'Big Brother OTT': Julie Chen Talks Final 3 and Bringing America's Vote to Broadcast Version

"Oh, my God, I would love it! I would love to see that! It really did change the game, drastically," Chen tells THR ahead of the first-ever 'Big Brother: Over the Top' finale.
Lisette M. Azar/CBS

The day has arrived. On Thursday night the first-ever Big Brother: Over the Top winner will be crowned.

And one thing is definitely on superfans' minds: Who is host Julie Chen voting for? The Chenbot tells The Hollywood Reporter, "I'll be happy whether it's Jason or Morgan. I really will." 

THR got on the phone with Chen ahead of the finale to find out whether she thought BBOTT was a hit, what changes should be made if it comes back and what she wants to see in Big Brother 19

On BBOTT, your eviction interviews with the houseguests were longer than in some past seasons of regular Big Brother. Did you have a favorite eviction interview?

I liked my conversation with Alex and I liked my conversation with Scott because I felt like they were both pretty forthcoming with information. They see Big Brother for what it is. They felt genuine and they love the game. I appreciate that. That's what you want at the end of the day, not someone who is bitter or throwing in the towel. You want someone who gets it. 

Which eviction surprised you the most? 

It wasn't so much one person's eviction, but it was surprising how heavy-handed America was. And it wasn't clear to me, "Well, which side of the house are you guys rooting for?" it really ping-ponged back and forth from one side to the next side. That was what surprised me the most. I had no clear understanding of what America liked and didn't like about people. 

This season, there was only one showmance. With that, fans got to see the housguests really play the game and strategize. They were playing Big Brother and not preoccupied with finding a soul mate compared to Big Brother 18, where there were three showmances. Are you a fan of showmances or do you hope to see a similar dynamic as this season? 

I love showmances! I love everything about them. I love good ones that America is rooting for like Jeff [Schroeder] and Jordan [Lloyd], I love the Rachel Reilly and Brendon [Villegas] [showmance], where they are suddenly the power couple that everyone loves to hate. I love all aspects of a showmance because it's so interesting to watch how people don't like public displays of affection, especially in front of the other houseguests. It's so funny how in human nature you're truly not happy for people who are falling in love. It kind of sickens you. 

Who had the best kept secret this season? Was it that Alex and Morgan are sisters, Shelby is a lawyer or that Jason was voted in by America?

It was hands down the two sisters. Even people who were close to them. like Shelby, who spent every waking moment with these two sisters, was like, "What!" and then Kryssie didn't even believe Morgan when she revealed it to her! That's a really good secret when you reveal it and people are like, "Oh, my gosh!" That was brilliant. 

A lot of superfans say that this is one of the most entertaining casts we have had in recent years. How do you think the BBOTT cast compares to former houseguests? 

It was funny because they were more interesting as a group because you didn't really have any wallflowers. A lot of it was maybe not so much casting, but because America had such a loud voice, it forced everyone to play the game and show their true colors. Everybody just wants to be liked at the end of the day so no one was allowed to fade into the background.

Do you think any Big Brother legends emerged from the BBOTT cast? 

Jason went in as a legend and is definitely going to come out as one. He looks like he's poised to win this whole thing and that will just up his legendary status that much more if he does. Even if he doesn't win he will come out of it because of his personality, how far he made it and how memorable he was, he's got that legendary status now, for sure. No one can take that away from him. 

You revealed the election results to probably the last people in the country to find out. You didn't really react to their reaction, but what was your reaction to their reaction?

My reaction was, "Oh! So Danielle is smarter than anyone ever gave her credit for. Danielle, she's a smart cookie, no wonder she's getting so far in this game." But then I felt like, "Is she a Trump supporter?" (Laughs.) My reaction was that it truly still affects me when I see these people — they're in a bubble, no question about it. Just like when 9/11 happened with three people left in the game in season two, Will [Kirby], Nicole [Nilson Schaffrich]  and Monica [Bailey]. They were literally the last three people on the planet to know what had happened on 9/11. And literally these individuals were the last people to know the biggest headline of the year. 

Which BBOTT houseguests would you want to see play on a regular season of Big Brother

For sure, Danielle. For sure, Alex, Morgan also, Shelby's interesting, and Scott. For sure, all those people deserve another chance. 

Looking back at the season, do you think America's involvement was ever too much?

I don't know if calling it too much is the right description, but it was powerful! It was something that made me sit up, pay attention and ask myself, "Is it too much?" But who are any of us to say? At the end of the day, Big Brother holds a mirror up to your face if you're a houseguest. Can the clear majority be that wrong if they say we don't like you. Maybe you have to examine like, "What is it about me that's not that likeable? What can I change?" So I liked the heavy hand that America had in it at the end of the day. 

Had America not had so much involvement, would we be looking at a different final three?

That's hard to say because sometimes the best players don't make it to the end because they have a target on their back. I don't necessarily think Kryssie would be sitting there. There are so many variables to consider. Just to take a wild stab at it, if we didn't have America involved so heavily Alex would probably be there because she's a smart player. Probably Alex and Scott. 

Do you think BBOTT worked? Do you want to see it come back next fall?

I loved it! I thought it was a huge hit because of the content. At the end of the day, content is all that matters. The storylines, the characters and the content was amazing. What I would change is some of the logistics of how to watch it and make it more accessible to the average person who is not an online viewer. I would make the access to it more user-friendly. That's the only change I would make. That's my only criticism about BBOTT. The content and production value was great because it's everything you love about Big Brother. What I didn't like about it was that I didn't think it was as easy to figure out how to view it. Even though it's on demand and supposed to be at your fingertips, I struggled sometimes. That stuff I think we can do a better job with. 

What elements to BBOTT do you want to see on the summer version? 

I would love to see all of the heavy involvement America had in the broadcast version.

Oh, really?

Oh, my God, I would love it! I would love to see that! It really did change the game, drastically. It's a wake-up call to people who misbehave in the house! The expression on their faces when suddenly the picture rests on their face on the monitor that they got nominated. It's like, "Gulp!"

In the final three we have, do you think all three have a strong argument on why they should win the game?

Kryssie does not have any argument, let's face it! (Laughs.) I don't think she's going to walk out with any money. Morgan and Jason both have good strong arguments. Jason, probably the strongest. He went in there with the biggest target on his back because with America playing such a big role, people are like, "Let's get the returner out!" because he has a following. But he was a good gamer, he played strategically a brilliant game all the way to the final three. 

So, does Jason have your vote to win the game?

I have no idea between Jason and Morgan. They're both polarizing. You either love, love, love them or they get under your skin. I've been struggling back and forth. I kind of always pull for the underdog and Morgan being a woman and me being a woman, there's part of me pulling for Morgan. And there's part of me pulling for Jason because I felt like he got short changed last time he was on. I'll be happy whether it's Jason or Morgan. I really will.

We have a break from Big Brother until next summer. What do you want to see in Big Brother 19? An all-new cast, mixed?

I always like the brand new people! But then with brand new people, the downside is the people who tested great during the interview process, there's always suddenly a couple of duds! It's like being a high school football captain at home, but then suddenly you get to college you're like one little small fish in a big ocean! 

Who will win the game? Do you want to see an all new cast on Big Brother 19? Sound off in the comments section below. Make sure to tune into THR's Facebook page minutes after the finale for an exclusive interview with the winner where you can ask your questions. And stay tuned to The Live Feed for all things Big Brother.

comments powered by Disqus