10:15am PT by Brian Porreca
'Celebrity Big Brother' Team on New Twists, Casting Anthony Scaramucci
The new season of Celebrity Big Brother is here, and so is The Mooch.
The casting of Anthony Scaramucci marks the second time the CBS reality series has picked a former Trump aide from the White House to move into the Big Brother house.
For the show's inaugural season it was Omarosa Manigault Newman who made headlines after revealing details about her time in the White House. And when she wasn't warning the public that "it's not going to be OK," she made news for her brief hospital stint after an asthma attack.
Shortly after her return to reality TV, she went on to write the explosive tell-all Unhinged: An Insider's Account of the Trump White House.
Executive producer Allison Grodner of Fly on the Wall Entertainment tells The Hollywood Reporter of casting former Trump aides, "There are so many that are available! There are enough now for many seasons."
As for Scaramucci's reason for making his reality television debut by living with a cast of characters that includes Ryan Lochte, Dina Lohan, Tamar Braxton, Kato Kaelin and Tom Green, fellow executive producer Rich Meehan says, "He responded to the fun of the show. Omarosa being on it made him watch and see what it was."
Below, Grodner and Meehan preview the upcoming season, which will introduce new twists and challenges and bring back the opportunity for viewers to shake up the game.
What were the early conversations about who you wanted to see play the game this season?
Rich Meehan: The big thing we wanted to make sure we had is really great diversity of where all the people came from. We wanted athletes, actors, musicians, people that were pop culture newsmakers.
Well, you have that.
Allison Grodner: (Laughs.) We wanted to up the ante this year. That's what we feel like we did and we hope everyone agrees.
Meehan: There's a good mix of people who know the game, some people are new to the game, so we have different approaches coming into the show. We have a really nice balance this season.
The difference is last season you had the experts of the game with Omarosa, Shannon Elizabeth, Marissa Jaret Winokur and Ross Mathews.
Grodner: There were quite a few superfans last season, but Tamar is definitely a superfan, which is terrific. What we have are students of the game who upon learning they were part of Big Brother really jumped in and did a lot of work.
Meehan: They watched a lot of seasons.
Grodner: And did a lot of research, which we were surprised by because that didn't happen with the people who weren't as familiar with it last time. I'd say it's split in terms of the people who are real newbies and the people who are superfans and did the deep dive.
Meehan: It's about their approach. When you're a superfan you might play too hard and get in trouble.
Grodner: The flaw in Shannon's game was she overplayed. It's a blessing and a curse to know the game.
Anthony Scaramucci is now the second former Trump aide moving from the White House to the Big Brother house. Why is this happening?
Grodner: (Laughs.) There are so many that are available! There are enough now for many seasons. He's an interesting character and certainly made headlines with his short stay at the White House. He's a huge personality and we're thrilled to have him.
Will Trump watch this season?
Grodner: How do we know he doesn't?
What was Scaramucci's reasoning for joining the cast?
Grodner: He did it for the experience. He and Omarosa are friends and it probably did help. We were happy with the outcome last year and the celebrities became really good ambassadors for Big Brother. Their experience and their positive experience, including Omarosa's, has helped getting these other celebrities in the house who were feeling a little hesitant.
Meehan: He has an incredible net worth, but he also has a great sense of humor, he's really funny. He responded to the fun of the show. Omarosa being on it made him watch and see what it was.
Grodner: And he's doing that in the house. He's having fun, he's playing the game. There have already been some silly things that have happened and he's been the center of it.
How is his game different from Omarosa's?
Grodner: Well, Omarosa is unique. She is a reality show veteran, so he's his own person in there.
Meehan: She was a super, superfan and really knew every angle of the game and he's learning the show.
What can you tease about what's happening in the game so far?
Grodner: Right off the bat, there are alliances.
Meehan: In the first two episodes alliances are forming.
Grodner: Absolutely and you have sub-alliances. The game is on and they are playing. We were so pleased that the celebrity cast, even with the short version of the show, embraced the game and the lifestyle — and they have once again absolutely and enthusiastically. It was a long night last night of them scheming and strategizing. It takes us a little while to untangle it and explain it to the audience, but it's on!
