20 of the Wildest Rules You Didn't Know Contestants Have to Follow on The Masked Singer

·15 min read
“Don’t Talk to Me” shirt, Masked Singer
“Don’t Talk to Me” shirt, Masked Singer

The Masked Singer/YouTube

For a series that takes extreme measures to conceal the identities of its contestants, you could only imagine the official rule book for The Masked Singer.

Ahead of the new season on Sept. 21, executive producer Craig Plestis chatted with PEOPLE exclusively about the rules celebrity contestants have to follow on the show, while unmasking a few behind-the-scene secrets you wouldn't know just by watching.

"It's a wild ride because there's only one person moving on in every episode," Plestis tells PEOPLE about the new guidelines in place for season 8. "It's almost like the clue packages are fast-tracked. Instead of waiting eight weeks to try to figure out who that person is, you will know that night if that person is eliminated."

RELATED: The Masked Singer Season 8: Who Has Been Revealed So Far

"Each week there are going to be new contestants in the game, thus meaning new masks in the game. There are also double eliminations each week," he adds while exclusively revealing,
"The premiere episode will have four contestants and three eliminations."

To top off the fun this season, Plestis excitedly shares that they've shot their 100th episode! "That's a major feat for any TV show, so we're so happy," he says, with judge Jenny McCarthy telling PEOPLE, "I have to go on record in saying, it's my favorite season yet."

"There's excitement and there's this uncomfortableness that happens during the show, which brings up the drama and suspense," she adds. In addition to the new elimination format, each night will be themed which McCarthy says "brought [the show] to a whole other level."

Between the costume-picking process to the crazy disguises stars must wear off camera, keep scrolling for the wildest rules contestants on The Masked Singer must follow.

1. Contestants must agree to extreme security surveillance

Masked Singer Rules - Security
Masked Singer Rules - Security

The Masked Singer/YouTube

Since the main goal of The Masked Singer is to try and guess who the disguised celebrity is under the mask, there is strict security on the production lot in an effort to prevent any identity reveals.

Plestis jokingly compares the experience to "being in lockdown at a government facility," adding that he always alerts stars to what they're getting themselves into prior to committing to the show.

"We tell all of our celebrities, 'This is going to be an experience unlike you've ever experienced on any show, movie, whatever you've done before,'" explains Plestis. "We always say the best job to have on The Masked Singer is to be part of the security detail. That's the one that keeps growing."

McCarthy also compares the experience to the final season of Game of Thrones when the script was so confidential. "I feel like that's how The Masked Singer is when you enter the lot. It is so secretive. It is so compartmentalized," she says.

RELATED: 'The Masked Singer' Season 6: Who's Been Revealed So Far?

2. Judges and contestants must be separated at all times

Masked Singer Rules - Security
Masked Singer Rules - Security

The Masked Singer/YouTube

This rule comes as no surprise: judges and contestants are never allowed to interact, other than when the star performs. There's a lot of coordinating on the back end in order to prevent unintentional interactions.

"We keep them on different parts of the lot," explains Plestis. "So if there's a contestant practicing on the stage, none of our panelists can ever see them or hear them."

He continues: "We shut off all the feeds across the lot so no one can even accidentally hear their singing voices ... And all of our contestants are sequestered in a separate part of the lot, with security around them.

McCarthy says she only learned of the contestants' separate space from reading about it online!

"I was reading some news article about how the celebrities get their own lot, their own land of fun. And I'm like, 'Where does this exist?'" she says. "Even though we're all on the same sound stage, we're in two separate worlds."

3. Contestants are only allowed to reveal their identity to a select number of people

Masked Singer Rules - Security
Masked Singer Rules - Security

The Masked Singer/YouTube

Oh, you thought the judges were the only people on set who don't know who's under the mask? Think again! "There's only a handful of my producers, myself and a couple of other people at the network who absolutely know who all the people are," reveals Plestis.

4. Contestants are never allowed to speak out loud

Masked Singer Rules - Security
Masked Singer Rules - Security

The Masked Singer/YouTube

To keep their identities hidden, contestants are only allowed to talk to a select number of people — while only certain staff members are allowed to approach and direct the contestants.

