The season 16 champ also has a radical change to the game he'd like to see.
Big Brother

Leading up to the Big Brother season 24 premiere on July 6, EW caught up with 10 former U.S. winners from the show with a set of questions designed to have them look back at their time in the house as well what life has been like since leaving it. Our second entry is with the champion of season 16. (Also check out our first interview, with season 1 winner Eddie McGee.)

Derrick Levasseur is pretty much ecstatic about his experience on season 16 of Big Brother. And why shouldn't he be? The then-30-year-old police officer was never nominated for eviction, cruising to the $500,000 prize with seeming ease in one of the franchise's most dominant runs ever. Plus, he never embarrassed himself with his behavior… something that is shockingly easy for Big Brother contestants to do.

Not only did Derrick come out of Big Brother a well-respected winner, but he parlayed that victory into a successful TV and podcast career (in addition to a private investigator company he launched). As the season 16 champ will tell you, "I am so blessed to have been on Big Brother. It absolutely changed the course of my life."

But there is one big regret Derrick does have from the game, and in involves his Big Brother BFF and Hitman alliance partner Cody Calafiore. "My biggest regret is not winning that final HOH," Derrick tells EW. But why? Who cares? You still won the game! Explains Derrick: "I would have loved to have taken him, won the game, and then have people not have to turn around and say, 'Oh, Cody's an idiot.'"

Derrick Levasseur on 'Big Brother'
Derrick Levasseur on 'Big Brother'
| Credit: Sonja Flemming/CBS

In the second interview in our Big Brother winners series, Derrick explains why Cody "really got a bad rap" for bringing Derrick to the end after he won the final Head of Household competition, while also diving deep into his own "mastermind edit," the radical change he would make to the game, and what it would actually take to get him back in the house.

ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, can you give us an update on what you've been up to since last appearing on Big Brother?

DERRICK LEVASSEUR: Since being on Big Brother, I had another daughter. Her name's Peyton. She was born in February of 2016. She's now 6 years old, and Tenley's 9. After the show, I went on to do a couple TV shows on Discovery Channel. I opened my own private investigation firm called Break Investigative Group, which is still in business today. I retired from the police department in 2017 when I opened the firm, so I'm officially retired from law enforcement.

Currently, my day-to-day is running the PI firm. I also host a true-crime podcast with my cohost Stephanie Harlowe, called Crime Weekly. We come out with a new episode every week. And we just started our own coffee line. It's called Criminal Coffee Company, and it's a true-crime-themed coffee that we've sourced from Central and South America. So we have coffee beans from Columbia, from Honduras, from Guatemala, from all over the place, and we put a true-crime twist on it.

I also host a podcast called The Winners Circle, which is about reality TV, and it's with Cody Calafiore. That comes out during Big Brother. We always interview the houseguests when they get evicted.

Besides winning, what is your proudest moment from playing Big Brother?

Honestly, I think it's just the way I played. I obviously played Big Brother in a way where I was deceptive, but I always tried to consider the fact that, at the end of the day, we're still humans.

I went in there and I didn't completely remove myself from who I am in the outside world. I kept most of my morals and my character in there. So not only did I win, but I'm proud of the way I won. It's something I can hold my head up high about. I'm not embarrassed by the way I conducted myself. I went in there with an agenda, which was to provide a better life for Jana and Tenley, but to do it in a way where I represented my police department well and represented my family well, so that regardless of whether I won or not, it was something I could look back on and not be embarrassed about.

What is your biggest regret from your Big Brother experience in terms of anything that happened in the house?

My biggest regret is not winning that final HOH. I would have loved to have won that final HOH, taken Cody, and not have him have to deal with what he had to deal with after our season, because he really got a bad rap even though anybody who knows Big Brother knows how incredible of a player he was. That's why I was so glad he went back on All-Stars and proved to everyone that's how great he really is.

So that was one thing I would have loved to do, because he is like a brother to me. People think I threw that final HOH. I tried to win it. It went down to a final question, a bonus question, and he beat me by 100 seconds. People doubt that I would have taken him. That's completely false. I would have taken him, without a doubt. I would have loved to have taken him, won the game, and then have people not have to turn around and say, "Oh, Cody's an idiot."

I don't think he cares too much anymore though, because obviously he's an All-Stars winner. He's won his money. So good things happen to good people. In that case, karma really came back and paid off for him.

Derrick Levasseur on 'Big Brother'
Derrick Levasseur on 'Big Brother'
| Credit: Cliff Lipson/CBS via Getty Images

What are your thoughts about how you were portrayed on the network episodes of the show?

