FOX; Getty Images
by Lauren Piester | Thu., Jan. 24, 2019 1:57 PM
FOX; Getty Images
Margaret Cho has been unmasked.
The legendary comedian was revealed to have been masquerading as the Poodle on Fox's The Masked Singer this week, and let us tell you, we were thrilled to talk to her after the episode aired. As we told her, we've maybe never had more questions about a TV show, and we've never been more glued to our screens and our endless Google search tabs in a constant state of confusion. "Who is that???" we wondered even more often than that creepy voice on the show asked that same question. "It's Margaret Cho!!!" was the answer this time around, much to our delight.
The Masked Singer is based on a Korean series called King of Mask Singer, which the Korean-American Cho was a little bit familiar with before taking on the role of the Poodle.
"I am always very open to doing any Korean adaptation. Like I am obsessed with Korean television, and I had known about the show only a couple of times, and I was really kind of confused about what it was," she tells us. "On the Korean version—at least the ones I saw—the costumes are not as lavish. It's very Korean style."
Once she had a chance to explore what exactly the show was, Cho says she was so into it, especially when she realized she would be singing.
"I also love singing. For me it's something that I really do and am passionate about, but it's not something that I combined into my standup comedy as readily," she says. "But I've made records, and I've worked with Tegan and Sarah and John Bryan and Fiona Apple, and amazing musicians that write songs and make music, so that part of my life is very solid, and actually like a couple of songs that I sang on the show, I've sung them before. But the excitement of it was like, oh this is a great idea, I think it's fun, because nobody really knows that I sing as much as they [know me as] a comedian."
Cho says she's so excited to see how much people love the show because it's "what America really needs."
"It's something that we can get into together that's like really celebratory and really cute and really innocent," she says. "This is going to bring us back like a lot of really joyous, almost like '70s feelings, like Truth or Consequences or To Tell the Truth, that kind of stuff. It's just, it's sweet and I really love that."
To find out exactly how all of this worked, from the costumes to the clues to the intense security to why she's afraid to guess who the rest of the singers are, read on for our full interview with Cho!
E! News: How did the process start, with figuring out you were going to be the Poodle?
Cho: I was presented first with an artists' rendering of the Poodle and the Alien. I could choose between which one I wanted and chose the Poodle because I'm a dog lover, and I thought that would be really fun, and I loved how strangely robot the dog was, so I went with that. So you went for a number of fittings, and the secrecy around your arrivals everywhere, it was pretty intense. Even people in production who you were working with all the time, a lot of them didn't know who you were, because they never saw your face, or you weren't able to speak to them or anything. They didn't see your hands, or your body, because we had to wear these big hoodies and balaclavas. It was very, very extensive in hiding who you were. You had to go to quite a lot of rehearsals and fittings and blocking rehearsals and choreography, so there was a lot of stuff that you were doing, but really concealing your identity.
Was that stressful?
It was stressful because it was like, you really got into it. I was like, I really want to make sure that nobody knows. I didn't tell anybody in my life, and that was hard too, especially when teh show began airing and people were like, are you? Are you? And I was getting called all the time, people sliding into my DMs. Are you? Are You?? I'm like, I don't know what that is, I'm not sure, what is that? I'm on the road, I don't know. So hiding it was really hard, but you know, you want to make sure nobody knows. It's like a surprise party.
So are you breathing a sigh of relief now after the episode aired, now that you can talk about it?
Yes, very much so, because I was very concerned that people were going to find out. People were just accusing me, too. Like, you're the poodle! Like this last week, people were getting really mad now. Like every time I would see friends of mine, they're like, you keep denying it, but you are! You are! And so that was really funny.
How involved were you in writing the clues?
Well, they wanted clues that were pretty obvious, but at the same time, not. So mine was [about how I] played a paralegal on a show called Drop Dead Diva on Lifetime, and that was a few years ago. And then I'm from San Francisco, I am LGBTQ. I think they were very canny about that stuff. Being fired, that's a motif because I've been fired from a few jobs throughout my career, starting when I was five. I was singing in a kid's band and I wouldn't stop waving at my mom when I was on stage, so I was removed from the child band. That was my first instance of being fired, so they put that in.
You said you were fired in response to the panel, right? Did they tell you what to say when the panelists were talking to you?
We came to the agreement of like, OK, they're going to ask one question, and you can answer—with the scrambled voice, you know. You didn't want to test it too much because you could kind of hear the person, like through their cadence. If people talked a lot you, could probably figure out who it was.
At what point did you realize Ken Jeong was going to be one of the panelists?
Right when I walked on stage. I didn't know! And when I saw him, I was really nervous, because he is a really good friend of mine. I played his sister on his TV show Dr. Ken and he was my opening act as a comedian 25 years ago, so we've both known each other our whole lives, so I was like, oh this is not good, because he's going to guess. He, of anybody, is of course going to know. But lucky for me, they kind of went on a different track, like oh it's Judge Judy or Jane Fonda, and then they got kind of warm with Kathy Griffin. But it was tough, because I was really nervous, like Ken is going to know my voice, he's going to know me. But he didn't, which is good.
His reaction was hilarious. He was so mad at himself!
Yes. Yeah, it was great because I think it's one of those things like, it's so obvious, but you're like, oh it can't be, because it's too obvious. Maybe he was thinking, oh, they wouldn't cast somebody that's that close to me.
What was the secret-keeping like in terms of keeping you away from the other singers? Because you didn't know who anyone else was, right?
No, I still don't know. I mean they kept us apart in that we were all scheduled to come onto set at different times. All of our rehearsals were at separate locations where we just had no idea. You never ran into anybody, I never crossed paths with any of the people. We all had very separate, remote dressing rooms. We had separate production people. We didn't crossover at all. There was a couple of times where, when we're in full costume we would see each other, like onstage, and that was the only time. When the audience saw us all together, those are the only times we actually saw each other. So it was a tremendous feat, I think, scheduling to keep us all apart. And not only were we masked and covered up, our entourages—I mean, I don't have a big entourage, but my publicist and my manager were with me, and they were also in masks.
They really stuck to the rules, and there's a real protocol when it comes to this show because it's such an established show in Asia, and I think there, maybe the secrecy is even more intense because it's almost like you're dealing with a smaller group of people, a smaller group of celebrities to draw from, so I think they kind of got their rules from that.
Did you even get to see the first three singers get unmasked?
No, no. When people were unmasked, you were not able to see. That was really disappointing, because you know, you wanted to see who it was.
Did you not get to find out until it aired?
I did not get to find out 'til it aired. Nobody would tell you! They really did keep it on the down low, which is really cool.
Do you have any guesses for the remaining singers?
I really don't. I probably have like...I'm more in the dark from it just because of the psychological trauma of having to be masked. It's like, you're afraid. I mean, this is like Bird Box [the Netflix movie starring Sandra Bullock] kind of stuff. Don't look, don't, you can't see it, it's your greatest fears! That kind of puts an impression on you where you're just like, I'm too afraid to even guess. I had favorites. I really loved the Monster. I mean, everybody that's still there, like I really am a fan of. I love the Raven, I love the Alien. All of them have something different to offer and that's so berautiful and special and I'm really stumped as anybody else. I'm probably more so, but I'm really excited to see who gets unmasked next.
The Masked Singer airs Wednesdays at 9 p.m. on Fox.
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