"They can only talk to the people who are their producers or their choreographer," says Plestis. "We never want to hear their speaking voices." This is why the contestants sound distorted when talking during the show.

That being said, celebrities' speaking voices aren't altered during rehearsal, which is why Plestis says "they whisper to their producers on the stage so no one else can hear them." However, they always sing in their real voices.

RELATED: Ken Jeong Walks Off of 'The Masked Singer' Set After 1 Contestant's Unmasking: 'I'm Done'

5. Contestants aren't allowed to talk to other contestants

THE MASKED SINGER: The Banana in the The Mother Of All Final Face Offs, Part 2 episode of THE MASKED SINGER
THE MASKED SINGER: The Banana in the The Mother Of All Final Face Offs, Part 2 episode of THE MASKED SINGER

FOX via Getty

Not only do the judges, audience and majority of The Masked Singer staff not know the disguised identity beneath the costumes, but contestants don't know who they're competing against either! Therefore, all interaction and communication between contestants are prohibited.

"It's all a mystery wrapped up in another mystery," says Plestis.

6. Contestants aren't allowed to be referred to by their real name

Miss Monster in the The Playoffs: Group A episode of THE MASKED SINGER
Miss Monster in the The Playoffs: Group A episode of THE MASKED SINGER

FOX via Getty

To further ensure identities aren't uncovered, Plestis revealed that they have a system in place when referring to contestants. "We have code names for everybody, so no one is allowed to ever say their real names, including me," he says.

"To this day, even when they get unmasked, I'll still refer to them as their character name," Pestis adds with a laugh.

7. Contestants have to wear a special shirt when they aren't in costume

“Don’t Talk to Me” shirt, Masked Singer
“Don’t Talk to Me” shirt, Masked Singer

The Masked Singer/YouTube

We bet you're wondering how contestants disguise themselves when they aren't in their costumes, but The Masked Singer staff has thought about that too. (Note: The protocol may sound silly, but it's 100% no joke!)

Contestants must wear special sweatshirts that say "Don't Talk to Me" on them, so people on The Masked Singer team know who to avoid. Pestis made clear that the shirts didn't come about "because of publicity," but rather to prevent confusion between staff and the stars.

"They also have visors, hoods and gloves on," he adds. "You never see any skin because we don't want to give any clues whatsoever. Sometimes contestants will wear multiple sweatshirts to disguise a little bit of their shape for their bodies as well."

RELATED: Celebrities Who've Won The Masked Singer

8. Contestants aren't allowed to drive their own cars to set

Host Nick Cannon and T-Rex in the It Never Hurts to Mask: Group C Playoffs episode of THE MASKED SINGER
Host Nick Cannon and T-Rex in the It Never Hurts to Mask: Group C Playoffs episode of THE MASKED SINGER

FOX via Getty

Yep, you read that right! The celebrity contestants on the show aren't allowed to drive their own cars because that could easily hint at their identity. "They get picked up in cars that are blacked out. Even the drivers don't know who they're picking up," Plestis explains. "We provide all cars."

Not only is that measure taken to prevent The Masked Singer team from figuring out their identities, but it's also because paparazzi often wait outside the lot in an attempt to capture a shot at the secret star.

"Some people do double cars where they get dropped off and they go into another car if we feel like there's somebody tracking them," Plestis reveals. "They'll never be picked up at the celebrity's house. They'll be picked up at another third-party location. So that way, the driver doesn't know who it is either."

McCarthy admitted that she only had a run-in with a contestant once. "When I saw one pass in the parking lot, I screamed," she says with a laugh. "They were in their little cover-ups. So I was like, 'Oh my God, show me your face!'"

9. Contestants are only allowed to rehearse during their allotted time frame

Masked Singer Rules - Rehearsal
Masked Singer Rules - Rehearsal

The Masked Singer/YouTube

To avoid premature identity reveals, contestants have their own scheduled time slot to rehearse, keeping the people in the room to a minimum.

"When someone comes to set to rehearse on the stage, there will be nobody else on the stage," says Plestis. "They will have that space for themselves."

10. Contestants must disguise themselves during rehearsals

Masked Singer Rules - Rehearsal
Masked Singer Rules - Rehearsal

The Masked Singer/YouTube

Even when contestants rehearse, they must be disguised. They either wear their full costumes or their "Don't Talk to Me" sweatshirts so no one knows who is onstage.