I'm so blessed. They took care of me so much. If anything, they made me look better than I even was. They really did give me the mastermind edit. It was a fairy-tale season. So I would not change a single thing about how they edited me on this show. I've seen some bad edits, and I was very concerned about that going in there because let's be honest, they can make you look however they want to make you look. They can't put words in your mouth, but they can definitely stack the deck against you. I was fortunate enough to be one of the people who I think got a pretty damn good edit. So I'm very thankful to the BB producers.

What are your feelings on the Diary Room and the interviews you would do in there?

You dread it because a lot of the times they're trying to meet a deadline for when the episode has to be put in the can. So they're waking you up at 5 or 6 in the morning to get one sound bite from you. So when you're in there, you hate it. But I understand why you got to do it. I do think sometimes they can cut a small segment of a big conversation, and it may not be exactly what you meant for it to be.

But you have to understand when you go in there that you're part of a television show, ultimately. It is a game, but it's a TV show, and they got to spice some things up. So there were even moments where they would ask me what my strategy is going forward and who I'm loyal to; I would tell them right out, "I'm loyal to Cody, but I'm also a big fan of Victoria's and Caleb." They would cut out the Cody part but keep the Victoria and Caleb because it let people think, "Ooh, there's a chance he could betray Cody," even though there never was. But I understand why they do it. And again, I knew that going in there.

What was it like coming back to regular society after being in the house? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?

It was a big adjustment. I was undercover for a long time, but never 90, 95 days. When you come out of there after not being able to watch TV, read a book, see your family, there's a big adjustment. I remember for the first week or two, I was waking up anxious about where my microphone pack was and looking for it, and [it was weird] being able to go eat what I want or if I want to go for a ride to go have some fast food or something.

All the luxuries that you take for granted as a normal human being that get stripped from you when you go in there, you really do appreciate. That's just the surface-level stuff. There are people in my life that I didn't necessarily always make the effort to reach out to, and I thought about them so much when I was in there. It definitely put a new emphasis on family, friends, and spending time with them, because when I was in there I honestly did not miss my cell phone.

I didn't miss the things that you think you would miss. I missed the conversations and the good memories we made. I'm proud to tell you that six years later, whatever it's been, that's still a huge emphasis for me. Big Brother absolutely changed my perspective on life, being in there, because it basically puts a pause on your real life and allows you just to reflect on what I had done up to that point, how I was living my life, what I could do to make it better.

Derrick Levasseur on 'Big Brother'
Derrick Levasseur on 'Big Brother'
| Credit: Johnny Vy/CBS via Getty Images

Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got out of the house where you regretted going on the show?

Honestly, no. I've made some decisions in my life that were very impactful. I can sit here and honestly tell you going on Big Brother was one of the best decisions I've ever made in my life, aside from my kids and stuff. Because I was someone who got on the show, but then in the last minute called CBS and said, "Sorry, I can't go." My daughter was having problems. I just was like, "This is a sign I shouldn't go."

And then I got a call from [then-Big Brother casting head] Robin Kass. Robin said something to me that stuck with me till this day, which was, "Derrick, I've never had someone go on the show and regret going on, but I've had a lot of people call me and regret not going on when they had the opportunity." I was just like, "You know what? You're right. I can always go, if I get there and I hate it or I feel like it's not the right place, I can leave. But if I don't go, I'll never know."

Going on Big Brother changed my life in so many ways, not only monetarily, but it is what got me exposed to the true-crime world. I was fortunate enough to basically travel the world, working on these cold cases. I got to go to L.A. and work on O.J. Simpson! I got to go to Hawaii twice and investigate cold cases out there. That never would have happened if it wasn't for Big Brother.

If I hadn't gone, I probably would still be a cop right now, which isn't a bad job. It's very admirable, but making not a lot of money, working overtime, not getting to see my kids as much, where now I own multiple businesses, my kids are set financially, and I've been able to experience things the last eight years that I never would have experienced if it wasn't for Big Brother.

Whom do you still talk, text, or email with the most from your season?

I talk to Cody Calafiore the most, obviously. I talk to Caleb Reynolds a ton and Zach Rance a bunch. I talk to Frankie Grande a ton. I've met up with him numerous times when I've been filming out in L.A.. He and his family are always very hospitable. I actually was auditioning for Breaking Homicide. I went out there and ended up staying at Ariana Grande's house with Frankie, and Ariana was great.

You're sitting in a house watching a movie with an international pop star and you're like, "What is my life, dude?" I talk to Victoria here and there. She just got married. No ill will towards anybody from my season.

Do you still watch Big Brother, and if so, what's your favorite season you were not on, and why?

There are two answers because, as a season, it's Big Brother 20. I thought Big Brother 20 was just like Big Brother 16. It had everything. It had good characters. It had a good strategist. It had good competitions. It had a little drama. But overall, it was like summer camp. You wanted to hang out with those people. It was a great cast.

