The Masked Singer’s Russian Dolls reveal the secrets to their deceptive costumes

By | May 12, 2021


Warning: This article contains spoilers about Wednesday’s episode of The Masked Singer.

The Russian Dolls have said Do svidaniya to The Masked Singer.

The harmonizing babushkas were unmasked to reveal three-time Grammy nominated pop-rock band Hanson, which consists of brothers IsaacZac, and Taylor Hanson.

Below, the trio answers EW’s burning questions about their stint on the show, and discussed the unique approach to their new album, Against the World, which is made up entirely of singles (the first, “Annalie,” is out today).


ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, how did the costume work? Were all of you technically on stage for all the performances? Was there ever another person on stage in addition to you three?

ISAAC HANSON: We were always on stage in some capacity, the three of us. When there were two dolls — one being the larger doll — there were two people in it. We were just doing our best to kind of make it interesting as often as we could, and try and throw people off the scent, as well, trying to kind of utilize our abilities as singers to keep people guessing. One song we’d lean more on Zac, or more on Taylor, or more on me, depending on what the arrangement called for, and we were just trying to have fun with it and be the Russian Doll.

Was it always the same two of you in the big doll or did it depend on what you were doing that day?

TAYLOR HANSON: Throughout the performance, we really worked with the team to make it interesting without abusing our power to pivot people and kind of misdirect. We were thinking about what would make this interesting, what would keep people guessing? And so almost every song, we had a different configuration. With the largest doll there were two of us in the largest doll, and then we were all performing onstage so there was never a time where one of us was not on stage. But we did have a couple where the choreography utilized a doll just as a prop. So when you watch that performance you’re like, “Oh there is a fourth doll, who is that one?” Mostly we just tried to use the sound of the song and the arrangements, and tried to not be too dishonest with the presentation because there is three of us, we need to all be out there performing. We needed to be involved —

ISAAC: — Much to my chagrin. I’m not very coordinated. [Laughs]

ZAC HANSON: I think it would have been really fun if they had some great dancers in the dolls and we just sang from offstage. People would be hearing our voices going, “Wow those guys can dance way too well to be Hanson!”

How did you guys feel about that costume overall?

ZAC: It is super impressive to see how quickly and how well they put together all the costumes. In our case, it was definitely a little bit of an unknown going in, because you see the sort of artistic renderings first, and then you see some in construction. And you’re headed there to the show, and you’re like, “All I’ve seen is under construction. What’s this gonna end up looking and feeling like?”

ISAAC: Shout out to Marina [Toybina], who’s the head of the costume team. Shout out to her and the whole crew of people that are building those costumes. That is an impressive operation.

ZAC: So when we were doing “24K Magic,” it was only maybe 24 hours, maybe 48 hours before the performance that we were like, “Hey, can we get chains and like a hat?” I wish somebody would get a close-up of the bling that’s on the big babushka dolls because it’s amazing. They really focus on the detail.

The excitement of doing the show for us was that we really get to feature something that is a strength. Because doing what we do, oftentimes people will reach out about reality TV show-related content, do this or do that. And most of the time you choose not to do things that don’t really reflect what you’re about, because it’s never been just about celebrity for us, it’s not to be famous for something, you want to be famous for something you do well, or hopefully. And so we love the idea that with this particular opportunity, you really do get to focus on something that is part of who you are, which is just being singers harmonizing together. But it helped us, I think, to feel good about the show, to see just how much respect every single person on the team is giving to their role, the costume design and music arrangement, even just kind of having fun with the clues, but not having it be disparaging of us or our history. The show really does put together a very comprehensive experience for the guests and for us that really made the difference in being able to successfully give it our own thing.

Since you have been performing together for so long now, was there any part of The Masked Singer that was really difficult for you?

TAYLOR: First of all, not falling off the stage. [Laughs] I came within inches of stepping off.

ZAC: I almost fell off — we were shooting a green screen scene and I almost fell off.

