Behind the Mask Creator and EP Josh Greenbaum Talks Season 2 [Exclusive]
Do you ever wonder what kind of person decides to put on a costume and become a mascot? The 2014 Emmy-nominated Hulu Original Behind the MaskÂ takes a closer look at that rare breed. We’ve got:
- A female high school mascot (“The Tiger” from Gilbert High School in Arizona)
- An autistic freelance mascot (who plays dozens of mascots including “The Easter Bunny” and “Bucky the Blood Drop”)
- A minor league hockey mascot (“Tux” of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, who you may recognizeÂ from season 1)
- A professional MLB mascot (“Lou Seal” of the San Francisco Giants)
Behind the MaskÂ takes an authentic look at the sports world’s most unsung heroes. Funny, entertaining, and at times poignant, this show tells the moving stories of these real-life Clark Kents, capturing their highs and lows, both inside and outside the suit.
TV Goodness had the chance to speak exclusively to creator and EP Josh Greenbaum about why he created the series, the casting process and what we can look forward to this season.
TV GOODNESS:Â What is it about mascots that made you want to create this show in the first place and take a closer look at the people who are behind the mask?
Josh Greenbaum: “Itâ€™s been a long time in the making. The simple answer to that is that Iâ€™ve always been intrigued and wondered — and I think lots of people have — whoâ€™s behind that mask? The bigger question that I always, as a documentary filmmaker then begin to ask, is why and thatâ€™s what the show wound up focusing on.
Of course you reveal whoâ€™s there, but you find out how did they get there and why. It started for me when I was just a kid. I remember going to sporting events and half paying attention to the game and also half looking over in the corner and being like, â€˜Whatâ€™s that giant bear doing? Whatâ€™s that all about?â€™ Thatâ€™s a kidâ€™s way into sports at an early age.Â As I grew up and became a filmmaker, that idea stuck with me, â€˜I just gotta know whoâ€™s in there and why they do that.â€™
Beyond that, I also just look for worlds that have not been exposed or explored yet. I try to find a world that weâ€™ve never seen or a world youâ€™ve seen before, but from a new perspective. I felt like this was definitely that. I didnâ€™t know of any films or shows that explored this world, but it also was the sporting world from a totally fresh, different and honestly weird perspective. It always intrigued me, that dual personality too. It reminds me of superheroes a lot.”
TV GOODNESS: For the four people youâ€™ve focused on this season, itâ€™s great to see them in their day job — being the mascot, hyping the crowds up or meeting people — and then see them in their real lives. How did you pick these four people to focus on?
Josh: “Casting this is a challenge in a million different ways, one of which is, in fact, itâ€™s actually pretty difficult to get â€” especially at the pro level and collegiate level in season 1 â€” people to actually be willing to reveal themselves, and I mean literally who they are not just reveal their inner thoughts. One of the biggest rules of the mascoting world is to not reveal your true identity, so 90% of the pros, maybe higher than 90, especially our first season when we were going after the NBA mascots, just said no flat out. They loved the idea. A couple said, â€˜Sure you can follow me as long as you black out my face when iâ€™m human.â€™ We canâ€™t do a 10-episode docuseries reality show following someone with a blurred face. That makes it very difficult, obviously.
This season it was slightly easier in that reaching out to everyone they could see what the first season looked like. We were nominated for an Emmy last season, so I think that helped as well. People just trusted it a bit more and said, â€˜Ok. I see what this is.â€™ Still, a lot of people said no. When people said yes, we still had to get the organization to say yes, the team, and/or the whole league and this season it was Major League Baseball. So casting is a lot of different things. Itâ€™s whoâ€™s even willing to be on the show, first and foremost, and then of those people, who has interesting stories both inside and, perhaps more importantly, outside of the suit.
I have a whole team of people who help me in the researching process. We research â€” Iâ€™m not exaggerating when I say thousands â€” you know we probably reached out via email or phone and FaceTime interviews and all that, Skyping to probably almost a thousand different people at the high school, college and pro level. I felt like we found some incredible characters and we really wanted to change things up from season 1.
As you saw, we have our very first ever female mascot in the show, the incredible high school Tiger Navey Baker, who is an amazing spirit, an amazing personality. We took a very different turn, as well. First off, at the pro level we went into the baseball world. Last season we were in basketball. And that brings with it itâ€™s own different stories and itâ€™s a whole other world. But I think the biggest departure we made this season was we followed a guy whoâ€™s not necessarily associated with a team and is a freelance mascot, who is Chris Hall.
[He] also suffers from autism and anxiety disorder. When I first met him and was introduced to him and his family, [I was] instantly intrigued. What a compelling story. This guy who really struggles to find his way in the world and has such severe social anxiety, yet when he puts that suit on and you see it in the show he just comes alive. All is right in the world. What an incredible story to follow. The casting is always so critical. We followed one of our favorites from season 1, whoâ€™s dreamed to go pro. Chad is obviously on a continuing quest into season 2.”
TV GOODNESS: For people who are new to the series or are coming back for season 2, how would you preview whatâ€™s ahead?
Josh: “If youâ€™re new to the series, itâ€™s a look at the lives of sports mascots. I always preface that by saying if you have no interest in sports, itâ€™s ok. Itâ€™s about people. Itâ€™s about human stories. I made a movie called The Short Game, a documentary, and I always told people the same thing. It was about little kid golfers, but really itâ€™s not about golf. The best documentaries are obviously about the deeper thoughts and deeper things going on and about people. And thatâ€™s what our show is about. Thatâ€™s the general idea of the whole show, but for this season thereâ€™s some incredible storylines. As I mentioned, Chris is an incredible story.
Things are different this season for Chad, the minor league mascot trying to make it pro because while we filmed, some very real opportunities to fulfill his dream happened. Beyond that, some incredible surprises happened. Some fans of the show reached out and gave him a gift. Youâ€™ll be shocked to see the size and scope of the gift heâ€™s given.
At the pro level, you never know. We started filming with Joe â€œLou Sealâ€ in the preseason. You donâ€™t know whatâ€™s gonna happen in his life. We knew he was a dad, he was expecting another child. We knew that would be a really interesting part of his story. But for those of you who pay any attention to sports, we wound up following a team that made it all the way back to the World Series for the third time in five years.
So, here we are at the World Series seeing the biggest event in sports, but through these two furry eyes, this incredible, new, interesting perspective and weâ€™re down there in the dugout. Weâ€™re there with the players, right there in the moment. Itâ€™s super exciting. [Itâ€™s] the same tone as the first season, but all new stories, all new characters.â€
Edited for space and content.
Season 1 and 2 of Behind the Mask are available to stream now on Hulu.
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