Who are the early standouts?
Grodner: Scaramucci has such a presence in the house. Kato came in and surprised everyone. Everyone really likes him. He's a very friendly and personable guy.
Meehan: Jonathan [Bennett] is coming on with some strong game early. He's playing pretty hard. He's had a big impact on this first week so we'll see how that goes.
Grodner: Of course no surprise, Ryan has showed himself as quite the competitor. Tamar is in it to win it for sure. She loves the game. Tom is really funny and is probably one of the people who prepped the most. Hopefully he keeps going for a while and doesn't pull a Shannon.
Are Jonathan and Dina aligning because of their connection to Lindsay Lohan?
Grodner: They know one another and at the beginning sat next to one another on the couch during the meet and greet, but it's hard to tell if they will be a duo together or not.
That sounds like they're not going to work together.
Grodner: (Laughs.) We'll see.
Last season, Keshia Knight Pulliam and Metta World Peace asked to be voted out of the game. What has been put in place to discourage the cast from quitting?
Grodner: It's the reaction everyone had to them doing that. This cast watched last year and they don't want to do that themselves.
Meehan: We talked a lot before the game about getting evicted the right way or winning as the two ways you can leave the house. We talked to all of them about that.
Last season viewers voted for the "VIP Veto." How will viewers have influence on the game this season?
Meehan: America will have an opportunity to definitely impact the game. It's not the same thing, but there will be an opportunity for them to impact the game.
Will the voting format for the winner stay the same?
Grodner: Yes. The jury will return to the stage on the finale to place their votes for the winner.
What new competitions will there be this season?
Meehan: There will be some new challenges and classic challenges. On opening night it's a combination of both. There's something we would call a classic and something new. When putting together challenges for the summer we thought about which ones we wanted to save for celebrity so we weren't doing the same ones back-to-back. There will be a lot of fun classics that you didn't get to see last summer that are familiar and some new ones as well.
Celebrity Big Brother is probably not the season to bring this back, but will viewers ever see the torture cage from season six return?
Grodner: I think we're past that. It's a classic, but we've evolved our endurance competitions. That was long!
Will there be safety given to a houseguest on night one?
Grodner: Anything can happen. Expect the unexpected.
Meehan: There are a couple of more twists and turns this season than there were on the inaugural season.
Grodner: People are really going to enjoy it. Everyone is into the Big Brother game and we're having a lot of fun watching them 24/7, so I'm sure everyone else will as well. We learn something new and have to deal with the new challenge always.
Did you know that Rihanna is a fan of the show?
Grodner: No, that's news. How did you find that out?
Reality TV personality Tiffany Pollard posted a video on Instagram saying she would not be on the show and Rihanna commented on the post. Was Pollard ever someone you considered for this season?
Grodner: She was not. We see that fans have her name on social media. Never say never to any castmember at this point. We're hoping this continues to be a special event in the winter and be successful.
You recently produced Will Smith's live stream bungee jump from a helicopter. How did that come to be?
Grodner: We did the Katy Perry project Witness Worldwide for YouTube and that led us to being recommended to Will's team when he wanted to do this for his 50th birthday. It was once again taking a live stream into the world and putting it together and streaming it to a digital platform. It was enormous, just like the Katy Perry project, and it was even more challenging because it was in the middle of nowhere. Literally, in the middle of nowhere. So to take all of that technology in the middle of lightning storms and rain and everything, and more importantly Will Smith survived. We were happy to be able to pull that off.
Season 20 was a favorite for viewers. What was it about that season that made it work so well?
Meehan: It always starts with the cast. That was a really fun cast. It was a very likable group. It's always fun when something different happens. We never really had three really good athletes really dominate the game in a different way. The twist was really fun and the robot got a lot of buzz really early.
Grodner: It was a really great cast. That's always what we hope to start with.
Celebrity Big Brother premieres Jan. 21 on CBS.