Though his time on The Masked Singer was short-lived, the rock-star whale is no stranger to television. Orca was unmasked as Sugar Ray frontman Mark McGrath. Aside from music, the singer/songwriter was also a co-host on Extra in the early 2000s before hosting and appearing on shows like Don’t Forget the Lyrics, Killer Karaoke, The Celebrity Apprentice and Celebrity Big Brother.
Billboard spoke to McGrath about being a wildcard contestant and how he honored his father through Orca.
You're not new to TV, having hosted and participated on competition shows before, but how did it feel to be on a show where people didn't know that it was you?
It was terrifying to me, because it's a singing competition. That's the irony of my whole involvement, because I make my living as a singer/entertainer. The only way I would ever do something like this is if I was in a costume, because it lets you be someone else, it lets you take chances outside of your norm. I think that was the thing that was so inviting to me, having that anonymity and being able to sing at the same time. [The Masked Singer] lets everybody start at the same place.
Were you a fan of the show before joining this season?
Yeah, I've got 10-year-old twins so there is no not being a fan of The Masked Singer. [Sugar Ray] traveled a lot. Back in the day we did Japan, and their TV is super colorful. Their news programs look like The Masked Singer, [so] it was a very inviting concept to me, and I thought, "What a wonderful idea." The more crazy and outlandish, the more I'm in! The whole experience was incredible, it was unbelievable. So yeah I'm a huge fan of The Masked Singer, and it was by osmosis, because my kids, but it really appealed to the little kid in me as well.
You came in as the first-ever wildcard contestant, something they introduced this season. What did you expect coming into the show?
I was surprised at a number of things. The information is on a need-to-know basis no matter what you're doing in The Masked Singer, whether you're at home watching it or if you're competing in the show. I didn't know I was a wildcard until they told me that day. To me, a wildcard kind of has a bull's-eye on their back. They did a really excellent strategy game plan about not letting anybody know about what was going on. It was sprung on me while I was walking to the stage [and] I was wondering why my production was a little bit bigger than the others for this particular performance.
Did you choose Orca or did the costume designers bring him to you?
As far as [Orca], they came up with a wonderful concept. They had the concept down, the Orca costume, they had the layout. The first meeting I was in, they showed me a mockup of what the costume would look like, and I'll be darned if the actual costume didn't look exactly like that. They nailed [it]. I had zero input beyond putting it on in terms of comfortability. I didn't have much say because I loved it, I was so happy with the choice. It made me cooler than I am! This is gonna sound really weird, but you get an emotional connection to your costume. When I was leaving the show, I almost started crying when I took off the mask the last time. You give it a heart and it becomes part of you!
The costume was very cool, and it looked like one you could move around in versus some of the other ones that are so elaborate.
Definitely, and that was important to me. I'm kind of a physical guy, you're still in a costume so it's hard [and] I'm 53 years old. I thought I was moving a lot faster than I was when I watched it back.
Your voice is pretty distinctive. Did you use any techniques during your performances to try to throw the judges off?
Not really. I'm not going to win many singing competitions -- that's why I entered this singing competition, if that makes sense. At my age, there's not many things I can do anymore that scare me. This show scared me as much as it excited me. I can't hide behind myself -- like, there's showbiz things I can do to get a crowd moving that I learned through my 30 years of being in Sugar Ray. With a costume, it's totally different. So I was kind of concerned when I was doing my first song "We're Not Gonna Take It" where I go "Let me hear ya!," it's almost in my shouting voice from when I've done it many times in Sugar Ray. I thought that would have been a dead giveaway. But I just kind of went with it. There's not a lot I can do. I have trouble enough staying on key, so trying to throw my voice over, trying to do something different wasn't going to be something I thought would be effective.
One of your clues was that your father passed away and you dedicated your last performance to him. What do you think his reaction would have been seeing you as Orca on The Masked Singer?
I think he would have been really proud. [The show] made such a lovely, touching clue package, and I didn't see it until it aired. They keep you in such isolation on the show, you don't really see [it] until you watch it at home -- even when you're competing in it! It really made me tear up. That song "Every Rose Has Its Thorn," I remember when [my dad and I] would listen to that song back in the late '80s.