But I was living vicariously through Cody on Big Brother All-Stars. I know it wasn't the best season to watch. It had its ups and downs. But seeing him do what he did for me and changing my life and seeing someone who I always wished that I could have done more for him after the show because he, literally, with one decision changed my family's entire future — seeing him go on there, play as well as he did, and then come out with the win, I truly felt like I won.

That night, I had the same level of adrenaline that I had when I won, honest to God. I couldn't have been more happy. I had the opportunity to go on that season. I turned it down for a lot of reasons, mostly my family. I could not have dreamt a better outcome. I would have preferred him winning over myself because I'd already gotten a win. It was, for me, a highlight in Big Brother history. I lost more sleep watching his season than I did my own.

Derrick Levasseur on 'Big Brother'
Derrick Levasseur on 'Big Brother'
| Credit: Cliff Lipson/CBS via Getty Images

Who's one player from another Big Brother season you wish you could have played with or against, and why?

I'm going to go with Jeff Schroeder just because I've become close with him and Jordan after the show, and he's someone I always looked up to because he didn't win the game, but I liked the way he played. I tried to play a lot like him. I told him that before I went in because he interviewed me for CBS. You could tell that the guy you saw on the show was who he really was. I would have loved to have had an opportunity to play with him, strategize with him, see how he pumps people up with his Jeff Schroeder pump-up speeches that he does.

As far as playing against, I always get compared to the Dans, the Wills, the Danielle Reyeses of the world. If I were ever to go back again, I would want to go back where we would get that answer finally to see the winners all get together in the house. Never mind what season we played on or who we played against, let's just play against each other and see what happens. For me as a competitor, that would be pretty cool to go against the best and see where I stack up.

If you could make one change to any aspect of Big Brother, what would it be, and why?

I would prefer to see something where all players, just like HOH, get to play in the veto. It would decrease the potential for a prearranged plan to go into effect where they all are going to go after this one person. It would lessen the odds that someone who's on the block could win. I just think it would bring more value to the game.

I don't know if it would be as entertaining, but I think it would be more like Survivor in the sense where every week, ultimately, you're in control of your own destiny. That's something that I'd personally like to see. You don't have nobody to blame but yourself if you go home because you at least have one opportunity, even though it's slim with all those people playing, you have an opportunity to play to keep yourself there in the house.

I just think that it's time for a change because you literally can have the best player to ever play the game in there and, if the house has decided we can't beat him or her, all they have to do is not draw their token and they're going home. That's it. They have no recourse.

Yeah, you can say, "Oh, social game. If you have a better social game, you can save yourself." Listen, you can have a great social game, but if you're winning every comp that you get, they're going to vote you out. I'd like to see them try that and see how it goes. I don't think it would hurt to change it up a little bit.

What did you do with your prize money from winning the game?

I came back home and I bought my wife a brand-new car because I wanted to say thank you for basically holding down the fort, raising a 18-month-old girl while I was gone. So that was the first thing I did. My present to myself was a hot tub. I never had a hot tub in my life. I grew up an inner-city kid and I wanted a hot tub. The rest of the money I threw right into investments. It was at a very good time. So I was able to make some more money that way.

To be completely transparent, I don't know how much of it is in there, but I still have a lot of it left because, again, with the opportunities that I got after the show between the new business ventures and going on some other TV shows, you make more money and you're able to put more away. As far as I know, the Big Brother money's still in there collecting interest.

As you know, after taxes, it's not half a million dollars. So you got to be very careful with it. I have two big college funds for both of my daughters. They're going to go to any school they want, and they won't have to worry about the financial element of it because of Big Brother. I am so blessed to have been on Big Brother. It absolutely changed the course of my life.

Finally, would you play again if asked?

People are like, "Why won't you go back on?" Part of it is because my first experience was so amazing. I don't want to taint that. It is one of the highlights of my life. I know if I go back, it could never be as good. Even if I won, it could never be as good. So it's something that I did. It was a bucket-list thing. I had literally the fairy-tale experience. I was voted onto Team America. I won the game. I made some really good friends. It was a cool opportunity before my kids were too old. Now it's back to being a dad and working hard and working on the next things to create generational wealth for my kids.

And what would I be going there for? What am I trying to prove? I love the way I played the first time around. I'm not trying to be the greatest Big Brother player of all time. Whatever people think of me, they're going to think of me, even if I go back on and win again. If I go back on and win again, they'll say, "Oh yeah, but you didn't have to do this, so this one's still better than you."

All that said, if it's an all-winners season, I have to go. They call me tomorrow and they say, "Hey, we're doing it. It's all winners. No bulls---. No second chances. No filling in people because they were entertaining. It's all winners: Dan, Will, all the best players. You name it, they're there. You coming or you not?" If I don't go, I'm going to be embarrassed. I got to go. You know what? If I finish 16th, that means I'm the 16th-best Big Brother player, and I'm cool with that.

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