ISAAC: Your sightlines are really limited. And also because those dolls are as big as they are, I teased about not being coordinated, but no, no, seriously, I’m not very coordinated. There was probably an advantage on some level or other because it made it limiting as far as what we were really capable of doing on stage. It was mostly walk here or walk there. But the challenge with those dolls being the size that they are is you really do have to be very hyper aware of the possibility of tripping, falling off stage, or colliding with each other, which we did do a couple times in rehearsal.

ZAC: And then in most all these cases, we had never performed these songs ever. They weren’t songs we would sit around and sing on the tour bus or something. So you’re learning a song. Maybe it’s a song you think you know, then you’re like, “Wait, that’s the lyric?”

ISAAC: There’s a difference between thinking you know it, and actually performing it.

ZAC: And then also, remember, these aren’t the album arrangements of the songs, they’re all cut down for the show. So you might be used to singing it a certain way, and now it’s only half the verse or it goes straight into the chorus or goes straight into a modulation. So it was just probably the volume of choices, and things that you had to deal with at any given moment or any day to get through it all, and really keep the focus on your performance and doing your best when in that moment you had 90 seconds to play the song.

ISAAC: Let’s just put it this way — I’m glad we’ve been singing together as long as we have because if we hadn’t been having all these years of practice, it would have been especially hard because you’re turning all that around quick.

Tell me about your new album that was just announced today, Against the World.

TAYLOR: Today, the album began being released, but we’re doing it in a very different way, which is releasing the music in monthly installments. So essentially, every song is a single, every song has a video, and is being discovered kind of with its own window of time where people just get to take in that one song basically from now until the end of the year.

ISAAC: This is something we’ve been wanting to do for a really long time. And the way that social media and the way that digital platforms now work, really gives us an opportunity to do this in a way that we’ve kind of dreamed up for a lot of years. And for us too, it’s about focusing on the uniqueness of each song. You always have songs on records that a touring audience, for example, loved, that might as well have been a single based on their reaction to it. And it’s an opportunity for us to just lean into that reality of, hey, these are seven songs that we’re very, very proud of. And these seven songs all can be singles, so why not make them?

ZAC: One thing I would say about these songs that is interesting is they all have very interestingly different influences. It wasn’t intended that way. But it’s almost like as we created the album, and wrote the album, each song would push the next song to go further and become a more full version of that sound. So you have a song like “One” which almost sounds like it’s a Smashing Pumpkins song, and you have a song “Don’t Ever Change,” which is our second single, which sounds like a power pop-garage rock, Cheap Trick kind of song, and then you have the song like “Only Love,” which is very gospel influenced. And then you have a song like “Stronger,” which is very Queen-like and rock and huge vocals.

ISAAC: And the very groovy “Annalie.”

ZAC: Yes. It brings forward, for us, the fact that we have all these wide number of influences. We’ve been a band for almost 30 years, there’s so many different styles that we love to play, and this lets us really put the spotlight on each of those songs for longer than we ever have on an album.

What did you guys take away from The Masked Singer experience?

TAYLOR: I stole a headband.

ISAAC: He literally took that away.

ZAC: He didn’t mean that. [All laugh]

TAYLOR: First of all, it was great to be a part of something that was really quality from top to bottom. It was a great opportunity to really almost get a restart, where you’re only being judged by your music, and singing and, of course, yes, your costume. I think that was one of the big takeaways for me was what a refreshing experience it was to really be sort of almost a new artist. You get to go into this environment where people just hear you and they respond to what they hear regardless of, “Oh, I know Hanson! I know you from this or from that.” And so that was a great experience. And it was great to be part of something that was honestly just so positive. For the whole world it’s been an intense year and it’s been great to do something that’s just a great escape for everybody.

ISAAC: Yeah, the anonymity of being masked gives you an opportunity to in some sense be very creative about reinventing yourself almost. You’re playing a character. I think what’s cool about the show, and all these different styles of music that we were singing throughout the season, in some ways is not dissimilar to the kind of diversity and uniqueness of these singles on this latest record. So in a lot of ways the creativity of different sounds and different songs is very much our homecourt.

Sign up for Entertainment Weekly‘s free daily newsletter to get breaking TV news, exclusive first looks, recaps, reviews, interviews with your favorite stars, and more.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *