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This season of Big Brother is stealing a twist from seasons’ past. While four former players — Nicole Franzel, Da’Vonne Rogers, Frank Eudy, and James Huling — returned to the game, there were two other familiar faces on premiere night.
Season 16 runner-up Cody Calafiore’s brother, Paulie Calafiore, and season 17 mastermind Vanessa Rousso’s sister, Tiffany Rousso, have also stepped into the ring. They’re not the first siblings of former players to play the game though. Who can forget season 15’s “America’s Favorite Houseguest,” Elissa Reilly Slater? She was the first-ever Big Brother kin to get to play the game. And her sister isn’t just any former houseguest. Slater had big shoes to fill as the younger sibling of former winner Rachel Reilly.
So what do they think about this season including two siblings of former players? The Hollywood Reporter caught up with both of them to find out. Keep reading because an hourlong phone call with both Reilly sisters at once led to some laughter, a fun sibling rivalry, and their honest take on Corey Brooks’ controversial comments.
When you found out Tiffany Rousso and Paulie Calafiore were playing this season, what was your immediate reaction?
Reilly: I hope that they tell the house they are related to the vets.
Slater: I just couldn’t believe it. I just thought it was so cool that they were going to put more siblings in the house because I was the only one thrown in there all by myself and I feel like if I had one more person that I could really connect with I could have played a totally different game. I was really happy that there were two of them. Paulie may have an advantage because Cody was loyal to a fault to Derrick [Levasseur] so people probably think, “Well, they’re loyal. I’m sure Paulie’s the same way,” so they may keep him just for that reason.
Have you talked at all with Vanessa and Cody?
Reilly: I talked to Vanessa. It’s different with sisters. So I called Vanessa and was like, “Hey girl, I just want you to know I got your back if you need to talk about anything. I know it’s going to be really hard. Some times are going to really suck and you’re going to want to get in your TV and just kick people out and win a competition for your sister, but don’t worry, you will get through it.” It’s just way harder when you know what they’re going through. So Vanessa and I talked about it and she’s so cute, she’s texting me during the last show, “Oh my God, if Tiffany is the first one gone, I’m so nervous! Do you know anything?” And I was like, “I wish, I knew!”
Rachel, did you watch the live feeds constantly when Elissa was in the house?
Reilly: I watched the live feeds a lot when Elissa was in the house, but then I would get really upset and I couldn’t watch the live feeds. I would have Brendon [Villegas] watch them for me and he would tell me everything that was going on. I would get so frustrated. I want to go in and win a stupid HoH and save her! It’s the hardest thing to watch the live feeds especially when people talk about your sibling because that’s your best friend and they’re only going on the show because of you. With Elissa, I wanted her to go on the show. I don’t know, Elissa might have a different version of that story, but I feel like I pushed her to go on the show. I was like, “You’d be so good!” I feel like it was my fault she was in that house and that it was my fault that they were attacking her.
Slater: I could feel the same way that she felt because I had to watch her for two seasons! Rachel, imagine how I felt watching you because even though you’re my big sister, your first season was really rough. It was really hard because 80 percent of the commentary that was about houseguests was about Rachel on season 12. I would get so mad! I wanted to do the same thing. I wanted to go in that house and just be like, “You don’t even know my sister! She is not those things that you say! She’s super smart and she’s really playing this game better than you guys.” It definitely pulls out a whole new dimension when we both get to play. I’m sure Cody and Vanessa are both feeling that.
Elissa sat on the nomination block week one. Cody’s brother sits in that same seat. Elissa, what was going through your head at that time? And Rachel, how mad would you have been if she was evicted week one?
Slater: I would have been so mad if I was evicted week one, but honestly when I was in the house, I was so overwhelmed that the only reason that I had the energy and fight to stay was because I knew so many people were supporting me. That encouraged me for sure. I was like, “Man, it would be really embarrassing to go week one!”
