professionally, I’ll be going to vocal coaches from now on. I see the value of that. Personally, I have an experience that’s documented that goes from my dad to my twins that they’ll always be able to see because they never met their grandfather. I might even throw a little choreography in a Sugar Ray show, so watch out, you might see some dancing you don’t want to see.
The Masked Singer, Wednesdays, 8/7c, Fox