"It's pretty much the dream that I had when I was 8 years old," actor, singer and TV host Wayne Brady, who was unmasked as the Fox on The Masked Singer, tells PEOPLE

By Dana Rose Falcone
December 19, 2019 02:46 PM
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Whether you’ve caught him starring in Chicago or Kinky Boots on Broadway, hosting Let’s Make a Deal, cracking jokes on Whose Line Is It Anyway? or playing opposite Neil Patrick Harris on How I Met Your Mother, viewers saw a new side of Wayne Brady on The Masked Singer season 2. The actor, comedian and TV host put his vocal chops on full display all season long as the Fox, and on Wednesday, his efforts earned him the top spot in the singing competition.

“The thing in people’s minds is, that’s Wayne Brady. That’s the funny guy that makes me laugh,” Brady, 47, tells PEOPLE. “That’s cool, but they don’t think about the reason I made you laugh in all of those shows — it was musical. At the same time, I was doing that, I was making records. I’ve put in a lot of work as a vocalist, but that’s not the picture that’s been painted. I had to take the message to a bigger venue and use that as my church. That was the reason really for doing The Masked Singer.”

Wayne Brady is the Fox.
Theo Wargo/Getty; Michael Becker/FOX

Seeing talented singers like Gladys Knight, Donny Osmond and T-Pain, season 1’s winner, compete earlier this year on the first installment of The Masked Singer convinced Brady to give the show a try — but not without approval from his teenage daughter.

“I was like, if they’ve got real-deal singers on the show then I think I need to try this next season,” the Emmy winner says. “I conferred with my daughter because the coolest person is always going to be your 16-year-old daughter and I asked her what she thought about me doing it and I asked her mom Mandie, so between Mandie and Maile, I got the go-ahead.”

Brady frequently hinted at having a child in his clue packages throughout the season and he swears that Maile and his ex-wife Mandie, who Brady still considers his “best friend and producing partner,” kept the family secret. But read on for more about who Brady lied to along the way about his identity, what it felt like for the panelists to think he was Jamie Foxx and what The Masked Singer taught him.

Wayne Brady with his daughter Maile at the Daytime Emmys in 2018.
Stewart Cook/REX/Shutterstock

Congrats on winning the Golden Mask!
I’m in a little bubble. I’m out here in Atlanta right now shooting Black Lighting, so last night I was watching the show in my hotel room, laying in my robe, icing my knees and my lower back because I had stunt training all day. It wasn’t exactly the victory party I’d imagined, but it’s kind of the dopest way of winning that I could imagine. I’m here shooting an amazing superhero drama; like the clues said during my Masked Singer packages. I’ve always loved superheroes. I love the Clark Kent persona I feel I have, which was one of the clues because I’m very shy and quiet in real life and very much about business and I like to blend into the background. Then on stage, I like to kick open the doors and that’s my superpower. I get to actually play someone with superpowers while watching myself in a costume. It’s pretty much the dream that I had when I was 8 years old in Orlando. So life is great.

Have you heard from anyone who was shocked to see you under the Fox costume?
A lot of those guys actually said, “We knew it was you!” Because the people that have worked with me, they knew. Which is why it’s funny to me that Nicole, until the very end when she finally said that clue about spending the weekend, we did Rent together and we sang together. And then you saw the lightbulb go on. It’s weird to lie to your mother. She was being very polite because we’re from the south and southerners are very polite to each other. She would text me each week. She said, “This fox sure is trying to sound like you. I love his voice but he really is trying to sound just like you, son.” I said, “Yes ma’am, I know that he’s trying to. God bless him.”

