The Fox reality competition revealed during the semifinals that the NSYNC star was underneath the rabbit costume
On Wednesday night, The Masked Singer said bye, bye, bye to two of its costumed performers, including the rabbit. As many fans had suspected, the man beneath the twitching bunny was revealed to be ‘NSYNC’s Joey Fatone.
“I’m happy I don’t have to lie to people to their faces when they ask me anymore,” Fatone, 42, tells PEOPLE. “The weight has been lifted off my shoulders now. I can actually say, ‘Yes, I was in the rabbit costume. I was jumping around like a fool and having a blast doing it!’ ”
After eight weeks of performances that included his own takes on hits like Avicii’s “Wake Me Up” and Ricky Martin’s “Livin’ La Vida Loca,” Fatone closed out his time on the Fox reality competition with “My Girl” by The Temptations. Although his cover of the song got him eliminated, the former boy band member had a good reason for performing the Motown classic.
“I actually love singing that song,” the Common Knowledge game show host says. “My dad used to sing ‘50s doo-wop and that’s one of the songs we used to sing together. We still do from time to time at karaoke and stuff. It was kind of an homage to my dad. Whether or not I get kicked off, I don’t give a s—.”
Fatone also reveals whether any of his fellow ‘NSYNC bandmates knew it was him under the rabbit costume, what his time on The Masked Singer means for his music career, and hints at the identities of the remaining performers: peacock, bee and monster.
Viewers suspected you were the Rabbit pretty early on and you denied it. Were you told not to say anything?
Fatone: Oh yeah, we had to sign a nondisclosure. I said, “I’m doing press for Common Knowledge, they’re gonna ask about it. Do you want me to blatantly lie?” And they’re like, “Well, yeah.” I was like, “Okay, as long as it’s not hurting anyone.” It’s more like a little white lie. With the producers and with Fox, they really wanted to make it some of it a little bit hard, some of it easy. But when they came out of the gates with clues for me: “synchronized” and “my boys,” I’m like, “ahhh! It’s so easy!” If you were born or around sometime in the ’90s, you would know at least some sort of boy bandish thing and then go from there.
Were you disappointed when the judges started guessing you, too?
Fatone: The very first time I went on the show, I believe [panelist] Robin Thicke was the first one that said, or it was Ken Jeong that said it and then Robin was like, “Yeah, it could be Joey Fatone.” And I stood there and went, “That’s it! I’m literally getting kicked off. I’m done.” And I had no idea though, the whole idea of the show has nothing to do with who you are, and even if it is you, they’re going to keep guessing. As long as they enjoy your performance, that’s how you get saved.
Do you regret last night’s song choice? Is there anything else you would’ve done instead?
Fatone: Right before I was about to start rehearsing for “My Girl,” I actually chose “La Bamba.” And when I had “La Bamba” they actually said, “It’s going to be only platforms and no dancers, no nothing.” I was like, this might be a time to do a little more of a mid-tempo, a little bit slower song just because I don’t see it being high energy. And then when I saw the show, I’m like, damn it. I think I shot myself in the foot with that. Maybe I should’ve done “La Bamba.” That would’ve been a lot more fun, high energy. The last song I wanted to do, which sucks that I got kicked off, was actually one of the songs I really sing a lot, which is “Mustang Sally.”
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How did you decide to become the rabbit?
Fatone: They showed me two different options when I first got there: It was an alien — not the alien that you saw that LaToya [Jackson] did — it was a different kind of black, weird tentacles, all these crazy things. And it was really big and I’m going, that might not be easy to move in. Then I see the rabbit. The rabbit’s in a straight jacket and some ripped up jeans and this crazy rabbit face and I went, “yeah, that’s the one I’m doing.” They were like, “We want you to have some sort of character.” I’m looking at it and going, okay, he’s in a straight jacket, he must be out of his mind. He’s got a little bit of a tick maybe or a twitch. I remember seeing — it was America’s Got Talent I think — and this one girl was a magician that did this weird, strange tick on the show and she kept moving her head like that and twitching. I basically stole that from her, and it stuck.
Did the mask affect your ability to sing?
Fatone: We have inner monitors which are like headphones and we’re able to, thank goodness, hear the music very clearly in there. But the funny part is we have a lavalier microphone attached to us. I had a lav on my neck and I also had a microphone. And the mic was live. What you saw was live. And we had one shot to do it. There were no retakes, there were no, oh let’s do it again, I messed up. It was just like a normal live performance. If you screw up, you screw up. That is it.
Did any of your former ‘NSYNC bandmates know you were doing the show? Fellow boy bander Nick Lachey tweeted that he wishes you’d told him.
Fatone: I didn’t tell Nick specifically I was on it. He kind of asked me and I brushed him off until now. Lance [Bass] talked about it and I just kind of kept it quiet a little bit. But the minute the second episode aired he goes, “Dude, I know it’s you.” They know exactly my voice, my tone and everything. So then last night Lance texts me like, “Yay! I can finally tell people now. I don’t have to shut my mouth anymore.” It was funny!
The Masked Singer will be back for a second season and some of the judges guessed JC Chasez for your character. Would you recommend the experience to your former bandmates?
Fatone: Of course I would! I doubt they would do it. Who knows? Maybe they’re too good for that, I don’t know. But for me, I like to do what’s fun and exciting and entertaining. At that time, I wasn’t promoting anything. It was just a lot of fun.
How did your years of singing and performing help with the competition? What were the biggest ways in which this experience differed from what you’re used to?
Fatone: The beautiful part is there was really no judgment because they don’t see you. They’re just judging you on your voice and your appearance in a sense, so they can’t really see facial expressions or emotion behind that. You have to have those emotions and fail expressions all within your voice. It’s just a quirky frickin’ show that takes to another level, that makes it exciting and different.
You have a lot of hosting duties from your Two Cups of Joe podcast, Tru TV’s Impractical Jokers: After Party and Game Show Network’s Common Knowledge, but did doing The Masked Singer make you want to jump back into music?
Fatone: People are like, “I didn’t know you had the voice and chops. You should do an album.” I’m like, “Eh, I’d be fun to do one.” It’s not my forte in the sense of doing a solo career. I’d like to do it because I’d love to do something like that to say I’ve done something and been a part of it, like had my own album. But other than, I’m not like I need to be up there with Justin [Timberlake] doing stuff like that. I’m not even worried about that.
Since you know the identities of the remaining performers, are there clues you can give viewers?
Fatone: A lot of people have been very inquisitive and a lot of people have been speculating certain people. Some of them are on and some of them are way off. I definitely know that monster might be a surprise to a lot of people. Another clue to help you out: listen sometimes to the music that goes on. If you listen back — and I can’t remember which episode it was — when they’re showing the clues they’re playing Greek music in the background for My Big Fat Greek Wedding. So not only is it just what people say, it’s the visuals of everything around the room that’s inside it. Sometimes the actions of what they do and then also it’s the music behind it. It’s a lot of cool little things but also they’re throwing you off. It’s pretty ingenious.
The Masked Singer‘s two-hour finale airs next Wednesday on Fox.