Slater: But week one was really hard for me. I was so emotional and so stressed I was kind of like, either way. I want to stay in and play this game, but I just felt like I didn’t have a chance from the first week.
Reilly: When Elissa was on the block the first week, I was embarrassed. (Laughs.) I was hyping her up. I was like, “She’s my sister. She’s going to be a comp beast!” And I had just won season 13 so it was one year in between. So if she goes home week one, what the heck! That’s so disappointing. I just remember I told her, “You have to go in and you have to tell them you’re my sister. You have to win the first HoH.” And of course, Elissa has totally different plans than I do. And I’m sure Paulie has different plans than Cody.
Slater: Rachel did tell me to win the first HoH as if it’s so easy to just win those competitions! I mean they look really easy on TV. They really look like it’s little joke competitions that you put on in your backyard. But they are intense! And they’re hard! When you start them, you’re like, holy crap! In one second you’re done because you make one wrong move in those competitions and you’re out! So even if it’s going really well, you move your leg the wrong way, you’ll fall off!
Reilly: I told you to win the first HoH and tell everyone you’re my sister! So at least Paulie has told everyone he’s a Calafiore. With Cody and Paulie too and this is how I felt with Elissa, if they go home first, you’re not even going to watch the rest of the season. What made them want to evict my sister first? For me, I was so nervous the whole week. I was trying to get every detail I could get. I was on all the fan websites. I was on the live feeds. I was trying to figure out if people were really going to evict her the first week! And that’s the most stressful. You’re not even in the house and you’re spending all your time checking out to see what’s going on in the house.
When I interviewed Paulie, I told him to get it out of the way in the beginning.
Reilly: Yes! I’m glad that he did that. Now Vanessa’s sister on the other hand…
Slater: I feel like with Cody, just because of the game he played people loved Cody! Outside of the house and inside the house. I feel like people are like, “Oh cool, whatever, you’re Cody’s brother.” You know? But with Rachel they’re like, “Oh my gosh! The feisty Rachel! The red head, the comp beast!”
Slater: “She had everyone wrapped around her finger. She’s going to be crazy! She’s definitely going to win and she has a fan base.” So I think it’s totally different. For Paulie, it’s not as big of a disadvantage. But for Tiffany, because Vanessa was such a strategic player and she was so tactful in everything that she did, people are more inclined to think Tiffany would have a more strategic, sneaky game.
Tiffany is in an alliance with the returnees, Michelle, Corey, and Zakiyah. Is it too late for Paulie to find an alliance? If not, who should he align with?
Reilly: I’m team Paulie right now.
Reilly: I love Paulie and it was the dumbest move for the vets to put him on the block and ostracize him.
Slater: Oh my gosh! The dumbest!
Reilly: What are they thinking? They have someone who is going to play with them! Tiffany and Paulie almost have to work with the vets because they’re totally different than the newbies. They have the advantage where they can work with both sides of the house. However, working with the vets is to their advantage because they’re never going to be targeted over a vet. If they’re hanging out with the newbies, they might be targeted over a newbie, but if they’re with the vets, the vets are going to be targeted before Paulie or Tiffany get targeted. The fact that they used Paulie as a pawn in the first week makes no sense! I think it’s smart the way Paulie is playing right now because he’s on the block and he hasn’t formed a solid alliance, but he’s friends with everyone. That’s going to get him really far in the house because of how these houseguests are playing the game right now. He doesn’t need to be in that eight-person alliance. Although he should be, he doesn’t need to be.
Slater: The eight-person alliance will have to break up fairly quickly throughout the game. I could not believe Nicole nominated Paulie. That was the absolute dumbest thing you could ever do! Week one, you’re going to nominate one of your allies when there are only four of you and the entire house wants you out? That was so stupid! She could have worked with Paulie and trusted him, especially Paulie because she already played a whole season with Cody! I don’t even get it and now that he’s stuck on the block those newbies have more of a reason to get rid of him. Everyone thinks Jozea [Flores] is such a joke and wild card that they might keep him.
