It’s that time of year again.
Big Brother returns to CBS on June 28 for its 19th season and soon all will be revealed.
But first, before host Julie Chen returns to fill fans in on what twists they’ll see during the summer staple’s latest round, The Hollywood Reporter called up 12 of some the show’s most memorable players — a mix of winners, runners-up, fan favorites and villains — to find out what they know and what they hope to see this season.
Below, Rachel Reilly, Derrick Levasseur, Paul Abrahamian, Jason Roy, Elissa Reilly Slater, Morgan Willett, Zach Rance, Audrey Middleton, Michelle Meyer, Paulie Calafiore and Natalie Negrotti talk showmances, predict what the newest cast of characters will look like and weigh in on if and when they’ll be walking back through the Big Brother doors.
And as in the world of Big Brother, this interview has its very own twist. He goes by the name of Kevin Martin and for fans who may not know him, he’s Big Brother Canada’s most recent winner and potentially its last ever as the show up north is on hiatus and may not be renewed.
What were some of your favorite and least favorite aspects of season 18?
Kevin Martin: My least favorite is that there were a lot of buyback competitions. If you get eliminated from Big Brother once, [it should be] good game, thanks for coming. I like seasons that keep it pure without the twists. Often twists can stifle game play.
Morgan Willett: Once you’re out, you should stay out.
Zach Rance: My favorite was the fact that I got to see Nicole [Franzel] pop up on my TV screen!
Derrick Levasseur: I loved that not only was it another female winner, but it was Nicole. She played very slow at first and that’s not always the most exciting thing, but it’s a recipe for winning. As far as the negatives, I don’t like when people go outside of who they are as a person. I know that comes off as entertaining, but when there are people in there for such a long time sometimes they say and do things that are outside of their character. I hate to see that. It wasn’t just one person. There were multiple people who said and did some things in there that ultimately in the long run they probably regret.
Rachel Reilly: For me with Nicole, I was rooting for her and then she played the same game and latched on to a guy. If they’re going to come back, play a different game!
Elissa Reilly Slater: Nicole is a superfan so I understand her game play.
Paulie Calafiore: My least favorite part about the experience is that you’re literally locked away and can’t escape these situations.
Michelle Meyer: My least favorite aspect was having the vets return! (Laughs.) It was a major disadvantage for us strategically and game-play-wise. And for experience in the game they kind of ruined it. They told us what to expect and it took away the unpredictability of it.
Did having former players Nicole Franzel, James Huling, Da’Vonne Rogers and Frank Eudy return last season work in terms of what they brought for game play and entertainment?
Audrey Middleton: It was a good twist and added a flair to the dramatics. It was fun to see Da’Vonne come back and really get a chance to play the game.
Meyer: Hands down, no! The only entertaining one was Da’Vonne.
Jason Roy: Da’Vonne was there to play and she did.
Calafiore: I do think out of all four of them, Nicole was really the only one who didn’t play up to the cameras. There were a whole bunch of times where I called James out and said, “Bro, are you playing the game or are you playing to the camera because you think you’re doing what America wants you to?”
Slater: James is whatever. I could take him or leave him. I didn’t think any of the returning players were a huge hit other than Nicole. They weren’t a major draw.
Levasseur: For some audience members they were the right players to bring back and for some audience members they weren’t. It should be all vets or all rookies.
Paul Abrahamian: When certain castmembers get called back, they get this overwhelming sense of entitlement and think that they’re this Big Brother guru. They come back with even more of a chip on their shoulder and it makes their game terrible. That’s what I saw personally with a few of them. They had other intentions other than just playing the game.
Martin: As a returning player going back into the game, you feel responsible for making good television. But at the end of the day I wasn’t there to make good television, I was there to win the game. The first time I played, in season three, I really wanted television time, but coming back a second time it was solely business for me. When you come back, you are taking a risk at losing your legacy. For me, I didn’t have an ego. For those who did really well their first time — like [Big Brother Canada contestants] Gary [Levy] made it to the final two, Neda [Kalantar] got third place and Cassandra [Shahinfar] got fourth place — they put a lot of pressure on themselves. Ika [Wong] didn’t put any pressure on herself and she did super well.
