‘The Masked Singer’ reveals Mantis as movie rocker: ‘I did not expect to go that far’
THE MASKED SINGER
There were no second chances this time around on The Masked Singer as three contestants previously saved by the Ding Dong Keep It On bell — Gargoyle, Mantis, and Medusa — fought for a single spot in quarter finals.
The first contestant to lose that fight during Wednesday’s “Battle of the Saved” was Mantis, who was rescued from elimination during “WB Movie Night” by Robin Thicke for sentimental reasons. Mantis had covered Bob Seger’s “Old Time Rock & Roll,” which turned out to be the panelist’s late father Alan Thicke‘s favorite song, followed by “(I’ve Got a) Golden Ticket” from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, which the “Blurred Lines” singer’s 12-year-old son had recently performed in a play. “I cannot let you go home when you sing my dad’s song and my son’s song,” he told Mantis during the April 5 episode.
But Mantis’ rockin’ performance of “You Really Got Me” by the Kinks wasn’t enough to outlast his competitors this week and, with no bell left to ring, he was eliminated. The judges’ guesses for his identity were all over the acting stratosphere, with Thicke committing to Dennis Quaid after an earlier guess of Thomas Lennon, Nicole Scherzinger sure it was Steve Buscemi, Jenny McCarthy-Wahlberg landing on Kevin Bacon, and Ken Jeong remaining steadfast that it was recent Oscar winner Brendan Fraser under the mask.
It turned out everyone was wrong when Mantis revealed himself as Tony and Golden Globe-nominated actor Lou Diamond Phillips, star of La Bamba, Young Guns, Stand and Deliver, and Prodigal Son.
Below, EW spoke with the actor about why he didn’t expect to go very far on the show, why he thought his clues were too obvious, and Thicke’s moving reaction to his reveal.
THE MASKED SINGER: Mantis in the “Battle of the Saved” episode of THE MASKED SINGER airing Wednesday, April 26
Mantis on ‘The Masked Singer’
| Credit: Michael Becker/FOX
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: Let’s start with how you ended up on The Masked Singer. You’ve done some singing over the years, but I believe you were lip-syncing all the songs in La Bamba. Why did you want to show off your voice but not your face this time?
LOU DIAMOND PHILLIPS: Yes, that was David Hidalgo’s voice in La Bamba, but since then I was nominated for a Tony on Broadway for The King and I, and I’ve sung in the animated Disney shows Elena of Avalor and now Firebuds. I played a singer on The Ranch and got to sing some country. And I had an elevated garage band back in the late ’80s, early ’90s. So I’ve had a good relationship with singing for a long time, although I don’t call myself a singer. I have friends who are, like, real singers, Broadway singers and rock stars, so I would not deign to put myself in that category, but I can carry a tune. The range of people on The Masked Singer is stunning, from people who don’t sing at all to Grammy winners, and I do consider myself a performer. My daughter Indigo, it’s her favorite show and I’ve seen it a few times and it just looked like this crazy, cool, weird experience… In some respects, it’s not a singing competition, it literally is about the performer and the presence and everything else. I did not expect to go that far, so I had managed expectations.
Did your daughter know that you were on the show?
Yeah, we’re living in New York now after Prodigal Son and so whenever I have to go on location, I have to explain where I’m going. I try not to lie to her, so I had to let her in on the secret this time.
You knocked everyone’s socks off with your lively performances. You even said in a clue package that Mantis had developed a stage persona of a rock god that you never expected. Who were you channeling?
Back in my heyday back in the ’80s there’re the Springsteens and the Mellencamps and the Segers, just people like that whose voices I love. So it was certainly getting into that rock persona. If I had my druthers I might have been doing some of the English invasion songs from the ’80s, a little bit more of a new wave kind of a thing.
You had the judges stumped thinking you were anyone from Dennis Quaid to Brendan Fraser to Kevin Bacon to Steve Buscemi. What did you think of their guesses?
I actually was a little surprised because I thought some of the clues were so darn obvious, but that’s just the undercover person getting paranoid: the fact that it was obvious that I had played somebody famous, a famous singer in a film, the Broadway thing. I thought the poker thing and the Texas thing would give it dead away, but that’s certainly [also] Dennis Quaid and could possibly say Kevin Bacon. I do think that the guesses were all in the ballpark and, quite honestly, I was flattered to be in that kind of company.
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – APRIL 16: Lou Diamond Phillips attends a screening of “Stand and Deliver” during the 2023 TCM Classic Film Festival on April 16, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Jerod Harris/Getty Images for TCM)
Lou Diamond Phillips
| Credit: Jerod Harris/Getty
Robin previously saved you from elimination after you sang what turned out to be his dad’s favorite song. When you were unmasked, he was surprised and shared that he was a huge fan of yours. What was that like to have him save you from elimination and then see him so touched and excited that it was you?
I was really touched that he saved me and then when he explained why it was like, well, of course, man. It’s just luck of the draw [that] his dad used to karaoke “Old Time Rock & Roll” all the time and the fact that his son just played Charlie, that was really kismet. What’s so funny, because I had to bite my tongue so many times, his dad was very kind to me back in the day. We’d met at a couple of events and he was always warm. I totally get [Robin’s reaction] because my reasons for doing the show were family oriented as well.
You mentioned that you weren’t totally convinced that you would go very far in the show, but you’ve won a couple reality competitions in the past, I’m a Celebrity… Get Me Out of Here and Rachael vs. Guy: Celebrity Cook-Off. Did you get to a point where you thought, ‘I do want to win this?’
You can’t do it without wanting to win. It’s a competition, but at the same time, to be quite honest, I’m a Celebrity and the Rachael vs. Guy thing I expected to win. I went in with the aim of winning, but those skills were somewhat more in my wheelhouse. I look back and people like Dionne Warwick or Chaka Khan or Toni Braxton, they did not win[[TMS], they got eliminated. They’re Grammy winners who were amazing and so I sat there and I went there’s just no way I’m going that far in the competition. And then when I heard some of the other competitors sing I’m like, well, good grief, these guys are amazing, especially both Dandelion and Medusa. Those ladies have incredible voices. So if we’re comparing apples to apples here, I wouldn’t vote for me.
What’s your overall takeaway from doing the show? Are you going to put out an album?
I was in the band years ago and we actually wrote some really wonderful songs. I was the lyricist and there’s some stuff that I liked quite a lot and this reminded me a little bit of how much I enjoyed performing live. At this point now, I’ll never say never. I might go back and go, guys, you know what? It was one of my biggest regrets that we never recorded an album, let’s just do one. You don’t have to go get signed by a major label to actually let people have a way to listen to it. It’s not high on the priority list, but it’s one of those things where if it ever came up it’d be like you know what, maybe we should do this.
What’s coming up next for you?
In the clue package they mentioned the first book that I wrote with my wife Yvonne, The Tinderbox: Soldier of Indira. It’s done so well and was reviewed so well that I’ve actually finished a sequel that will probably be out early next year, and Yvonne will once again do the illustrations. She came up with the plot of this one, which is great. It’s proved to be a lovely sort of literary partnership, the two of us. I’m really trying to get back to my narrative roots as a writer.
This interview has been edited and condensed for length and clarity.
I have been writing professionally for over 20 years and have a deep understanding of the psychological and emotional elements that affect people. I’m an experienced ghostwriter and editor, as well as an award-winning author of five novels.