Reilly: Elissa, if you had played in season 15 with vets, would you have aligned with them?
Slater: Oh yeah!
Reilly: I don’t think we ever talked about that.
Slater: If somebody was playing from my sister’s season, automatically…
Reilly: Even if it was Britney [Haynes] or Ragan [Fox]?
Slater: Umm, well I love Ragan now because he and Rachel are friends, but I don’t think Cody and Nicole had the relationship you had with Britney and Ragan. But if it were like Daniele Donato, you guys are great friends now, but in the house you weren’t. If it were Daniele Donato, yes, I would go and try to make an alliance with her and make a bond with her because I would know she would need numbers on her side.
If it weren’t these four returnees who came back this season, which four former players would you have liked to see come back?
Slater: There are so many people that I would like to see come back.
Reilly: I would have liked to see Elissa come back if she wasn’t pregnant this season! I would really like to see Frankie [Grande] for sure. He’s definitely at the top of my list. A lot of people don’t give Frankie credit, but he was competitive and he’s everything you want from a Big Brother player.
Reilly: He’s competitive, he causes drama, he’s always up in the mix, and he has good diary rooms. I like watching Frankie a lot. I definitely want to see Vanessa play again to see if she would play the same way.
You only get one more. You already said three!
Reilly: I did? Oh God! Man, I could just talk all day about Big Brother, you know me, Brian! (Laughs.) Let me think. My last one? Oh no! Daniele or Dominic [Briones].
Reilly: They’re married so I count them as one!
What about you, Elissa?
Slater: Frankie is also on my list. I agree with Rachel.
I disagree with both of you!
Slater: OK, OK! (Laughs.) I think he’s entertaining and I do think he’s super competitive and I love that about him. Vanessa would be one of my picks also. I don’t want to go with cliche players, like Janelle, but she’s fun to watch. For two other people? Obviously, Rachel I want to see play again. (Laughs.)
Reilly: You can’t say the same ones that I said! You’re picking my list.
Slater: I’m trying to think of other people, but who is there? I’m trying to think of an all-star pick. Frankie, Rachel, Janelle, Daniele Donato.
Reilly: Who I also picked! You’re copying my exact list. We know who’s going to be the brains of the sibling operation for the sibling alliance!
Slater: OK, my fourth is Derrick!
Which returnee this season is the most deserving of coming back?
Reilly: Frank, 100 percent, hands down!
Slater: Frank! I was going to say him as one of my four, but obviously he’s back.
Reilly: He’s already playing a different game than he did in season 14 and he’ll be the returnee that goes the furthest out of all of these people.
Which returnee will be the first evicted?
Reilly: Yeah, well, actually Da’Vonne [Rogers] because she has a mouth on her.
Slater: She does have a mouth on her! (Laughs.)
Reilly: She’s going to get in a fight with an HoH. Da’Vonne does not fly under the radar.
Slater: But she doesn’t have anything where people are like, “We have to get rid of her.” She’s not super competitive.
Rachel, you host the cast party every year. How did you handle the season 15 cast party right after the show?
Reilly: I told a bunch of them they couldn’t come. But then I said it was alright if they came.
Reilly: Yeah, I did. It’s Big Brother. You have to remember it’s just a game and Big Brother makes you do crazy things. It makes you act like a crazy person. I knew I acted like a crazy person both of my seasons. You just get caught up in it. You just have to put that part of your memory aside and focus on the fact that you guys have all been in the same situation and however they acted in the house isn’t who they are in real life. Even with this season we’ve already seen some crazies already coming out of people.
Elissa, did you forgive them at the cast party? Or did it take you awhile?
Slater: It took me a long time! It even took me a long time for people I was friends with in the house; I would say a good year to just decompress. I wasn’t mad, I just was uninterested in having a relationship with them. It took me a long time to lose the hurt over it. Now at this point we all have a similar bond. So now I’m fine and can be cordial with all of them. Judd [Daugherty] is a really good friend of mine. Helen [Kim] and Candice [Stewart] I like a lot. But it took me a while to even trust any of them as a friend in real life.
