8:30am PT by Brian Porreca
'Big Brother': Julie Chen Previews Season 19's First Live Eviction
Big Brother season 19's first live eviction has arrived.
On Thursday, either Christmas Abbott (yes, like the holiday) or Jillian Parker will walk out the front door, but that doesn't mean they will be this summer's first evictee.
After living in the house for 16 days, the roster of 17 players is now down to 15. First was Cameron Heard's surprise night-one exit when the twist of season 18's Paul Abrahamian coming back into the game was unleashed on the house.
Before yet another exit takes place, The Hollywood Reporter dialed up host Julie Chen to find out who's next. "Christmas is more of a firecracker in the house. There are more people who feel strongly one way or another about her. That's what you want you want for entertainment," she says.
Below, Chen opens up about evictees potentially returning to the game this summer, the status of CBS All Access' Big Brother: Over the Top and how this might be the year for the show's first-ever Emmy nomination.
How would you rate this season's temptation twist compared to others from past seasons?
It might be the best ever. If you're a houseguest, you're faced with these tough choices that may or may not put a target on your back. It all depends on if you can keep a secret and you also don't know if the consequence will poorly affect your own game. We've never really done something all season long like this. There have been temptations along the way, but this is coming at you from all sides, and I think the houseguests love it. You can always tell if something works well by their reaction, and this really infuses a new level of excitement into the game. We're keeping them on their toes.
During Big Brother: Over the Top you said you would like to see the same involvement America had brought to the broadcast version. With America voting for the Den of Temptation twist this season, do you see the show heading toward having the public be more and more involved?
Now that we have the Den of Temptation, we don't need the same level of involvement with America this season as we had with BBOTT. There wouldn't be as much friction or drama. Right now everyone is playing their social game and trying to get votes and campaign, and they're very concerned with how they look to each other rather than playing up to cameras. The Den of Temptation [vote] is fair because you can only get it once, and America doesn't know if the temptations in week three, four or five are going to be something better that they wish they gave someone earlier in the season. It's very fair and it's intriguing.
What is the status for a second season of Big Brother: Over the Top?
It's being talked about, but nothing is confirmed yet. We [have to] figure out how not to hurt the mother ship and get it done even better than last time. Last time was really good content wise, but we could have done a better job making it easier for people to find it. I'm not that savvy for my age group, but I know younger people are savvy and were like, "It wasn't that easy to find." That's how I felt; now I don't feel like such a dope. We have to make the systems work a little bit better.
Last year it premiered a week after season 18's finale wrapped. In terms of keeping it separate from the flagship, Big Brother, how will timing play into it for the next season?
On one hand the fans are so rabid and if they're already subscribing it makes sense to keep the subscribers locked in, but on the other hand I do wonder if there is fatigue from the show. We've been on for 19 seasons, and I've always thought in large part because you miss us during the year! I remember when ABC started oversaturating the market with Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? people got fatigue. I don't know the science in figuring out the right recipe and when to put it on and how long to put it on for, but my guess is someone will know how to do it the right way.
In terms of America's vote this season, how do you respond to fans who say returning player Paul Abrahamian has an unfair advantage?
If anything he walked in with a huge target on his back, and Big Brother at its core is just about human emotion. People are going to get angry and jealous. They're going to want to get him out even more.
Was Paul the right player to bring back this year? Who else from recent seasons would you have liked to see come back?
He was the right person to bring back. I had mixed feelings about him last season, but this time I love the guy. When I first heard that Paul was coming back I was like, "All right, whatever." And now I'm like, "I love this kid." I wouldn't mind seeing Derrick [Levasseur] coming back also. He would have a target on his back every single week, but he would be someone interesting to watch.
Would you rather see a newbie win this season or Paul?
Right now my answer would be a newbie. With Paul my gut reaction is that he's so good at the game that if he won I would feel bad for all of the newbies.
The sentiment from fans is that this season is more entertaining than season 18. Do you agree with that?
Wholeheartedly. It's like, "Oh my God, this house is crazy!" Everyone is interesting to watch. As a group, the houseguests are one of the best groups we have ever had, and if you're going to have a great cast, you're going to have a great show.
Christmas and Jillian are currently on the block together. In terms of keeping that entertainment up throughout the season, who do you want to see go home? Why?
I would say Jillian because Christmas is more of a firecracker in the house. There are more people who feel strongly one way or another about her. That's what you want you want for entertainment.
Do you see Thursday's evictee or Cameron being able to come back in a battle-back situation?
Expected the unexpected! I don't know what Cameron is doing right now. (Laughs.) I want to see that happen because in the unofficial pool on opening night before anyone enters the house just looking at the pictures, a bunch of us put five dollars in to say who is going to take it. I put my five dollars on Cameron! I would love to see him back in the house.
Megan had to leave unexpectedly. What's your reaction to her exit?
Big Brother is more of a social game than winning challenges, and you have to be a certain personality to say, "I just met you people. I don't care what you say to me and what you think of me. I'm here to win it for my family and my own life." I wish her the best. Anytime someone has to leave for a personal reason, that's their choice to make. It's life and life happens.
Who in the house are you currently rooting for? Who are you not the biggest fan of?
I'm not the biggest fan of Cody. He's drunk with power, but doesn't everyone get that way when they win HoH? He knows he's very strong and good at competitions and that he can be intimidating. He is playing it smart by just staring at everyone by just keeping his mouth shut, so he's probably actually a very good player, but I don't like his attitude. He's feeling himself a little too much. I really like Mark. He's a big teddy bear who is a genuine person and someone you want to root for. And I like Alex's boldness and high energy.
What is your husband, CBS chairman, president and CEO Les Moonves' thoughts on this season?
He loves this group of houseguests, and he's a critical person. It's too early for him to say one person he likes because he's only watched the first episode and you can't judge after the first episode.
Emmy nominations are announced next week. You've talked about the show being snubbed year after year, but is this the year for Big Brother's first nomination?
I'm hopeful! I know in the past I've joked that we never do and we never will, but for some reason I feel like there could be change in the air. Maybe it's our year. (Laughs.)