Post Mortems

New Un-Masked Singer Reveals the Surprising, Life-or-Death Arena in Which He Was Recognized

Perhaps none of the Masked Singer castoffs this season so far embodies the strange era we’re living through more than Serpent, who was unmasked at the end of this week’s episode.

When the big snake’s sleek head was removed Wednesday, he was revealed to be  Dr. Elvis Francois, the singing spinal surgeon featured in a video that went viral as the COVID-19 pandemic ramped up this spring. (In the season’s first double elimination, Whatchamacallit also was unmasked, and was revealed to be NBA star Lonzo Ball. Read a full recap.)

On Wednesday, TVLine chatted with the melodic medical expert, who now is a fellow at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, about his time in Serpent’s slithery skin.

TVLINE | Unlike a lot of people I’ve talked to for this show, you were not a player in the entertainment world until April. So tell me what it was like when the show first reached out to you.
[Laughs] I got a call from the hospital, and the call was from the hospital operator. They mentioned that they had a producer from Fox that wanted to chat. I immediately thought that it was probably a friend of mine that was dong a practical joke or something. Then when I took the call and I started talking to them, I was like wow, this is pretty hard to believe that this is actually an opportunity that is being offered. I was humbled. I’ve watched the show for quite some time… I was like, “Uh, are you sure you have the right guy? You may have the wrong Elvis.” I thought they were reaching out to Elvis Presley and they got the wrong number. [Laughs] So I was definitely stunned by the opportunity. I thought it wouldn’t be possible from a logistic standpoint with the hospital, but it was crazy and amazing to watch it all fall into place. Fast-forward, and here we are.

TVLINE | Based on your specialty, I imagine you don’t have a lot of patients that you see week-in and week-out. But did any of your colleagues at the hospital have any suspicions about Serpent being you?
Oh, absolutely. And that part was what shocked me. It’s one of the most-watched shows in the country, so I know people watch it. But having colleagues — nurses would ask me during surgery. Like, “Hey, I know this is going to sound crazy.” And anytime for the past month-and-a-half that someone has started a conversation with me like, “Hey man, I know this is going to sound crazy, but,” it always came down to that… I definitely have had that, and I’ve had to come up with some pretty interesting white lies to cover for it.

TVLINE | You’ve put out an EP, with all the proceeds going to a COVID-19 response fund. Is music going to be a side hustle for you, moving forward? Is there time or space in your life for that right now?
Yeah. For me, it’s interesting, because I’ve never recorded music professionally. I’ve never performed professionally. I’ve always sang for fun around the household or at karaoke. I’ve always been passionate and had a love for music. But this opportunity is showing me — and I hope it’s showing anyone who’s watched — that life is short and I hope you can find a way to explore the things that you’re passionate about. I hope to continue to share music. Whether or not people listen, I’ll definitely find a way to keep that space open. I’m currently working on trying to write some original music and hopefully I can share that in the weeks and months to come.

TVLINE | Did you have any say in the Serpent costume?
Yeah, that process was interesting. Originally, I was supposed to be the Gremlin. I thought that would be interesting. Nobody would ever know who I was. When the producers approached me with the idea of the Serpent being available, it was almost like it was meant to be. I don’t know if you’re familiar with the medical symbol —

TVLINE | The caduceus, yeah.
— yeah, the caduceus with the snakes wrapping around the rod of Hermes. As soon as I saw that, the costume itself is a general clue of what I do as a spine surgeon, so that was cool. But even just looking at the costume, it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen with the animatronics and the arms moving. It was absolutely incredible. So once I saw that, there was no way I wanted to be anything else.

TVLINE | Did you ever whack those serpentine arms into other people by accident?
Oh yeah… I was hitting people left and right. At one point I think I knocked over three bottles of Gatorade onto a white shirt. It was bad…. But it all worked out in the end. [Laughs]