'Big Brother' Bosses Preview New Twists in Season 20

Executive producer Allison Grodner tells The Hollywood Reporter this summer's cast is "much stronger than last year."
Sonja Flemming/CBS

Big Brother 20 has arrived. 

On Wednesday night, Julie Chen will kick off the cycle with a brand-new cast of 16 characters set to battle for 99 days in hopes of walking away with the $500,000 grand prize.

To celebrate the show's milestone season, there will be some familiar faces in the audience. Each past season of the summer reality series will be represented by a former player. 

Big Brother executive producer Allison Grodner tells The Hollywood Reporter, "Right from the get-go, you're going to see familiar faces from the show in the audience. We have nods to the previous seasons in the set design of our opening night competition and throughout the season, we'll be welcoming back some of the legends and favorites to participate."

Joined by executive producer Rich Meehan, the two principals of Fly on the Wall Entertainment talk to THR about the upcoming season, why the new cast is "much stronger" than the season before it and how America's involvement will come into play. Says Meehan, "Someone who maybe isn't the most-liked can still be the most-trending."

What were the conversations like ahead of season 20 when deciding on this summer's twist?

Rich Meehan: Every season we go into a huge amount of development. When we were developing the "Den of Temptation" we also had this broad idea simultaneously and we really loved it — what the house could look like and the idea of technology taking over. We were ahead of technology when it comes to Big Brother, and now technology has caught up with us. It's a fun and current world to play in. 

How will the "BB App Store" play out?

Allison Grodner: It's a series of questions, and the houseguests are the answers to those questions. The audience gets a chance to choose which houseguest best answers the question, ultimately resulting in someone trending and getting the most responses. In that case, they are rewarded for getting the most clicks, and the person with the least amount of attention and who is mentioned the least will receive one of the punishments called a "Crap App."

Meehan: There are "Power Apps" and "Crap Apps." The important thing, too, is the questions aren't all necessarily great. It could be: "Who has you screaming at the television the most?" Someone who maybe isn't the most-liked can still be the most-trending.

Grodner: Like last year, someone like Josh [Martinez] might have been trending, but it wasn't because he was the most liked houseguest. It was because he was the most talked-about.

What are you looking forward to most about season 20?

Meehan: It's always about pushing the envelope, trying new things and keeping the core of what works strong with twists and turns along the way — and really finding a great cast of unique and fun people. 

It's an all-new cast this season. What was the decision-making behind that?

Grodner: For the past couple of years, we've had people return. It's nice to have a fresh start for BB20 and to have a brand-new cast of people and brand-new cast of potential "all stars" in the future. 

Meehan: Big Brother is still going strong so we didn't feel the need to do an "all star" cast to generate interest. 

Grodner: Our goal is to build the "all stars" for the next 10 years.

Which season does this new cast remind you of the most?

Meehan: It's back to basics in the fact that it's all new houseguests, but we're still going to have twists and turns. We're 99 days now — it's a long run — so to keep the show fun and the houseguests on their toes we like to have the twists along the way.

Grodner: The vibe of this group of people reminds me of season 12. It had a lot of interesting characters and distinct personalities, but there was this sense of camaraderie among them and it still gave the drama and the comedy. 

Is there another Brigade brewing?

Grodner: There are certainly some bros in the house. (Laughs.)

Meehan: I would say it's different than season 12 so far, because that was the season of the Brigade having their secret alliance. But everyone else in the house thought there were no alliances going on, whereas this house, everyone is playing the game. There are lots of alliances happening already [and] there are some twosomes starting to solidify. Strategically, it's stronger than 12, but character-wise it's similar.

Grodner: That's true. I was thinking more of the tone of the cast than I was the gameplay. 

Season 19 was criticized for the houseguests lacking any gameplay. What lessons do you think this new cast learned from that?

Grodner: Don't blindly follow one person, (Laughs.) Everyone in casting mentioned it. Everyone respected Paul [Abrahamian's] game no doubt, but they were very frustrated with how everyone blindly followed him and couldn't think for themselves. We've got a very different cast in the way the gameplay has already started. It's much, much different. There isn't just one leader.

How will this season honor the other seasons before it?

Grodner: Right from the get-go you're going to see familiar faces from the show in the audience. We have nods to the previous seasons in the set design of our opening night competition and throughout the season we'll be welcoming back some of the legends and favorites to participate.

How do the three challenges play out on premiere night?

Grodner: There are competitions that are played that are very different from anything we've ever done before. You'll also see a result that's different than anything that has happened before. They're playing for unprecedented power and punishments. It did lead to some interesting divides in the house. 

As it stands now, who has a strong chance of winning the game?

Grodner: Remind me of who we said last year?

Megan Lowder, Matt Clines and Christmas Abbott. 

Grodner: That's hilarious. (Laughs.) We're really good at this!

For season 17, you predicted Steve Moses doing well. 

Grodner: We did? OK then last year, we just sucked. But honestly, if Christmas had not broken her foot ... we were really off on Matt, though. Listen, we have some really strong players in this house, much stronger than last year. Tyler is much stronger than anyone may think. Swaggy C definitely has a good shot here. And on the female side, Angela and Bayleigh [could] go the distance. Winston is so likable and could go unnoticed for a while. 

Meehan: Haleigh could go far. Scottie could potentially go really far if he doesn't get branded as the superfan. He's smart and is more athletic than people give him credit for. There are a lot of strong alpha males and alpha females in the house, and I think for the first half of the season, they'll be battling each other. 

Grodner: No one is flying under the radar. 

Have there been any fights yet?

Grodner: This week is interesting because it's the longest week before an eviction.

Meehan: People are getting annoyed with each other.

Grodner: There are definitely some divides.

What showmances are forming?

Grodner: We've already had our first kiss! It happened last night. Rich didn't even know, I just told him.

In honor of season 20 and looking back at former players, in the future, who do you want to see play the game again that hasn't played it twice?

Meehan: Vanessa [Rousso] would be great to see again. She's a really great gamer who could come in and do some real damage her second time around. I'd like to see Jessica [Graf] from last season play again. We really thought she was an amazing gamer. Her instincts were incredible. She really knew what was happening all along. 

Grodner: We haven't seen Victor [Arroyo] come back, that's a possibility.

What has been the worst move ever made in the game?

Grodner: Lawon [Exum] inventing a magic power in his head that if he got himself evicted he would come back.

What has been your favorite moment of all time?

Grodner: It's like picking our favorite children! Everyone talks about Dan [Gheesling's] funeral, that's obviously a stand-out. 

Meehan: The melodrama of Rachel [Reilly] and Brendon [Villegas] and the many moments that made up their relationship. Last season, Jessica and Cody [Nickson] had melodramatic moments as well.

Grodner: Paul getting everyone to throw a running competition to a woman in a cast. Anything from season 12 with Britney [Haynes] in the diary room. Watching [Evel] Dick and Daniele [Donato] and their relationship play out in season eight was fascinating.

Meehan: Dr. Will Kirby and Mike Boogie with Chill Town and naming one of the first alliances, which became a Big Brother tradition.  

Grodner: Derrick [Levasseur] and his gameplay in season 16 was unlike anything else we have ever seen. Zach [Rance] and his meltdown after Frankie [Grande] revealed Ariana Grande was his sister. They're all "only on Big Brother" moments. 

Big Brother premieres at 8 p.m. on CBS. Who is your current season 20 favorite? Chat about your pick in the comments section below. And make sure to stay tuned to the Live Feed for all things Big Brother.