The Masked Dancer: Bruno Tonioli on being 'possessed' by Pearly King and fooling Oti Mabuse

Virgin Radio

25 Oct 2022, 10:37

(L-R) Bruno Tonioli, and Bruno as The Pearly King

Credit: ITV / Rex

After weeks of dancing as The Pearly King, Bruno Tonioli has opened up about taking on the flamboyant lion on The Masked Dancer, and how it felt to slip past the radar of former Strictly Come Dancing pro and MD judge Oti Mabuse. 

The Italian dancer and choreographer narrowly missed out on winning the competition during its finale last week (Saturday 22nd October), with Glee star Heather Morris landing at the top spot. 

Bruno had a very impressive run on the ITV series, only being unmasked in the final moments of the show, and given Oti used to dance in front of Bruno throughout the years on Strictly Come Dancing, his unveiling was a shock to say the least. 

Oti didn’t believe Pearly King could be a professional dancer, but Bruno admitted she was once very close to guessing her former co-star.

When asked about what he thought when Oti confessed she didn’t think Pearly King was a pro, Bruno said: “Oti, she sent me a text! To be honest, I wasn’t going to give it away. I really played the character and then I thought ‘hang on a second, I better bring him down a bit.’ I was really doing it on purpose, I was really doing something that’s completely different, throwing it around. I was really going for Tom Hardy.  

“It was intentional, and bless Oti, it was good I fooled her!  After week two I thought I better start getting a little more fluid because initially I thought just go for the character, forget about the dancing.  I like playing characters but then I thought I best focus a bit more on the dancing!”

You might think that trying to dance with a gigantic lion’s head would be tricky, or at least incredibly heavy, but Bruno got fully into the swing of things, letting the character completely “possess” him. 

He explained: “I absolutely adore Pearly King.  Whilst playing him, I was possessed by him.  I had to tame him.  It took me a couple weeks to tame the character because it was taking over.  It was such a good character.  

“The head, it's not so much the heaviness it's that it was so wide.  When you moved it kept moving so it had its own gravity field and you couldn’t see.  It was like being inebriated and blindfolded at the same time.  It wasn’t easy I have to say.  The character itself carries you through it.  It's a skill, not just for me but for everyone else, every costume has its own ways of using it.”

The Dancing With The Stars head honcho had the judges scratching their heads from the beginning, adopting a cockney accent to throw them off the scent. 

Other stars who let the mask slip this series included Gavin and Stacey star Joanna Page, The Choir’s Gareth Malone and Girls Aloud’s Kimberley Walsh.