Make yourself a cup of coffee before settling in with The Masked Dancer‘s premiere: You’re going to need lots of focus to determine who’s under those wild costumes.
Fox’s nine-episode Masked Singer spinoff — premiering Sunday, Dec. 27 at 8/7c — will have the same essential premise as its mothership series: Costumed celebrities perform dance routines each week, while the judges and home audience try to guess each contestant’s identity. At the end of every episode, one more dancer will be unmasked until a winner is crowned.
But as executive producer Craig Plestis shared during the Television Critics Association winter press tour, The Masked Dancer will feature many more clues about the contestants than The Masked Singer does — including a new type of clue that Singer could never allow.
“We added in a special clue for the first time. It’s called ‘Word Up,’ where you actually could hear their real voices speak,” Plestis teased. “We’ve never heard their voices underneath the mask before [on The Masked Singer]. That’s a big clue on The Masked Dancer, in terms of the identity of some people, and the [judges] picked up on that. They were pretty observant of that.”
Longtime performer Paula Abdul — who will judge alongside Ashley Tisdale (High School Musical), Brian Austin Green (Beverly Hills, 90210) and Masked Singer alum Ken Jeong — added that hints about the dancers’ identities won’t be confined to the pre-recorded clue packages.
“The clues came from everywhere — within the costume, even in the stage setting and choreography,” she shared. “It was incredible.” But having danced professionally for years, Abdul said she “could tell immediately” when a contestant had real dance training, “because they are doing technical steps that only someone who is trained would know how to do.”
Though Plestis of course stayed mum about which celebrities would appear on The Masked Dancer, he did offer that the show tried to cast “household names” as much as possible: “When you actually hear their names… you’ll recognize them,” he said. “That’s the barometer that we have with The Masked Singer. And we actually look for celebrities who just are committed to go underneath the mask and have fun, and I think we’ve achieved that with this series.”
In fact, the EP wouldn’t rule out bringing on a celebrity who’d previously competed on The Masked Singer, though “we do really try to keep it fresh each time.”
“There’s no set rules that we have,” Plestis hinted. “Anything can happen in the Masked universe. So be prepared for that.”