SALT LAKE CITY — “Hello, is this Donny Osmond?”
“No, this is the Peacock.”
That’s how the Utah singing legend Donny Osmond kicked off our recent phone conversation, which happened just two days after he finished his run on “The Masked Singer,” Fox's new singing competition show.
"The Masked Singer" is a reality TV competition in which singers, who are all wearing masks, face each other in head-to-head singing battles. Judges and the audiences vote on who they think should win after each head-to-head. The loser is then asked to unmask and reveal themselves. Stars like Terry Bradshaw, Joey Fatone of 'N Sync and Gladys Knight appeared on the show.
In the show’s season finale, the Peacock, a fan favorite who was runner-up to the Monster (rapper T-Pain) in the competition, revealed himself as Donny Osmond. This happened after weeks of speculation that the Utah native was playing the character.
We spoke with Osmond about his time on the show, what he would do differently and what tips he has for performers who join the show next year. And he shared his thoughts about his future, including which new artists he would like to collaborate with in the years to come.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Deseret News: How does it feel to have been on "The Masked Singer" and to reveal yourself as the Peacock?
Donny Osmond: I had heard about the show in South Korea. But I got the joke immediately. I mean, I really realized the potential of this. However, I called my manager and I said, "You've got to make sure that Fox is behind this before I can get (involved). I want to know if this is real." So he took a few days and contacted the people that he knew at Fox. (Then) he calls me back and he said, "Donny, this is really real. They are spending millions of dollars behind the show."
So I said, "OK, lock it in. And because if that's going to be the case, this is going to be huge."
It's not like the typical show where anonymous people want to be famous. It's famous people wanting to be anonymous. What really appealed to me is that all 12 people check their resumes at the door. We all started over. And it didn't matter how many gold records or films or books. We all were the same. After 56 years of show business, you want to find things that are challenging and fun. And this was definitely challenging because I had nothing to lean back on. I was just someone on stage, one of 12.
I had no idea who I was competing against. I found out who I was competing against when you found out … on television. It was that secretive. So to answer your question (of) how it felt: It was exhilarating. When you hit the stage … you have all this baggage, good and bad, depending upon the generation that's out in the audience. And I go through this every night here in Las Vegas. They know me for certain things, whether it be positive or negative and indifferent. But on "The Masked Singer" stage everything on the slate was wiped clean, everything was neutral and that's what appealed to me.
So when the season progressed, and I saw this adoration for the Peacock. Not Donny Osmond. The Peacock. This is a whole different dynamic in this business that I haven't experienced since I was 5.
DN: Did the show choose the costume for you? What was the reason behind choosing the Peacock?
DO: You know, I chose it. When you get right down to it, I started my career on NBC. So there were so many subtle hints throughout this whole series, as far as who the Peacock was.
DN: Was there one thing you wish you could have done on the show that you didn't get to do?
DO: No. Not one thing. It was picture perfect as far as I'm concerned. Even where I ended up. I loved being runner-up because I was neck and neck with T-Pain. What an amazing singer. You know, he really did deserve it because the guy could sing like crazy. So I wouldn't change one thing about it.
Maybe an oxygen tank in the mask would be great. I swear, you can't breathe, you can't see; it's so hot in there. And you saw the running around I did on stage. I couldn't see the edge of the stage because, you know, it's dark in there. I'm trying to look through a little cheesecloth at the bottom of the beak. And I was just hoping and praying that I wouldn't fall off the stage.
DN: Did you have any guesses or any ideas about who might be the other participants?
DO: I kind of knew it was Gladys at the end because we did those group numbers together at the finals. It was the Monster, myself and Gladys (as the Bee). I had no idea who the Monster was. But because I was singing right next to (Knight) at the very end … I started screaming out "Gladys!" because of her voice. (But) anybody else? I couldn't guess.
Keep in mind, while we were taping this I couldn't watch, nor could any of the other 11 singers watch, the other entertainers. I did my number and everybody was excused to go to the trailer. And they could not watch even on a monitor.
So, it was so secretive. The security was unbelievable; you couldn't get in there. It was worse than Fort Knox. I had to wear a mask and visor and a sweatshirt that says "Don't talk to me" every time I went to rehearsals or even had to go to the bathroom. Even in the bathroom, they had to clear the bathroom out so I could use it and then let anybody else back in.
DN: It seemed the show had a handle on spoilers. Is that true?
DO: Well, did you see the clues I gave? Some of them I thought were really, really spot on. But some of the clues, people couldn't get, like the wig during the week from Joseph when I was thrown in jail.
DN: There were some who said they saw a picture of the Angel Moroni as one of your clues. Is that true?
DO: It was Angel Moroni. Anybody outside the members of (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints), they wouldn't get it. But I got so many texts from friends who said, "Duh, it's you! Hello? It's Angel Moroni!"
