‘The Masked Singer’s Russian Dolls: ‘We’re Glad That They Did Guess Us’
[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for The Masked Singer Season 5, Episode 11, “The Quarter Finals — Five Fan Favorites.”]
Just how many people are performing as the Russian Dolls in The Masked Singer Season 5? It was a secret no one knew … until the quarterfinals.
While Black Swan, Piglet, Yeti, and Chameleon are moving on, the Russian Dolls were eliminated. And in those costumes were none other than Isaac, Taylor, and Zac Hanson. And while there was a fourth Doll on stage at times, it wasn’t their fourth brother, Mac. The only ones ever on the stage were Hanson and dancers.
TV Insider spoke with the brothers about doing The Masked Singer, the panelists’ guesses (they sat down in the extra-large doll during Ken Jeong’s), and more.
Talk about the call to do The Masked Singer. Was it an immediate yes for all of you?
Zac Hanson: None of us watched The Masked Singer, so it wasn’t an immediate yes because it was first, “I think I know what that is. Let’s go make sure we know what that is.” Any other year, we would have been touring, we would have been booked up. We would never have several months potentially in one sitting that weren’t full of concerts. But because of 2020 and the inability to tour, it was something we could entertain. Pretty quickly it became, “Hey, this show is really about the spectacle of costumes and visuals and clues surrounding great performances and music.” That’s something that we liked the idea of being part of.
What were the discussions like about the costume?
Isaac Hanson: It was a little bit tricky deciding what the costume would be because you’re balancing the realities of, OK, there are three of us, so what do we do? Are we all in one costume? How would we even make that work? Then it’s, what is a costume that could have a theme?
Zac: A bundle of bananas? No.
Isaac: Exactly. Marina [Toybina], the main costume designer, quickly started to lean towards this Russian Doll idea and the fact that there was an element of being able to reveal [with the] multiple layers. We liked that, so we leaned into it and had fun with it and just said, “Hey, this is going to be a new adventure.”
Talk about the song choices? Not only is it about choosing the right song but you were also trying to confuse everyone with just how many there were of you at times.
Taylor Hanson: Firstly, you’re trying to do something entertaining so you’re working with the show to think about arrangements and the different sounds, different things that other contestants are doing. We made a decision early on, “Hey, let’s lean into our strengths. Let’s lean into things that make us unique because other people can do vocal acrobatics and be soulful. But what we can do is we can harmonize, we can play off of each other.” Then, of course, feedback from the show on songs other people had done and also not picking songs we had done as a band was important —
Isaac: — and also tricky.
Taylor: We couldn’t pick anything that someone might be able to search and go, “That’s definitely you because here’s this YouTube video of you guys singing that song.” We had to pick strategically songs that were different.
Which song was your favorite?
Isaac: It’s probably hard to beat “Man in the Mirror” for me on a personal level just because that’s such a great song and it was really fun to be able to sing it. In the early years of performing, we did a cover of a Jackson 5 song, “The Love You Save.”
Zac: In the interest of variety, I will say “24K Magic” was very fun to perform because it’s not really a singer song. It’s so much more about hype man and creating an energy and very much something that we would never normally do, though it’s a great song.
Taylor: Every song presented different challenges. I did enjoy doing “Shallow” because it was one of the songs that was such a dramatic, “Here’s one voice, here’s another voice,” and it’s the closest song to doing something a cappella. It’s a little bit of strings, a little bit of acoustic guitar, besides that it’s really harmony. That put some focus on our singing. It’s also a song that I don’t think we would have chosen to perform in another setting.
Isaac: But harmonically and stuff, it’s more similar to things that we do with those more organic qualities. I thought it was interesting to me that [panelist] Nicole [Scherzinger] commented when we did “Shallow,” “Oh, that sounds to me like you guys were doing an original song.” In some sense, I think that that part of us, the more organic qualities of who we are as a band, shine through in that particular performance for that reason.
The panelists did figure you out. Who had you expected to guess you?
Taylor: Because we have a history with Jenny McCarthy — we’ve known her for a long time, we’ve been on radio shows and TV shows of hers and we’ve interacted for years — we actually all expected her to be the first to guess that it was us. That was probably the biggest surprise just from us sitting there. Nicole definitely got it first and we’re glad at least that they did guess Hanson. Because we would like to at least be in the possible categories of ourselves.
Zac: In my heart, I wanted Ken to get us first, just because Ken’s so hopeless. [All laugh]
What are you going to take away from this experience?
Isaac: I have learned that I can survive performing in a large avocado.
Zac: It was surprisingly enjoyable to do something so different from what we do. Performing just as singers is like performing with your arms tied behind your back because, as a musician, half of what you’re doing is the way you’re playing that instrument, that guitar, piano, or keyboard, whatever it is. [You] find new ways to connect with the audience. Suddenly you don’t have your facial expression. Suddenly you don’t really have the ability to move your arms or your legs very much. How do I communicate an energy and an expression through this new kind of shape? I’ve got different things to work with. You can take that experience back and use it as you face new challenges with new musical projects.
The Masked Singer, Wednesdays, 8/7c, Fox