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11. If a contestant brings a guest to set, they must disguise themselves, too

Tony Hawk in the A Brand New Six Pack: Group B Kickoff! episode of THE MASKED SINGER
Tony Hawk in the A Brand New Six Pack: Group B Kickoff! episode of THE MASKED SINGER

FOX via Getty

Similar to the celebrity car situation, even the smallest details can give away who the secret star is — and that includes the talent's team as well! In order to prevent a manager, agent or family member from blowing one's cover, they also must disguise themselves!

"Anybody who comes along with a celebrity has to dress up in a full cloak. They cannot be known at all," explains Plestis, who noted that in Los Angeles, everyone knows everyone in the biz.

12. Contestants aren't allowed to rehearse in front of the judges

Robin Thicke, Jenny McCarthy, Ken Jeong, and Nicole Scherzinger in the all-new Couldnt Mask For Anything More: The Grand Finale! season finale episode of THE MASKED SINGER
Robin Thicke, Jenny McCarthy, Ken Jeong, and Nicole Scherzinger in the all-new Couldnt Mask For Anything More: The Grand Finale! season finale episode of THE MASKED SINGER

FOX via Getty

The same way contestants aren't allowed to rehearse in front of other contestants, the same rule goes for practicing in front of the judges. "The first time they hear their voices is right on the stage," says Plestis.

"We want to keep it very honest," he says of their first impressions. "I want to keep that experience fresh for them."

13. Contestants must choose songs that fit that week's theme

The Masked Singer
The Masked Singer

Michael Becker/FOX

Prior to season 8, producers would work in tandem with the contestants to choose a song that would best fit their voices, but now there are song-selection guidelines due to this season's newly introduced theme nights.

"Some of the songs were directed by the themes of that episode," says Plestis. "But we do work hand-in-hand with all the artists to find out what's the best song for their voice."

"We have things like Vegas Night, Hall of Fame Night, Muppet Night, Andrew Lloyd Webber Night," reveals Plestis, exclusively divulging that Andrew Lloyd Webber will make an appearance as a guest judge that night.

Plestis also notes that the weekly themes might be a clue as to who's under the mask.

RELATED: 'The Masked Singer' Names a Season 7 Winner — Find Out Who Took Home the Golden Mask Trophy

14. Contestants must sing live for every performance

Nick Cannon, David Foster and Katherine McPhee in the Group B Final episode of THE MASKED SINGER airing Wednesday, Dec. 8 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX
Nick Cannon, David Foster and Katherine McPhee in the Group B Final episode of THE MASKED SINGER airing Wednesday, Dec. 8 (8:00-9:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX

FOX via Getty

Every contestant on the show must perform live on stage. "No one is allowed to pre-record anything," says Plestis. "When I first started the show, I didn't want to have anything fake ... What you hear is what you get!"

Fun fact: You'll get to hear all the judges sing live this season! While the panel is stacked with chart-topping artists such as Nicole Scherzinger and Robin Thicke, McCarthy revealed that she makes her singing debut, too!

"Now mind you, I always joke about how badly I sing, which is true ... but yes, you hear me sing on stage," says McCarthy. "I don't have auto-tune. It's only for a few lines, but that doesn't matter. You're going to actually hear me perform."

Though contestants must sing live, they are allowed to personally manipulate their singing voices. "Some contestants try to disguise their singing voice and do songs in a different genre or a different style," says Plestis. "We leave that up to them."

They can also distort their speaking voices on stage as well. "People put on accents to try to disguise who they are," explains Plestis. "Everyone's trying to outsmart the panel and the rest of America."

15. Contestants' costumes must be a reflection of their identity

Masked Singer Rules- Tori Kelly
Masked Singer Rules- Tori Kelly

The Masked Singer/YouTube;

If there's one thing synonymous with The Masked Singer, it's the Emmy Award-winning costumes the contestants wear during performances.

Between Tony Hawk's elaborate elephant and Donny Osmond's fantastical peacock, Plestis revealed that there's an elaborate procedure that goes into the costume-picking process — and let's just say, research goes deep.

Once a celebrity commits to being on the show, The Masked Singer team goes through their life history to pick the perfect look. "It's not just going through Wikipedia," Plestis emphasizes.

