By Dalton Ross
August 21, 2020 at 01:49 PM EDT
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What a difference a year makes. In 2019, Nicole Anthony made it all the way to finale night before being eliminated in third place on season 21 of Big Brother. This year, the fan favorite couldn’t make it past week two, even though nobody in the house seemed to want her to go. While one side of the house was pushing for Head of Household Memphis to put Janelle on the block instead and eliminate Big Brother’s only four-time player, and the other side of the house wanted to see the other Nicole (Franzel) walk out the door, Memphis left the nominations the same, and the pride of Strong Island was evicted in a 10-2 vote.

Why didn’t Nicole believe Janelle was actually trying to save her? Does she think she’d still be in the house if she had listened to Memphis and used her Safety Suite pass? And whom does she think is playing the best game so far? We asked Nicole all that and more when she called into EW Live (SiriusXM, channel 109) and here’s what the All-Star had to say.

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ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, Nicole, do you think you cried more last night on stage or on finale night last year?

NICOLE ANTHONY: Definitely finale night last year, and those tears are the ones I want to remember. Last night, it was not too good.

I imagine crying with a mask on must be awkward and difficult too, right? Not only that, but you have to take the glasses off or they’re probably fogging up, and now you've got the mask on.…

Yeah, I already anticipated that I would have to take my glasses off to talk to Julie, ‘cause I was gonna be all fogged up. And then I started crying and you can't wipe your nose. So then the mask is just grabbing all of that, and then you don't know what to do with your hands. There was a lot going on in the facial region.

Julie couldn't even give you a hug because of the social distancing!

And that's so tough because I'm such a hugger, and that's my impulse when I walked down and was like, “Julie!” And then when I went to leave, it's just an impulse to be affectionate and hug people. That was really stinky that I couldn't do that. I love Julie.

Let's get into what happened in the house and in the game. Janelle and Kaysar were working hard to keep you, yet you did not believe them. Why?

Initially, I was like, “Yeah, I'm working with them. Of course, they'd have my back. Why wouldn't they?” And as people come up to you in that house, and as people say to you, “They're snakes. They set you up. They're supposed to be best friends with Memphis, but you still got put up. They did it on purpose” — you know, you only have what you're being told and what you're perceiving and what you're thinking.

And the more you think about it, the more you're like, “Oh man, I think I was set up. They're smart players. Maybe they did set me up.” So that starts going around and around your head. And then you start convincing yourself, “Yeah, they are against me.” And it wasn't until literally yesterday when I'm like, “Why would they be campaigning for me then? This doesn't make any sense.” And you start to have the clarity that you initially had, but then got misconstrued as the week went on.

You said you felt horrible and owe Janelle apologies up and down, yet you’re the one sitting outside the house.

That's why I felt as though I was the sacrifice, like, “Oh good, Memphis got rid of her and not us.” And that's why I thought they had kind of offered me up: “Oh, Memphis, don't put us up, just put her up, get rid of her.” And that's the thing too: When you're on the block and you know you're going home, you start to think, “Are you campaigning for me? Are you really fighting for me? Or are you just blowing smoke?” And that's where the wheels just keep on spinning out of control.

Let's talk about the campaigning from a few different angles. Da’Vonne told you she was not friends with David, yet she would not vote him out because she did not want to vote an African American out of the game. What was your reaction from a strategic perspective when you heard that, because it kind of shuts down a lot of arguments and deals you can normally make?

Absolutely. Strategically speaking, game-wise speaking, I was very hurt. Because you know, there's a lot of people in house, but when it comes to actually making alliances, I made a final three with her and Kevin. I intended to stick with that all the way to the end. Us three always sat with each other and gave each other what was going around the house, how we felt we were very genuine. And I meant it. And I really thought they meant it. So to hear somebody in your final three that you just created, it's only week two — to hear somebody say to you, “Hey, I'm not going to give you my vote.” And you're thinking, “Oh my gosh, like, you're my final three! I'm taking you to the end if I can!” So it was very frustrating. And I did kind of feel let down in that moment.

Is that when you kind of knew that this was not looking good?

Yeah. You know, when I started questioning Janelle and Kaysar, then I'm like, “Well, I know I have Kevin and Da’Vonne. They’re my final three, that's at least two votes locked.” And when you hear one of your final two people say to you, “You're probably not going to get my vote” — then I'm thinking, “Oh my gosh, I only have Kevin! Where does that leave me?” And that's when I started going to the people who I knew were on the other side, but I figured my pitch is going to be Janelle and Kaysar threw me under the bus. They're my targets. Let's see if those people will come around and maybe I'll get all of their votes. That was my attempt. And it wasn't working.

Where did Enzo’s vote come from? Were you surprised you got that or were you expecting that?

It's funny because, initially, I really [got] along with Enzo. He's somebody I definitely wanted to work with. East Coast, and we get along very well, but I really thought he was in that big alliance. I really thought he was a member of it or kind of like somebody on the outskirts of it. So I wanted to be very cautious what I said to him, ‘cause I know he's close to Cody and it wasn't until probably an hour before the live show that me and Kaysar were talking, and Kaysar was like, “You need Christmas, you need Christmas.” And I was like, “No, it's not Christmas. I need Enzo and Ian.” I think it was my clearest moment in the house. I finally had this clarity that Christmas is not with me, but I'm starting to think Enzo and Ian, and I should have pushed that a little bit more just to see. And I didn't, so getting his vote, not surprising, but it was just like, “Oh, okay. So he was with me." And, you know, hindsight is 2020.

How much harder is it when you are fighting to stay against someone you genuinely like on the block, like you were this week with David? And did you not push harder because it was David sitting next to you?