Zach, were you asked to return for season 18?
Rance: No comment!
In Big Brother: Over the Top, America had quite the influence over the game. Julie Chen said she’d like to see the involvement America had brought into the broadcast version. Do you agree with her?
Willett: They voted for me to win! (Laughs.)
Roy: Julie Chen is my queen and princess, but I have to disagree. I really like to see the game be organic. Having America’s influence really shaped the way we played. It wasn’t Big Brother. I like the pureness of America not affecting the game. Obviously coming from me, everyone is going to be like, “OK, Bitter Betty!”
Reilly: I felt like I was playing the game with the BBOTT houseguests. It would be fun to see more online activity this season.
Natalie Negrotti: If America has an influence, they know what’s going on in the house and you don’t [so] you’re able to pick up on what America thinks.
Abrahamian: As a person watching, it would be so fun because you are controlling what’s happening in the game. It’s the ultimate form of Hunger Games. (Laughs.) It’s cool to get fans involved because that’s who’s watching and that’s who gives a shit, but as a game player I would f—ing hate it.
Slater: When America plays such a big part in it, the players get screwed over.
Middleton: It wouldn’t be Big Brother anymore. It would be like American Idol. I root for the people who are typically not America’s favorite and those are the people I like to see succeed because they are the ones getting the blood on their hands.
Levasseur: If you want people to play a ruthless game, you can’t have them thinking about how their decisions are going to affect America’s opinion of them. When you want this very cutthroat game and then you tell them that America is going to control their fate, it’s going to be very difficult for them to go in there and play the game they want to play. You have to decide what you want. You either want entertainment or a really cutthroat game where all bets are off.
Meyer: We’ll see more involvement from America this season. BBOTT was trying to test that out and the fact that Julie said that in your interview may be hinting at something.
Do you think players from BBOTT will be brought back for season 19?
Reilly: I totally think so! That would be more interesting than seeing players from the broadcast version be brought back. I would love to see Alex [Willett] come on. Definitely not Kryssie [Ridolfi]. God, no! (Laughs.) If Kryssie comes back, what’s the point? They might as well bring back the first evicted one. What’s his name? Cornbread! Brendon’s [Villegas] like, “I almost said chicken breast!” (Laughs.)
Slater: Probably! I’m sure people liked Shelby [Stockton] so much that she’ll be brought back on. Maybe they’ll bring the Ball Smashers back. I really liked them. I thought, “Man, they got gypped!” They should totally have been on the real season.
Roy: If it’s all new people and a few OTT people, maybe those OTT people will realize how hard it is to be the one returnee with a bunch of newbies! This is where the internet might break, but I would bring Shelby back. I don’t want to live with her again, but she really is good TV. As much as she was my arch-nemesis, I watched the episodes back and I chuckled at her.
Meyer: She’s such a character and was so funny. Monte [Masongill] is pretty funny too. I’d love to see him in another power trip.
Abrahamian: I’m sure they’d bring back one or two of them to see how it goes, but I don’t know how they’d do because they had a mini-trial. It was a watered-down version and early on they were really stressed out. The real Big Brother version is a lot more difficult. I don’t know if they could play with the big boys!
Levasseur: A nice twist would be to bring Morgan back. Let’s give her a shot at a full season. That should be her reward for doing such a great job on BBOTT. That would be a nice reward and an incentive for anyone who wins OTT in the future.
Willett: As much as I wish that was true, I don’t think it is unless Allison [Grodner, Big Brother executive producer,] is going to give me a call this week! Our cast was one of the best Big Brother has ever had. Our season was the most divided the house has been in a while. It would be interesting because would viewers watching the television version know who we are? They won’t bring back some BBOTT houseguests though because there was a lot of drama with players’ family members that happened offscreen.
In season 18 there were a few relationships that were described by fans as fake showmances. Will we see many fake showmances in season 19?
Negrotti: Are you saying that I was in a fake showmance [with James Huling]? People are very shallow and wanted to judge it. I genuinely cared for this person with all of my heart and it’s sad people say it wasn’t true because we look different and come from different backgrounds.
