Interview: Tim Simpson, ‘The Masked Singer’ Costumes Designer


Beginning as a hit Korean TV series, repeatedly going viral the world over, The Masked Singer has been one of the biggest TV hits of the last decade. The British adaptation has just closed on its fifth series, likely with more specials to come in 2024 before a sixth series lands on ITV in 2025.

Tim Simpson, Managing Director at Plunge Creations, the Brighton-based studio crafting the costumes we see every Saturday night, reveals just what goes into bringing something like an air-fryer to life on-screen.

Now, gearing to begin work on season six’s costumes in May, Simpson reveals how he secured this prized gig. He says that Plunge often is approached for a lot, but never think it’s going to come to fruition. However, Simpson swayed the visiting producers with talk of a “chameleon with lots of lights on it.”

This might have swayed the production team, as they came back asking about the chameleon. 

Simpson says Plunge are eager for challenges and will agree to a project and work out the finer details later. With The Masked Singer, he says”‘it’s been really fun ever since.” 

The process starts with ideation sessions to create the magic of RoboBunny, Knitting and Phoenix, Simpson explains.

“We just get on a Zoom call and start knocking around silly ideas. It’s about putting together our cast of characters with a lot of variety to them. There might be an object that is a concept or just a word like onomatopoeia, of them are animals, and it needs to be a real mixture.

Occasionally, one of the celebrities will come back with an idea and say, I want to be such and such.”

This season we had Shirley Ballas express her desire to become a friendly rat, and so Simpson and his team brought her vision to life. However, most of the time, Simpson and his team are just in the dark as the rest of us, as to exactly who is behind the mask.

“I don’t know who they are for most of the process, if at all. I might find out towards the end if I’m working directly with one of the performers on set. But I generally just know them by their character names, so I know them as Maypole and Cricket. And that’s all I know until they’re revealed on the show.”

Simpson reveals that every celebrity is given training within their costume to emote and express emotion, as well as become comfortable singing. All of this goes into consideration when creating costumes at Plunge Creations. Simpson explains that Air Fryer had a unique ability to emote thanks to her digital expression, but hampered her movability.

“They perform in front of a mirror so that they can see themselves and see, see who they become in that costume. Because it is about bringing a character to life, and some of the characters benefit from you being bouncy and bubbly, and others want to be a little bit menacing.’

 ‘They do camera tests and check that they’re getting the most out of the performance. And it is hard, right? Because they’re hot, they’re difficult to wear. The visibility’s not great. There are loads of lights on stage, it’s really warm. And they’ve got to sing!’ Despite all of this, we’ve seen performers turn it out year on year, special on special. Simpson credits this as one of the best aspects of working on the show, standing by the stage and hearing this happen.

After the costume’s debut, their time on screen is limited. No matter whether they go home first or win the whole thing, the team at Plunge Creations have put the same amount of hard work into their creation. When asked if there were any he wished had spent more time on screen, Simpson names Chicken Caesar and Weather, two featured in this year’s fifth season.

However, even with many costumes having lasted longer against the panel of judges, some details go unnoticed. Simpson believes that many missed details on Piranhas in Pyjama’s costume, specifically small severed hands and feet patterning the pyjamas, as well as the hand-sculpted breastplate of Chicken Caesar featuring fighting cockerels. Many times, Plunge will learn some of the clues ahead of time, to add to a costume, whether it’s a pattern, a badge or lettering. However, they don’t gain the context until watching the clue packages as part of the live show.

The secrecy is big, with only around 15 people working anywhere near any celebrity at a given time, of these only up to two will have come from Plunge Creations, who work solely on their respective celebrity, and don’t discuss any of the details with each other afterwards. Simpson says this keeps the fun alive, as the guessing game is as much a part of it for those involved in the show as the viewers at home.

The Masked Singer has had a huge project on Simpson, with him revealing it brought him back to singing for the first time since his days at school.

“It [the show] inspired me last year to persuade my now-wife to sing the tune for Moulin Rouge at our wedding. We went and had singing lessons. And it sounds cheesy, but because it’s in front of a friendly audience, friends and family, and we belted it out. And we had a really lovely time, but it was partly jealousy of hearing amazing voices on the show and thinking let’s give it a go.’

The impact doesn’t stop there, with Simpson keeping an eye out for the fan art and stories compiled by fans of the show, especially those by children who adore the show despite having no idea who the celebrities are – even after their reveal.

After The Masked Singer wraps up, Plunge Creations are kept busy; having worked on the recent bookcase Christmas tree featured in London’s St Pancras station late last year, multiple pieces for television, as well as a Hello Kitty sitting on the north bank of the River Thames, right outside Somerset House.

Finally, when prodded on what his favourite creations for the show have been, Simpson expertly navigates what must be like choosing your favourite child.

“You fall for different characters at different stages. And it’s only when you see them on stage that you really know that you love them. I loved Phoenix last season because of this sort of drama, and the way that Phoenix came to life on stage.”

However, he continues to reveal one of his favourites is one fans have been talking about since its debut:

“But I think I think my favourite of the costumes is RoboBunny, partly because my son was involved in designing it, and I love the fact that it had this weird little puppet inside!”

The Masked Singer will return later in the year with special episodes, ahead of season six in Winter 2025.

Words by David Roskin

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