The Grammy-nominated musician tells EW why he did The Masked Dancer instead of The Masked Singer.

By Lauren Huff
January 21, 2021 at 09:00 AM EST
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Credit: Michael Becker/ FOX

Warning: This article contains spoilers about Wednesday's episode of The Masked Dancer.

The Cricket has hopped away from his time on The Masked Dancer.

The princely green insect was hiding none other than 17-time Grammy-nominated singer and musician Brian McKnight underneath the mask. Here, the R&B legend breaks down why he did The Masked Dancer as opposed to The Masked Singer, what he thought about his costume, and what he took away from his time on the show.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First of all, were you aware going into this show that a lot of people thought you were on The Masked Singer last season as the Serpent?

BRIAN MCKNIGHT: Yeah, only because of Twitter, you know, people are tagging me saying that I'm the Serpent. And I'm sitting at home going, "What's going on?" [Laughs.] And I meant to go and listen to the Serpent sing, because if they think it's me then he must sound like me, but I still haven't. I have yet to go back and look. But I thought that's pretty cool.

Why do The Masked Dancer over The Masked Singer?

Well, I'm not sure that any of us can decide which show to be on. The producers have to sort of decide who they want to be on, but I'm not sure it would be too difficult to hear me sing and figure out it's me. So that's the one thing. I think it was fun for me to go on a dance show, which is more uncharacteristic of who I am. I still got guessed anyway, so even though it didn't work out this way, I thought in my head that it would be easier for people not to know who I was on a dance show. But it's funny, when I saw the clue packages, I knew somebody was going to get me.

What clue really stuck out to you?

I think there is an actual reference to "Back at One" in the clue package, which is my biggest song. So once that happened, I was like, if you're even relatively awake, you should know that that's me. [Laughs.]

So what went through your mind when you saw the Cricket costume?

I thought looking at the way my body is, as long as I am, it just seemed a perfect fit. I can't imagine if I'd have been in an elephant costume that that would have made a lot of sense. Even though I don't like insects, the cricket is the one that jumps around and makes the noise. He's the only insect that sings, so it made sense.

You really committed to that character, too. Tell me about that.

See, what they don't show on the show is that when we're doing that interview after the dance, you're up there for a long time, and then they edit down the parts that they actually show on the show. So instead of just standing there, I thought, you know, if they're gonna remember me in any way, let me stay in character as long as I possibly can. Don't break character. You are a cricket; you're not you. You're not even a human. What would a cricket do? And that's what I did.

How did you feel about your performances?

I thought the performances were good. When we were doing rehearsals, the choreographers were really sticklers about doing things right. "You have to do this exactly like this, exactly like that." I think I hit all of those things that they wanted me to do. So I felt good about the performances. What I realized, in doing the show, is that it's not really about how great I dance. I'm not a great dancer. There are a whole lot of other elements, the song that is picked and the dance moves that are actually up there, the costume that you choose — all these kinds of things factor in and there is no real loser here. The win is that you actually got to be on this huge TV show. The unfortunate part is that somebody has to go home that night. And tonight it's me.

During the show you gave a shoutout to your wife. Has she watched the show? What does she think?

Actually, she was there with me, but she wasn't actually able to see what we did. And I think that my wife has been very good in getting me out of my usual comfort zones and that it's good to try something new, as long as you give it your best. She is my rock, and I go to her with everything to make sure that I'm doing the right thing. And she was in there with the random rehearsals to encourage me. She is my number one supporter, my number one fan, and she is everything to me. So, you know, I think she thinks it's wonderful that I got out and actually did this.

Were you disappointed not to make it to the Super Six?

Yeah, I think it's only human to be disappointed when you hear your character called. And I suspected that that would be the case when Paula [Abdul] actually guessed me. I kind of expected it. But it's different when you hear that name. And it's tricky, isn't it? Like, oh, man, I'm not sure that I could disguise my face, my disappointment. I'll see tonight. Hopefully they didn't show it in the edit. But at the same time, it's only human that you want to win, or at the very least you want to stay as long as you possibly can. But tonight when people realize that that's me, I'll be back in the consciousness of the nation for another five minutes. So that's a huge win.

What did you take away from this experience?

That being uncomfortable and doing something that you don't necessarily do is not a bad thing. I think that's a lesson for life. When you're trying to get somewhere, it's not all going to be exactly the way you want it to be. And you may come across some things that you don't like, but you still have to figure out a way to get where you're going. And it would have been easy to get in the middle of that and be like, "This sucks. I don't want to do this. I'm just gonna go back to doing my normal thing." But that's just not the kind of person I am. And again, my wife would never let me be that way. I'm not a quitter in any way. So it was great to do something that I wouldn't normally do. And there's no way I would do that without a mask on, so it was great. [Laughs.]

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