I would love to say that it didn't impact me, and I played my game and I didn't care, but that would be a lie. And I'm very open. I really, really struggled with that. The second we were next to each other, I didn't even want to register it. I didn't want to think about it. I'm like, “Let's see after the veto what happens,” and when the noms stayed the same, I had a very difficult time coping with that and feeling that I deserved to stay more than David. That's what I struggled with, because I struggled a lot with how he went out really early last season. I got to play my game. He should have the opportunity to play his game and show everybody what he's capable of. And I really struggled. I couldn't campaign against him. I wasn't about to throw him under the bus. I couldn't make up a lie about him. I just couldn't do it. And I do think that was to my own detriment. Whereas if I was sitting next to somebody I wasn't close to, I may have been more likely to, you know, kind of throw them under a few buses.

Personally, I loved the way you were not bullied into wasting your Safety Suite by Memphis. Do you think he still would have put you up if you had done what he said and used up your Safety Suite pass?

I genuinely believe I was going up no matter what. I have no regrets not using my Safety Suite. My dad always taught me not to listen to a man. If they say jump, don't say. “How high?” So just him looking me in the eye and telling me to do that, I'm like, “I don't have to do anything you say.” And also it was my show of faith. You know, it was my, “Hey, I spoke to Janelle and Kaysar. You are good with me. I will not put you up as my show of faith. I will not play Safety and show you I have faith in you. And if I win, you'll be my plus one next week.” That was all my promises.

Memphis is a big guy on ego and stuff, so I thought if I said to him, “Oh, I'm with you” —  I thought that would win him over. And then I do think it was a cop-out to say, “You didn't play Safety. That's why I'm putting you up.” I just think he was going to do it regardless. And even if I played and didn't win, I think that was it. So I think it was just an excuse.

You did see his face on the screen when Julie showed you that alliance of six. How much did that group of six surprise you or not surprise you?

Four of the members did not surprise me. And the two that were leftovers, so to speak, are Memphis and Christmas. But again, like I said, I had that clarity, and that was when I started thinking to myself, “Oh boy, why is Christmas giving me so much pushback about voting for me?” So again, hindsight 2020, that makes sense. Also, I knew Cody and Memphis were very close. Nicole, Dani, Tyler all didn't play their Safety Suite and he didn't nominate them. And that was something that was always in the back of my head. And again, had I taken all my anxiety and emotion, frustration out of it.

I think I would have been able to have clarity and see that whole picture, but maybe because I'm biased toward myself, but I do think it was a waste of an HOH. He's a big guy, he's a competitor, he's a beast. He should have taken out somebody who could rival him later on. There's plenty of people that can. And, I mean, this is all due respect to myself: There's physical comps down the line. He can beat me, but there are some people in that house — David included — that I don't think he's going to be able to beat.

What was so odd about your eviction is that there were a lot of people that really didn't want you to go. I know the vote was 10 to 2, but there were people from Memphis' alliance that wanted Janelle gone, and then other people that wanted to take a shot at the other Nicole. So he kind of did something that no one really wanted him to do.

I agree with that wholeheartedly. And that's why during my final speech before the votes, I was like, "I want to congratulate you my huge hulking beast-like friend for evicting me." It's a little bit of a joke. And will be a little mean here and say I do hope it comes back to burn him in the game.

Which is harder: Making it sooooo close to the end, like you did last time, or going out so early, like you did this season?

Just because I'm so hard on myself, I will say going out early. I have OCD, so going out late, I'm like, “Well, at least I made it all 99 days. I saw it from start to finish.” This time, you say to yourself, “Oh wow, I must have screwed up in many ways if I'm being targeted second.” So I think there's a lot more I messed up. Whereas last year I did mess up in the beginning, but worked through it and got past it. So this year there's a lot more, “Oh man, I messed up.”

Who has played the best game so far in the house?

So far, I would argue Tyler is doing one hell of a job. He is obviously friendly with me and David. We both know him, and that's something I give him a lot of credit for being able to detach himself. I wouldn't be surprised if he threw that veto cause he didn't want to take me or David down. I definitely think he's working with that big group, but he's still mingling and having empathy and compassion and talking to people one-on-one. He separates himself, but he observes, and I think that's going to serve him very, very well in this game.

You were not only sequestered in the Big Brother house, but you had to be sequestered in another house before you went into the Big Brother house. What was that experience like as you were just waiting to play the game?

For me, it's odd now because you have weeks waiting, and then I was only in the house for a few weeks. So it's like, “Oh man, I didn't even pass that amount of time in the Big Brother house.” I wish my ratio was a little more on the Big Brother end. It is a little disheartening, ‘cause you spend all that time amping yourself up. “I got this! It's my confetti! This time these people don't know what they're going to face. I'm Nicole Anthony, get ready, Strong Island coming out!” And then I go home. So you know, it does hurt a little, it stings to have all that prep time and get yourself ready. And then the cards don't fall the way you expect them to or want them to.

Will you go back and watch all the footage and all the episodes? Or do you need a little break to clear the head?

I think I just need to talk to my family first. I need to get myself in a healthy state of mind and then assess from there if I'm going to finish the season formally, or if I'm just going to check in here and there and see what's happening, or if I will actually go back and watch everything. I never watched my last season. Big Brother is a very difficult process for me, so I have to like assess and see how I feel about that.

Why did you not watch your first season of Big Brother?

It's very anxiety-inducing. It's very triggering. It’s tough for me to see myself so young looking and naive looking and knowing I went through so much that season. I don't know if I can process all those emotions again. And that's something that in the house this time I realized I do have to process. There's a lot of things that came up that I was like, “Oh man, I didn't work through that.” So I do think I will watch it soon, ‘cause I do think I need to work through all that.

Make sure to read our weekly Q&A with host Julie Chen Moonves, and for more Big Brother scoop, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.

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