Reilly: When you’re out of the house, you get to know people’s quirkiness. For example, from Elissa’s season, Andy [Herren], you’re just like, “That’s just Andy.”
He’s one of my least favorite players, just saying.
Reilly: (Laughs.) And that’s OK, but outside of the house I know Elissa and Andy have a relationship outside and anytime he says stuff she says, “Oh that’s just Andy!” That’s the same thing with me and Britney. I’m really good friends with her now.
Slater: He said to me, “Are you naming your child Andy?” And I was like, “Yes, Asshole Andy Slater!” (Laughs.)
Elissa, your season was controversial after homophobic and racist comments were made by other houseguests. They lost their jobs when they left the house and received hate from the American public. This season, Corey Brooks made some incriminating tweets against the LGBT community that were discovered prior to the season starting. Now he’s made comments in the house that are viewed as homophobic. He’s also facing scrutiny for the story he told on camera about lighting a goat on fire. What do you both think about all of this?
Reilly:I’m hoping that he was just saying and in his head he thought it was a funny story to tell people. When you look at someone through the microscope, everyone is going to say stupid things. I don’t agree with anything he has said. I don’t agree with any of those stories and personally, I think they’re awful. If I was in there, I would have said something and called him out at that point. But if you look at everyone’s life through a microscope, people might say stupid things. You have to take it with a grain of salt and remember these are people. It’s not fair for them to lose a job. I don’t think think it’s fair for them to get this big public backlash. You have to remember they’re not celebrities. They don’t know what they’re saying and when they go back into the real world, they’re not going back rich, unless they win the $500,000, then they have a Band-Aid at least, but when they go back into the real world they’re not making a ton of money. They can’t go film another film and have a publicist come in and take care of them and their bad press. These are just people, they’re humans. It’s not OK at all to say bad things about one type of community and have any type of hate towards people. I don’t like that, however if we hate that person than we’re doing the same thing we don’t like that they’re doing. We need to say, “They’re making mistakes and we don’t agree with it and let’s move on.” These people are not trained to be a certain way on camera. They don’t know what they’re saying. We don’t have to be his friend. I’m not going to be his friend. But when he leaves the house, I’m not going to…
Slater: Participate in the backlash. That’s one thing I love about Frankie too and I know we have different opinions on him, but instead of spewing hate he is so forgiving about things. When something happens in the world and we get so mad about things, even with the recent shooting in Orlando, I was so mad and wanted to hate those people that inflicted that much hurt and pain on those families. But Frankie tweeted that you can’t replace love with hate. Hate just causes more hate. And for me, I was like, I could not do that. I could not say that because I am so mad. The world is made up of all different kinds of people and unfortunately a lot of them don’t think and have this hate for other people.
Do you think as the season goes on Corey will be more self-aware about what he’s saying? Elissa, were you aware that these comments were being made by other people?
Slater: I am not comfortable with that kind of conversation because that’s not me. I wasn’t raised like that. My parents always told us that you accept everyone for who they are and you love people for who they are. Why do you judge someone else’s lifestyle? If you don’t want to do it, don’t do it. I just couldn’t believe that people really talked like that because that was not something that Rachel and I were raised with.
Rachel, you said you would have stepped in and said something when Corey was telling the story about burning a goat. When he told the story, James, Paulie, and Frank were smiling and laughing. They didn’t interject and say how horrible an act of attempting to light a goat on fire is. On the other hand, Paul Abrahamian said, “Why would you light a goat on fire? That’s not nice. I would never light a goat on fire.” But Paul is one of the most hated houseguests this season and James, Paulie and Frank are fan favorites. Do people have a bias when it comes to these comments? When Jeff Schroeder made comments that were viewed as homophobic on your season, Rachel, that same season he was voted “America’s Favorite Houseguest.” Is there a clear bias about who can and cannot make crude comments?