Who else did you have on your tail?
I had my mother asking me and my aunt, my sister in Canada would text me and I had friends from high school who I did high school musicals with. At one point, I think it was last week, Lin-Manuel Miranda and James Monroe Iglehart, they both texted me with a picture. They were shrugging going, is it you? And I texted them a picture of myself and Maile in the car shrugging going, I don’t know, you’ve got to watch the show! A lot of my Hamilton Chicago cast gave me love and like Chris Jackson texted me and his wife Veronica: “I know it’s you!” They were so happy watching the finale and I made my daughter proud. I think first and foremost I made my daughter proud. I made myself proud.

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What did you think of the panelists guessing you were Jamie Foxx?
It’s a win-win for me. I personally do not think that we sound alike at all, but I love Jamie’s voice and I love his music. In fact, I was one of the first people I know that had his record called Peep This. Before Ray, before he started working with Kanye, before anyone accepted Jamie Foxx as a singer and they just thought of him as the funny guy who did Wanda on Of Living Color, I was checking for him as a musician. I always kind of wanted to follow Jamie’s path and I was waiting for my Ray moment. I’m still waiting for my Ray moment when I can really step into it. So for them to say, “oh it’s Jamie,” that was so cool.

You’ve put out albums and done Broadway, but have you found it hard to get respect in the music world?
I know that I am a skilled vocalist and know that music is a part of my repertoire and a weapon that I have. I think that sometimes when you’re as lucky as I have [been] and blessed to be around — I’ve been on TV about 21 years consistently — it’s very easy to be taken for granted. I’ve performed at the Hollywood Bowl in concert, at Carnegie Hall, with the Dallas Symphony, with the Boston Pops. Talk about walking in Jamie’s shoes, Jamie had a platform not only in Ray but when he did “Golddigger,” so I was like, what’s my “Golddigger”? What’s my Ray? I can’t just sit around and wait for somebody to write a biopic that I could star in. So when I saw this show and I watched the first season, I went, “oh these people are really singing.” And I said, “Let’s do this for season 2!” And I did it with a goal and my goal is: I’m going to go in and I’m going to approach this like I approach Broadway. I’m going to come up with a great character, I’m going to come up with a great narrative and I’m going to have great songs and I’m going to sing the crap out of it because my aim is to win it.

What did this experience teach you about yourself?
I was just so touched by the fact that thousands of people said, “Oh, I know it’s you because I bought your first record. ‘Ordinary’ was our wedding song.” Or, “I saw you as [Aaron] Burr so I knew that it was you.” Or, “I saw you as Lola in Kinky Boots, I knew it was you.” Or, “My daughter loves Sophia the First, you can’t fool me!” It taught me the lesson that more people were checking for me musically than I gave myself credit for. My self-narrative was being the kid sitting alone at lunch going, “Nobody wants to eat with me.” When in reality, when I look up, there are all these people that want to sit and that really touched my heart.

Wayne Brady (right) backstage at Kinky Boots with Cyndi Lauper and David Cook in 2008.
Bruce Glikas/FilmMagic

You have your new single “Flirtin’ w/ Forever” out now, but what else do you have coming up?
I’ve got a very busy few months ahead of me. I think my episodes of Black Lighting start airing [on The CW] possibly in February or March. It’s a side of me you’ve never seen. I am lifting people with telekinesis and being a badass in general. At the end of January I’ll be doing a three-night show with the amazing Glenn Close in New York. Then I’ll be doing a small tour that’s a mixture of my music and an improv music jam with the band. Then [in the spring] I have a show premiering on a network called BYU TV; a show that Mandie and I produced, a show called Wayne Brady’s Comedy IQ, which I’ve created as a talent search to find a kid that was like me that wanted to sing, wanted to dance, had all these skills but didn’t realize that they could use those skills to learn improvisation, to learn sketch and then be funny. It’s a 10-week bootcamp where we crown a winner. And then we’ll start work on Let’s Make a Deal again. So it’s really, really busy. It’s a blessed time. Thank you to anyone who likes me and likes my music and likes my comedy. In 2020, I’ve got more coming for you.

The Masked Singer returns for season 3 on Fox after the Super Bowl on Feb. 2.