In the world of sports, there are no guarantees for how long your favorite athlete is around—they could go pro or get a career-ending injury. But the team mascot, on the other hand (or big furry “paw”), is always there. Every game, rain or shine, they’re there to cheer on the team. All the while, no one even thinks about the mascot’s true identity.
Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Josh Greenbaum thought about them, however, and created the new Hulu Original series Behind the Mask to give these incognito superfans the attention they truly deserve. In the process, he discovered that there’s a lot more going on under those oversized heads than one might expect.
From the high school, college, minor league and professional levels, Greenbaum introduces an authentic look at the colorful and never-before-seen worlds of mascots through the eyes of Lebanon High School’s Rooty the Cedar Tree, UNLV’s Hey Reb!, Tux of the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins and NBA mascot for the Milwaukee Bucks, Bango.
Today, we’re cheering from the stands as the first three episodes of this adventurous and poignant 10-episode docuseries are now available on Hulu and Hulu Plus with new episodes launching each week through Dec. 17. Also, for the first time ever, all Roku users have special free access to the series premiere for one week only. Roku users can access this free experience within the Hulu Plus channel on their Roku players until Nov. 5th.
We spoke to creator, director and executive producer Josh Greenbaum about celebrating individuals who take on death-defying stunts to pump up their fans or fight on from the sidelines while their team tumbles in defeat.
HULU: In watching sporting events, what was it that made you say, “I need to make a TV show about the people who are dancing around entertaining the fans between plays”?
JOSH: A lot of it was the mystery. You see these characters and I instantly wonder who’s inside there, but more importantly, why are they in there? Why are they doing this, which is a pretty unique profession. I think as a kid I always watched them. You go to these sporting events and, especially when you’re younger, you watch the sporting event, but your eye is always off in the corner of the court thinking, “What about that giant deer?” like the one staring at us now [motions to Bango]. I’m always drawn to interesting characters and people who might be doing something slightly differently but then finding a humanity in it, the universality of it. These are people who are really passionate about what they do, and it’s a little bit off the beaten path of your normal career so I was very intrigued to find out more about them.
HULU: Are we going to be surprised by the emotions we feel watching this?
JOSH: Absolutely! It’s a very funny world, a very entertaining world, but it’s also a really emotional world. The stakes are high. These are people who work very hard to be the best at what they do. And with that, when the stakes are high, the emotions run high. They’re all struggling with things that we all struggle with. The show follows four characters: one in high school; a college mascot; a minor league mascot; and then our professional NBA mascot, Bango. Beyond the challenges of being in those different four arenas of their job, they’re also at four different stages of life, and grappling with different versions of that. So, let’s say it’s love. Our high school character is trying to find it. Our college character is finding a different version of it… A short-term version of it. Our minor league guy is in the middle of getting engaged and getting married, and our professional NBA guy, you’ll be amazed to know, there’s a Mrs. Bango, and there are five mini-Bangos. Father of five kids and their relationship is amazing and really wonderful to watch and be a part of. It’s incredibly emotional… Surprisingly emotional, as you put it.
HULU: Did you seek to put it on Hulu first?
JOSH: The initial reaction was, let’s bring it to Hulu. I’ve been a fan of what they’ve been doing for a while. I saw Battleground, one of their original series, and thought it was really well done. Just feeling like they’re ahead of the curve, and as a creator, I like being ahead of the curve, so I brought it to Hulu and it was an instant match… As a director, as a creator, as a writer… You try to find that relationship, that partnership, where you feel like you’re very supported, and you see the same things and you’re making the same show together. And from the get-go, that’s been my relationship with Hulu so it’s been really good. I’m so thrilled that the show is premiering on Hulu and Hulu Plus. I think it’s a perfect home for it and I’m excited.
HULU: Do you have any favorite documentaries on Hulu?
JOSH: I do. I really loved A Day in the Life. I thought that was interesting. As a documentarian myself, I like going into worlds that we don’t get to see, or a world we’ve seen but never in that perspective. I love that series. I remember seeing Girl Talk and getting to see what he does behind stage, then walk out on stage with him. We do that with Bango. It’s really cool to be right behind someone as they run out and lead their team out to mid-court.
HULU: We’re really excited to see it on Hulu!
JOSH: Thank you!