Then, he'll pitch the costume to them. "We try to lay down all the reasons why they would become that costume due to all their history," he says. "After all the homework that we've done, they usually fall in love with it."

While the producers approach the contestants with an outfit idea, Plestis stressed that the costume-picking process is very collaborative. "We'll work with the celebrities if there's something in particular that they need or want," he says.

16. Contestants aren't allowed to take the costumes home

Host Nick Cannon and Lil Wayne in the Season Three premiere of THE MASKED SINGER
Host Nick Cannon and Lil Wayne in the Season Three premiere of THE MASKED SINGER

FOX via Getty

Could you imagine Lil Wayne walking around his home as "Robot" or JoJo Siwa going about her day as "T-Rex?" While that would certainly make for an entertaining reality show in its own right, it's not happening on the celebrities' terms.

Plestis makes a good point: "God forbid they should be doing an interview for their movie, TV show, or record and all of a sudden you see something in the background." He adds, "It's a tight game filled with lots of NDAs for everybody."

RELATED: The Masked Singer's Ken Jeong Thinks This Rock Legend Could Be Thingamabob on Season 7 Premiere

17. Contestants must complete an interview with 'clue producers' prior to production

The Masked Singer
The Masked Singer

Michael Becker/FOX

If you thought the costume-picking procedure was intricate, the clue creation process is just as in-depth. "We actually do an interview with them to find out stuff that's not on Wikipedia," he says. "And then we have what we call our clue producers who put all that together within these clue packages."

He adds, "We try to keep a balance of several clues that will either be visual or story-based or actual words that will lead you to who that person is."

18. Contestants have to read the hints in the clue packages

THE MASKED SINGER: Ringmaster
THE MASKED SINGER: Ringmaster

Michael Becker/FOX

Did you know that when the clue packages are explained prior to every performance, the celebrities are the ones narrating them? That's when the voice distortion comes into play — but due to a history of viewers trying to cheat the system, The Masked Singer team does even more to deceive the audience.

"Each season, we do a different process on how we distort the voices," says Plestis. "We do different modulations of it because there's a whole bevy of sleuths out there that try to figure out the algorithm we use ... That was something we learned after Season 1."

While it'll be near impossible to outsmart the system this time around, McCarthy — a self-professed clue girl — says you can look to her if you're stuck because "[she] does very well" this season. "If you're playing with your family and you want to know who to lean on the most judge wise, lean on me!"

19. Contestants aren't allowed to have their phones with them on set

Masked Singer Rules - No Cell Phones
Masked Singer Rules - No Cell Phones

The Masked Singer/YouTube

All cell phones are confiscated on the set, with the exception of a few people. "If you are one of the few that have cell phones, we block out all cameras on the cell phone so no one can take pictures," says Plestis. "We have security that literally nonstop monitors to see if anybody is taking pictures."

This goes for all audience members and judges too! In addition to cellphones, Apple Watches are prohibited as well.

That being said, judges are allowed to keep a binder to write down clues. "It's almost like a little clue book," says Plestis. "That's a really important tool for our panel ... but sometimes, they write so much stuff that it confuses them too!"

And that's especially true for McCarthy who admits, "My tablet looks like the movie Beautiful Mind. It's got arrows and breakdowns. Literally, it's so nuts. I think we should actually give them away at the end of the season. No one would believe our minds of how we're trying to connect things."

RELATED: Duff Goldman Accidentally Unmasked Himself on 'The Masked Singer' : 'I Was Really Worried'

20. Everyone has to sign lengthy NDAs

THE MASKED SINGER: Miss Teddy
THE MASKED SINGER: Miss Teddy

Michael Becker/FOX

Since the show is pre-taped, the contestants, judges and The Masked Singer staff all have to sign NDAs. In addition, the audience has to as well.

"We take great pride in saying, 'We're inviting you into our house, and now you're our family. So whatever you see here, please keep it secret until the day of. You can talk about it as much as you want afterward," says Plestis.

"I would never want to spoil it. I would never want to leak it," McCarthy says of keeping the secret. "It's like a magician showing the trick. It's no fun once you know."

The Masked Singer airs Wednesdays (8 p.m. ET) on Fox.