Reilly: Absolutely. I don’t know how you can even become a fan favorite after you make those kinds of comments. Nobody really brought Jeff’s comments to attention besides the live feeders. In season 13 when that happened, I don’t think anyone even talked about it. So nobody knew, that was the thing. This goat story, they’re not going to put on the national television show. Whereas with Aaryn [Gries‘] story, they did put it on national television so nobody is voting Aaryn for fan favorite. That was just not going to happen. Anyone should be scrutinized exactly the same. If I went into the house and told a really bad story, I would hope people would judge me off of saying it. With Paul, nobody really likes him, but I love him and for him to say that about the goat that makes me like him even more. I’m sure with Frank and James just sitting there laughing I think they should have said something, but I’m sure they didn’t because they didn’t want to be ostracized. They don’t want to have Corey think they’re calling him out or they didn’t want to cause drama. Or maybe they thought it was funny. I don’t know if they did think it was funny. If they did, that’s not cool.
Does a newbie have a shot to win this season? If not, which returnee will win?
Reilly: I’m putting my money on Paulie, Michelle or Frank. I don’t see Nicole winning because too many of the newbies just don’t like her. She’ll be the first person of the vets that they target. Frank is forming good relationships with everyone in the house. He has a really good chance of winning and we all know he can compete and save himself. Paulie can go really far and he’s so likeable outside of the house.
Slater: I should have said my answer first because it’s the same.
Slater: There aren’t many players where you think they will definitely win. I do think Da’Vonne will be final two or final three at least because I don’t think people are going to target her. Frank has a good chance of winning because it doesn’t seem like he’s on anyone’s radar. Did you say Michelle too, Rachel?
Reilly: Yeah. (Laughs.)
Slater: Oh my God, and you said Paulie. Well I would say Michelle because she’s the only one who knows the game. So Frank out of the vets, Da’Vonne will be final three for sure and I would say Tiffany just to say someone different than Paulie.
Do you think there will be a pre-juror who gets a chance to get back in the game? Glenn Garcia should get another chance!
Reilly: I do think they’re going to have someone come back in the house pre-jury, but I don’t think it’ll be Glenn even though I agree with you. Because I liked him! He was fun to watch while he was there. But whoever gets evicted the week before the twist will be the person who comes back because that’s always what happens right?
But whoever gets evicted over these next three weeks, they had a chance to play. Glenn didn’t have a chance to really play the game.
Reilly: That’s true.
Slater: Yeah, or they could do a completely different twist and instead of bringing back an evicted houseguest from this season, they could bring back Vanessa or Cody.
Reilly: That would be funny! That’s another thing the vets can do like, “I think Cody is coming into the house this week.” They could make up anything and freak these newbies out.
What would a season with both Reilly sisters in the house look like? Would you be a target? Would you fight each other?
Reilly: We would definitely be a target. I hope Vanessa and Tiffany and Paulie and Cody have to play at the same time we have to play because if it’s just Elissa and I as siblings in the house that would be a disaster. We would for sure be targeted. People would vote me out over Elissa, so I think the whole season, my mentality would be a repeat of [seasons] 12 and 13 where I felt like I had to win every competition. And I hope if I ever go back on the show that I don’t have to win every competition. I hope people would want to target newer players over me because at that point I would have been out of the game for like six, seven years
Slater: Yeah, if Rachel and I ever play together they would have to put Dr. Will [Kirby] and his brother or Janelle [Pierzina] and her sibling to take the highlight off of us because if it was just us, we would definitely be the targets. Unless it was three sets of siblings and we all started to work together. But it would be awesome. No one would know what to do with themselves because the Reilly sisters are a force to be reckoned with.
Will a returning player win the game? Did the newbies even have a shot? Would you watch a season with all siblings? Do super fans have a bias about who can and can’t say controversial comments? Chat about it in the comments section below and stay tuned to The Live Feed for all things Big Brother.
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