‘I Begged Fox to Let Me’

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for The Masked Singer Season 8 Episode 9 “Fright Night.”]

Scarecrow didn’t just turn heads in her film past — she also did just that in the latest Masked Singer.

Scarecrow shocked everyone by announcing she was bowing out and unmasking herself before the audience vote could be tallied. And, as the celebrity under the mask, actress Linda Blair, went on to explain, it’s because she had a special reason for doing the show: calling awareness to her work helping animals through the Linda Blair World Heart Foundation.

“I’ve been out of the public’s eye intentionally helping the animals. It’s all I do right now,” Blair tells TV Insider. “So I knew nobody would guess me, and that’s what makes the show fun.”

Here, Blair shares more about her work and time on The Masked Singer.

Because you had a special reason for doing this, was it an easy yes from the beginning?

Linda Blair: I started rescuing in 1997 after I had done Grease on Broadway. I came back from New York to California and a big pit bull followed me home at the height of the crisis. And I ended up the one that fought the breed ban in California, which would’ve been a ban on pit bulls, German Shepherds, huskies and all kinds of breeds. We fought really hard. We stopped the ban so that the animals would not all be killed.

But then Hurricane Katrina came along and I ended up in Louisiana and I rescued over 350 animals there. We were able to get them into different areas away from Louisiana, and then I took 51. I built this property in California as a temporary [place], but 16 years later, the crisis is overwhelming. There’s been a lot of good articles coming out about the pandemic and all the animals being brought back to the shelters. The rescues and shelters across the country are asking for help — not asking, we are begging for people to know we want to help, but we can’t help all of them. The shelters are filled to the brim and having to euthanize perfectly wonderful, companion animals, and none of us want that.

So I was asked to do The Masked Singer, and I thought, wow, what a great opportunity if I could do this and work with Fox as to why I would do it, and what could we do to help the animals. They agreed. And I am deeply appreciative that they allowed me to come and perform after 16 years and do a fun, entertaining routine that I could then talk about why I was there and ask for the public to understand we can’t help everybody. We’re trying, but we need their help. Rescues rely on volunteers and donations. We have no state funding. We are on our own. And that’s across the country.

This was the only way I knew to do it, was to reach out by having this incredible opportunity Fox offered me. I’m a huge fan of the show, never thought I’d be on it, and when they asked, I was like, uh-oh, how am I gonna do this? But we did. So I’m so glad that people are able to see my heart and that I would love to be entertaining, but until the animal crisis is better, I cannot go back to the film business. I want to, but I won’t leave my friends in need.

Scarecrow on 'The Masked Singer'

Michael Becker / FOX

You definitely got the word out because you surprised everyone by bowing out of the competition and choosing to unmask. Had that been the plan all along?

Yes. [Laughs] I knew in my heart that the other contestants were really singers and I begged Fox to let me do what I needed to do. So down to the wire, they were hoping I would change my mind, but I knew I couldn’t walk away from my work, from the foundation and compete longer. At the time, it could have gone on for another couple weeks, and for me to walk away …

Running a foundation and a dog rescue is probably one of the hardest things ever because you have to provide the financials, begging for donations. You have to provide the food, the medical, water, electricity, happiness, joy, air conditioning, heat. Dogs are as close to humans. They have to have people, so they’re very needy, where cats are more independent and horses and farm animals are independent. But dogs are far needier and really a mirror to people to say, “Hey, I need love and attention and friendship as well.” And they give it back tenfold. They’re here for us, we’re blessed to have them.

That was the only reason I knew that I really couldn’t go on and I wanted the other to entertainers to have their day in the spotlight. It meant so much to all of us for different reasons.

Not only was your performance fun, but it also looked like you had fun messing with the panelists during it.

I did that on purpose, my friend. My goal was to have fun, do something really different. It’s called Masked Singer, not Masked Run Around the Stage Dancer. [Laughs] And Fox was nice enough to let me do what I could do well, which was entertain. My main goal was to really have fun with the panelists and try to get them to go, wait, what?

I don’t personally know everybody. Robin Thicke I’ve known since he was seven years old. His dad was one of my best friends and an incredible mentor for me when I was in my 20s and trying to negotiate our business. So Robin, we used to do the diabetes foundation work for them. I used to go to the events with him. I’m so proud of Robin.

Ken [Jeong] you just have to mess with. You just have to. Everything was about going after Ken and having fun, poking fun. Nicole [Scherzinger], one of the best entertainers in the world, and I am in awe of her gift, her incredible personality, her humanity on top of her beauty. And Jen [McCarthy Wahlberg] is this incredible soul who has entertained us for so many years, is so beautiful, has been through so much, and she’s not only standing, she’s kind and goodness.

But Fox is the one that gives everyone the stage to be able to do the show, and I love the show. I was a fan. It would take me away for an hour a week to forget the sadness and the animals in the shelters that needed out and how were we gonna help them. That was why I’m so grateful to Fox for allowing me to participate.

Scarecrow on 'The Masked Singer'

Michael Becker / FOX

It seems like you were able to have fun because the costume didn’t look as difficult to move in as others have been.

I asked them for a costume that was mobile. I knew that I needed to run around and jump around. What I didn’t know is the head was like balancing a waiter’s tray on your head. That was the hardest part. The hat, I had aviation wing dynamics going on all over. [Laughs] That was the hard part, not to tip over.

No one on the panel guessed you, but it did feel like some of the clues made it really obvious who you were. What did you think of their guesses?

They were very complimentary and I appreciated their compliments. I was like, wow, they’re really not gonna be expecting what’s coming out of this costume. It’s really hard to see under the masks. You only have about two-inch vertical and about four-inch sideways. You can barely see and can’t hear very well. You have to really concentrate. I was really touched and it was all very tearful because I was there for the animals and that made me feel so good that they appreciated and respected what I just did, the performance. After 16 years, I gave everything I had.

But truly this was for the animals. So no matter how hard it was for me, it’s not as hard as it is for the animals that are scared and are being put out in the deserts and the streets. They had a home and maybe somebody passed away from the pandemic, somebody lost their home, and the animals are suddenly on the streets fending for themselves or in a cold, scary shelter. I’m begging for help. The shelters are asking rescues for help. And so I’m going to the public and the news media and asking in this incredible, never seen crisis in history for the animals, we need help.

The animals came up in the clues package. “Turned plenty of heads” was the clue I thought would lead to people guessing you.

I thought the clues were pretty obvious myself. But I think from the panelists’ point of view, they’re always like, “wait, what?” for each one of the contestants, trying to pay attention. It’s also a show, so it’s fun to make fun guesses. That’s why we always laugh at Ken. Come on. Also I had to poke fun at Ken.

And then when he cried, just saying why I’d come on and the nobility of it all, I really appreciated because I did do this not for myself, but for the animals. I hope that people will say, “You know what? We got it. What can we do to help?” That’s all I’m asking across the country, is for people in their community to help the rescues and the shelters right now, especially during the holidays. Adopt, don’t shop, do not purchase animals. Anything you can imagine is somewhere in America in need of a home. And it’s not anybody’s fault. It’s the pandemic that caused so much difficulty for so many and there’s so many people battling depression and anxiety.

The Masked Singer, Special Thanksgiving Episode, Thursday, November 24, 8/7c, Fox

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