Quel surprise: Omarosa Manigault has already made an impact on her fellow houseguests.
In preparation for tonight’s Celebrity Big Brother debut, we asked executive producer Allison Grodner to explain what she has in store for the 11 celebrities — Manigault, Mark McGrath, Shannon Elizabeth, Metta World Peace, Brandi Glanville, James Maslow, Keshia Knight Pulliam, Marissa Jaret Winokur, Ariadna Gutierrez, Chuck Liddell, and Ross Mathews — who entered the house on Jan. 31.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So….why did you cast Omarosa?
ALLISON GRODNER: Oh you know, she was available.
What was the process like, trying to find celebrities to do this?
We thought it would be a difficult thing to ask celebrities to leave their lives for what ultimately amounts to about 30 days. That’s a big ask. But after all these years we have so many celebrity fans and superfans that we were off to a running start with some of the people.
You mean all 11 have watched the show before?
Almost all. It’s not a house of superfans. Half of our cast are actual, legitimate fans of our show and watched multiple seasons. The other half are new to it. I do know that Metta World Peace did not watch at all and chose not to so he can go in blind and figure it out, which may or may not have been a mistake.
Did any of them have any crazy requests?
Nothing crazy, honestly. We called our counterparts in the U.K. to find out their experiences were with celebrities. We have more games than the other formats. We want the games to be as fair as possible. And we made it clear to the cast — no special treatment.
How is everyone reacting to Omarosa?
I would say it’s surprising. There is no doubt she was polarizing, judging by the reaction to her walking in. Remember we sequestered everyone so they had no idea of the cast. They did not know until they stood on that stage. Certainly the biggest reaction was to Omarosa. But I will tell you this…she’s smart. And she knows her reputation going into this house. She also happens to be a Big Brother superfan. And she is playing to win. It will be surprising to people.
Let’s talk about the structure of Celebrity Big Brother. What exactly will be condensed? How will it work?
We are calling this Big Brother on hyperdrive. We are doing this over the course of three weeks so that’s why we only have 11 people in the house. We’ll definitely get down to two finalists in the finale, which means that at least two people a week will be evicted. There will be multiple game cycles over the course of the broadcast week. It will be really crazy. The game will move so fast.
Will the games be similar to what we’ve seen before?
Absolutely. Even bigger. And because of that, the HGs will have much a smaller yard space than usual at night. This is interesting because for the first time we will have people in the house who probably will never see the sun for three weeks. That’s because we are pulling out all the stops. These competitions will be familiar to fans but they will be supersized and with their own twists and turns that make them suitable for our celebrity cast.
I’m assuming the celebrities will be sharing rooms.
Oh yeah. This is Big Brother through and through. It’s just happening at a faster pace. There were a few concessions made for privacy reasons. There will be no camera in the bathroom stall and instead of a curtain dividing the shower in the bathroom, it’s a wall. But that’s it. Other than that, these celebrities are in here as roommates.
You took the camera over the toilet out?
We did. That was one of the biggest concerns we faced with the cast. But they have been warned that if anything else goes on in there, if more than one person goes in there, then it’s our prerogative to return the camera at some point. It’s not going to happen. They all like their privacy in the bathroom stall. They’ve been in the house for almost a week and they’ve been good about that bathroom.
Can you tease some of the challenges? Will be they getting wet and slimed?
Absolutely. Like I said, this is Big Brother through and through from night one. You can expect a bigger-than-life spectacular competition that involves all kinds of messy perils.
Will there be slop?
Yes. There’s not a have-not room, just because of time. And there isn’t time to put people on slop for a week. It doesn’t make sense for the game. Rest assured, though, they will experience slop at some point during the game.
Who has surprised you so far?
I am honestly impressed by all of them. I’m so impressed by how they jumped in and embraced what Big Brother is all about. The seclusion from the outside world, the alliances. The game started immediately. We have some really strong women in the house. I think that is showing very quickly while the men are still trying to figure it out. I’m really impressed by Chuck Liddell, who seems to be completely out of his comfort zone. He’s playing hard. Even Metta who came in with no knowledge, has been able to adapt. There are already clear lines being drawn.
Does this group swear any more than average BB players?
Honestly? A helluva of lot less.
Did they try to bring in a ton of clothes?
That probably was our biggest issue on the women’s side. I would call it Suitcase-Gate. They were creative like you wouldn’t believe. Shannon read those rules but tried to work around it by attempting to bring clothes in what I thought looked like a body bag. It was very clever. It’s not because we are trying to be mean and don’t want them to wear lots of beautiful outfits. We have a reality in the house. It’s a certain size with a certain amount of storage space and it just can’t hold all of that. That’s why we restrict everyone to one very large suitcase. So Shannon took it to, ‘well, it can be a container that holds a Christmas tree.’
Celebrity Big Brother debuts at 8 p.m. ET tonight on CBS and will conclude Feb. 25.
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