Season 16 of Big Brother concludes tonight at 9:30pm on CBS when either Derrick, Cody, or Victoria…okay, make that either Derrick or Cody, will be crowned champion. And according to host Julie Chen, even Cody is a long shot at this point. Can Derrick complete one of the most dominant performances this game has ever seen? We talked with Chen about Derrick’s place in Big Brother history and whether anyone can stop him. But we didn’t stop there. In a very candid chat, Chen also frankly discussed how the houseguests view Victoria, how she feels about not having any of the racist and homophobic nonsense that plagued last season’s edition, and why she does not think another All-Stars edition is a good idea right now. Read on for pure, unfiltered Chenbot!
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I asked you last week if there was any chance that Derrick and Cody would actually bring each other to the finals when they have Victoria there, who both of them would easily beat in the finals, and you said something really interesting. You said that you actually think that they both would and will bring each other if given the opportunity.
JULIE CHEN: No question. And that’s because if you look at Cody, he’s just a kid, and he looks up to Derrick like his big bro. And it’s not in Cody’s nature in my opinion to stab his mentor in his back — on anybody. It’s hard. He’s not a bad kid, so Cody will take Derrick to the end if he is the one who has to make the choice, knowing he will kiss a half million dollars goodbye. It’s not in his nature to be a backstabber. In terms of Derrick, he could take just about anybody and he’s taking home that check for a half million dollars. And I think he knows it. I mean, maybe Cody gets one vote to win over Derrick if it’s those two men in the finals. Maybe he gets Christine’s vote, but I don’t think so.
And the jury is likely to respect Derrick a little more if he brings Cody and maybe they would turn on him a little bit if he brought Victoria to the end.
They wouldn’t turn on him in terms of their vote, but no one has respect for Victoria. They don’t particularly like her as a person. They don’t mind her, they probably think she’s sweet enough. But there is zero respect, and in terms of her gameplay there is probably disdain for her lack thereof.
If Derrick wins, does his face immediately go up on the Big Brother Mount Rushmore with Dan Gheesling, Will Kirby, and Rachel Reilly?
No question. Except I think you need a new Mount Rushmore where it’s like, here’s the face of a guy who can play the game and win, but with integrity. I mean, yeah, he’s kind of fibbed here and there, and yeah, he’s learned how to brush people’s egos and mislead people, but not in an offensive, blatant way where feelings are going to get hurt or people are going to feel like they were duped by him. He has managed to dupe people in such a way that all of his “victims” will be like, “Wow, I tip my hat to you. You played me. But I still like you as a person.” So he’s in a category of his own. Dan Gheesling, very smart. Not a bad guy either. But you know, a liiiiiiitle bit sneakier than Derrick.
You have a lot of balls to juggle in the air on this 90-minute live finale. You have stuff going on in the house, jury members coming back who haven’t seen the season, non-jury members coming back who have seen the season. What’s the hardest part for you to manage or what do you worry about the most every year with this big production of a live finale?
I worry about two things: That red light going on and that person who used to be very entertaining suddenly freezing up and giving one word answers. And then the opposite, which is the person who maybe wasn’t all that entertaining and didn’t have that much to say, and then suddenly can’t shut up and they’re just droning on about something that is not fascinating. And you have to find a way to cut them off. Sometimes people go into the finale backstage saying, “I’m going to tell off so and so, A, B, C, D and I’m going to let her know how I feel.” And then you tee it up and they’re like, “Wellllllllll, no hard feelings.” And I’m like, “YES! YES! Hard feelings! You were just 15 minutes ago hard feelings!” So that’s my fear, that there won’t be the fireworks that we want and expect from people confronting their former enemies.
I think my favorite moment of the season is when you had the jurors return for the luxury competition and absolutely trash the house.
That was like a dream come true for a fan and a viewer, and as a juror. We’ve never had that happen before and truth be told, we wouldn’t have had that luxury competition had we not been told by the network we got extended one week. [Laughs] You know, the ratings were so good that they were like “Hey, let’s use this to our advantage and bleed it into our premiere week and just run with it.” So, it’s business. And it was a good way to give the viewers what they want.
The one thing I’m upset about though, Julie, is that it’s now been two seasons without the Pandora’s Box twist. I guess the Rewind button was kinda like a Pandora’s Box, but how come we haven’t seen that for a while now?
I think part of the reason is, look, we’ve been on 16 seasons. And almost everybody who plays this game knows it, and they know it a little bit too well. You gotta keep ‘em guessing. Even though the Pandora’s Box can be extremely beneficial if they open it, we want them to always question “Is it coming? Is it not coming? Maybe I don’t know this game as well as I think I do.” It doesn’t mean it’s gone forever, but we have to keep future houseguests on their toes.
After all the controversy last year with the houseguests making a lot of racist and homophobic comments — comments which I know really disappointed you on a personal level, is it nice to not have to deal with any of that this time around?
Yes. Oh my God, how refreshing. But you know what? You can’t judge a book by it’s cover, but I have to tell you, about one week in seeing the dynamics of this group and seeing each houseguest individually, you could tell with this group — you weren’t going to hear that kind of comment. You also weren’t going to see a cliquey mean girls group forming. The women who played Big Brother this past summer were all very strong individuals where they didn’t need to kind of glom on to one another to feel empowered.
You know, Nicole, she’s adorable and she doesn’t look like she’d be the most confident person, but I think this whole experience of Big Brother has made her more confident. We saw that kind of unfold. Christine, say what you will about her, but also someone who’s not afraid to stand in her own shoes and look, she backstabbed her best friend Nicole! And Amber, a Southern belle but can hold her own in competitions and didn’t need to team up with another girl to feel like we’re ruling the school here. So it was refreshing not having to deal with any small minded people or this herd mentality of “We’re going to run this house.” Sure, the guys were like “We’re running this house.” But it was kind of pure testosterone, machismo, ego half-joking speaking.
Okay, I’ve got some questions people tweeted in that I’d like to hit you with. First up, @Ian0012 wants to know: What are the odds on another All-Stars season coming soon? Is that something we might be seeing soon?
I don’t think so. I mean, look at the ratings for this past season — higher than last year, all new people. Look, we love the Will Kirbys, the Mike Boogies, and the Janelles, and they will always have a special spot in our hearts. And maybe they’ll make an appearance in some sort of stunt, but I think the beauty of this game is showing true fans who have never played it, who have played it just from their armchair at home, have a stab at it and realize, wow, I had no idea what I was in for. You keep the game more pure that way. Even the die hard fans who know, “Oh, this is the game where they are going to test our memory of this and that” — even those people, they crack under pressure and are like, “I thought it would be much easier because I’m an uber fan and it wasn’t easier at all.” And I think you want that, and you lose that element if you bring people that have lived in that house before.
You just mentioned that some people may come back for a stunt here or there. That leads to our next question from @Kyleoctopus, who wants to know: Is Will Kirby going to talk to the jury again this year?
Well I just say expect the unexpected. For those of you who want to see Will Kirby again, you’re gonna have to tune in to see if your wish comes true. And for those of you who don’t care for him, well, take it up with the executive producers. I’m not saying if you are seeing him or if you are not.
And we have our last question here, and this comes from last year’s winner @AndyHerren, who wants to know: Can I be your date to the finale?
Any time! Just clear it through my husband first, but yes, you tell my husband that I say yes, and if he says yes, you and I will be arm in arm.