When Josh Greenbaum was a kid, he wasn't too excited by the actual gameplay at sporting events. His attention was always on the sidelines — the giant bird, or the goofy lion.
“I was always just intrigued,” Greenbaum says of his interest in mascots. “As I got older…the question started shifting to who's in there, and then as I got older and more involved in filmmaking, the real loud question became why.”
That question of why hasn't gone away for Greenbaum, which is fueling his work on Behind the Mask, a new Hulu original series launching today.
Following four mascots through a full year, Behind the Mask is a rare look at mascot culture and who really inhabits the furry suits. The four men are mascots on different levels of the profession: a high schooler from Lebanon, Pennsylvania, Michael; a UNLV sixth-year senior, Jersey; minor league hockey's Tux the Penguin, Chad; and the Milwaukee Bucks' Bango the Buck, Kevin.
Greenbaum, who attended USC to get his MFA before leaving to take on his first feature, envisioned the series as being not just a docuseries about mascots, but as a greater statement about people. “Of course, we touch on, 'How hot is it in the suit? How do you do it? What are the challenges?'” Greenbaum says. “But the show becomes about so much more, about humanity through a certain perspective.”
For instance, the show looks at Michael's two identities — a shyer self outside the suit, but a dynamic personality inside it — and Chad's aims to break into the major leagues.
Behind the Mask is part of Hulu's big original content push this fall, including Seth Meyers' The Awesomes. Though these aren't the first original series to appear on Hulu, this is the first big push since Netflix began dominating the digital series market with shows like Orange is the New Black and House of Cards.
Unlike Netflix, however, there are no binge watching hazards — episodes are released one at a time. In Behind the Mask's case viewers will be able to get hooked by watching the first three at once, but no more. “I think you build a bit more of an audience that way,” Greenbaum says. “I think that people can be on the same page … at work next to whatever the proverbial watercooler is now.”
In fact, the entire experience working with Hulu has been a dream for Greenbaum. “I've gone through it with other networks, I've gone through it with other cable stations,” he says. “They're really smart people, but they're also so collaborative.”
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