And then when people confronted me, I said, "No, no, they're trying to confuse you. Neil Patrick Harris was a trumpet player."
DN: I read an interview with Gladys Knight about how she's gotten a ton of offers to do movies. Have you received any offers?
DO: Yeah, it's pretty cool what's happening right now. … There are a lot of really cool opportunities. But I'm at the point where — I think Gladys is too — we just want to be in things that are fun. That's why this show appealed to me.
I'm not in the in the mode of just saying, "OK, I need to do something, I need to stay out there, in the public's eyes." We did it for 56 years. And I want to do things that are fun, that are clever, that pushed me as an artist. I'm currently writing a show that I'm hoping here in the next couple of years could be on Broadway. So very, very exciting show and stuff like that. I'm working on my 62nd album. So I'm just having fun at this point and that's why I accepted the show. It was challenging and it was a blast.
DN: Did you see the interview that Marie Osmond did on "Access Live" where she sort of spoiled things?
DO: Yeah. I called her up. And she was so apologetic, she felt so bad. I was really upset. Because I said, "Marie, how could you do this?" And she said, "I am so sorry. It slipped out." And I called my friends at "Access" and asked, "Is there any way you can pull that offline?" I mean, I did all I could to protect myself because the NDA I signed and the integrity of the show. She really felt bad. That's the last time I ever tell her a secret.
DN: She did a pretty good job of walking it back during the interview.
DO: Well, she had to. She had me to answer to. (laughs.)
DN: What would you say to someone who's going to be on the show next year or next season?
DO: When I first tried the outfit on, I told the costume designer — who is a genius basically — "You've got to video me in this outfit so I can figure out what I can and can't do." And she says, "I can't do that. That goes against our rules." And I said, "Well, we're going to have to break the rules right now because I have to have this."
I couldn't take the costume home with me. So we videoed and I just protected it like crazy so that nobody else saw it.
When you put a mask on, all those emotions of your face as a singer go away, or even as an actor, it all goes away. This is what I would tell somebody next year: Use the costume. Use what you can. Because even with the beak and the eyes and all the feathers, I worked it like crazy. I would stand in front of a mirror in my dressing room and say, "OK, what works? What will translate to the camera?" That's what, you know, method acting is all about. So I applied it. I think it made it a bit more exciting because some of the (other competitors), even though they had great voices, they just went out there and sang. You can't do that with this kind of show. You've got to be animated.
DN: You've been involved in reality TV and TV productions for a long time. Are there any reality shows that you would like to do or any competition shows you'd like to do that you haven't done yet? What other things are you looking to do in the next part of your career?
DO: If you would ask me that in the '70s or '80s or '90s or whatever, I would have had a maybe a three-year plan or something.
But these days, things move so quickly. You can have a plan, you can have goals, but you've got to be ready to turn on a dime. That's why I've got some really good people around me. Everybody's got their ears and eyes open so when an opportunity does arise — boom. You take advantage of it immediately.
I want to get this show written. I wanted to do the album and get that done. Those are long term. But something could come tomorrow. Something could come today and you just have to be ready. That's what you have to do these days as an artist.
DN: Aside from "The Masked Singer," a couple of months ago you did that song with Lil Yachty, for the Chef Boyardee commercial.
DO: Do you know how we wrote that? We wrote that over the phone. I was on tour last summer and the opportunity came up and they said, "You know, would you be willing to be part of this commercial with Lil Yachty?" I said, "Well let's have a conversation first." So I called him up and just threw some ideas back and forth. I said, "OK, you throw me something first." So he emailed me an MP3 and, in my hotel room on my Mac, I came up with another melody and another groove that complemented his.
(Osmond sings) "Older, younger and in between." I came up with that.
And I threw it back to him. He changed something, then threw it back to me and I throw it back to him a fourth time. We both went into the studio separately. I recorded my vocal in a hotel room. I set up a little studio in the hotel room — that's where I did my vocal. He did his in his studio. And the first time we met in person was when we shot the video. See, that's the way it happens these days.
DN: Are there any like artists that you'd like to collaborate with that you haven't yet?5 comments on this story
DO: Everybody wants to work with Bruno (Mars). I'd love to do to a duet with Ariana (Grande). That would be kind of fun. I like Charlie Puth's stuff. He hasn't come out with something new for the last couple months, but I just like what he does.
I think Justin Bieber has really surrounded himself with some great producers and writers. I love the some of the stuff he's done. The grooves that he's come up with.
Post Malone is really kind of growing on me for some reason. I first heard Post Malone when he did the "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" thing. I thought, "OK, whatever." And then I just kept listening to it. And man, there's something there. … I would love to do a collaboration with Post Malone.