Calafiore: Nicole and Corey [Brooks] weren’t fake, they just never dubbed themselves a relationship whereas I think everybody on the show knew what James and Natalie were. Hopefully they do a better job at casting people who won’t do that. Z [Zakiyah Everette] and I tried [our relationship] and we broke up in February. It happens. We’re still very close friends.
Slater: Oh gosh, there are always fake showmances! Half of them want to be famous so bad that they’re like, “People really love showmances! We’re going to be like Brenchel.” It’s never going to happen.
Reilly: A lot of people go on the show and think, “If I have a showmance I’m going to get more attention after the show and I’ll have more fans because people love a good showmance.” There are a lot of fake showmances that happen because of that.
Roy: Most people that are looking to get into a showmance are savvy players in the sense of not the game, but life after. If you get into a showmance you get far more followers, endorsements, invites to parties where they pay you and blah blah blah blah. These people looking for a showmance are really looking to capitalize on what Big Brother may create for them after they’re on the show.
Levasseur: I’d like to believe that people aren’t making out with someone just to get a couple of followers.
Abrahamian: It’s not the real world, it’s a fabricated world. Don’t waste your time in a fake little reality.
Rance: You’ll probably see a lot of fake showmances. It helps your game if you have someone there who has your back. Natalie and James went really far and Nicole and Corey both went really far.
Middleton: 98 percent of showmances are fake. There have been a couple of marriages and two babies, but when you’re in there the reality that you’re in is real to you, but the real reality is outside of the show when the cameras are off. That’s who people really are.
Meyer: They said they were fake because sometimes you don’t see these two people going together, but when you’re in the house you find your person. Anything can happen if you’re stuck in a house long enough with someone.
Willett: I really like James. He is a great guy and I also love Natalie. Big Brother is a social experiment and the relationships that come and go from the series prove how much this show really does shine a light on the reality of reality.
Martin: (Laughs.) As a person who has been in a couple of showmances, it’s going to happen. I always cheer against the showmances, which is interesting because I was part of a couple during different seasons.
Kevin, are you now acknowledging you and William were a showmance?
Martin: (Laughs.) Whatever word you want to peg on it. William and I had some fun in there. We were really close and we’re going to be close friends outside of the house as well. I love that guy. He’s a giant sweetheart. I miss him and we’ll have to hang out soon.
What have you heard so far about season 19?
Middleton: I leave for sequester tomorrow.
Slater: I haven’t heard a lot about returning players this season so that could mean everyone is being really sneaky about it or there aren’t returning players. I know Zach has been majorly active in the past couple of months on Instagram so I don’t know. I would love to see Zach back on for sure. Maybe it really is some of the Over the Top players coming back.
Rance: I have no idea! They don’t tell me shit.
Reilly: I think it’s going to be all new people. Robyn [Kass, Big Brother casting director] doesn’t tell me anything! I heard that we might be voting for new people to come in and they will compete to earn their spot in the house.
Meyer: As a viewer now, I’d like to see the no napping rule. I heard that the house might be a jungle theme so that will be pretty cool. They might bring back the road kill competition. They’re definitely going to bring back care packages. The care packages influence people in the game and it does cause some paranoia.
If it is an all-new cast, what types of players do you want to see?
Middleton: I really hope they cast more cutthroat people who are inspired by the game and not the platform.
Roy: Show me the crazies! I want to see them. Bring me your poor, rich and crazies and put them in the house together and see what happens.
Willett: I’d love to see if anyone can top my double eviction speech. Even Julie called it lit. I want to see players who are going to make the feeds interesting. I really don’t want any shirtless dudes who have big egos and think they are public figures when they get outside the house.
Calafiore: Hopefully they have a more mature cast. Mine was immature as hell. I just want them to be real. I want them to have a touch of savageness to them and realize they are playing a game.
Rance: I want to see backstabbing, lying, cheating, manipulative players in that house!
Martin: No more models who want to get their Instagram followers up. Let’s get some older players in there. Karen [Singbeil, of Big Brother Canada,] spoke her mind, had amazing diary rooms and made great television. Ever since Big Brother started, the average age has been dropping. The casts are younger, they’re hotter. Let’s go back to the basics and have some older personalities in there. With Big Brother 10 when they had Jerry [MacDonald] and Renny [Martyn], it was a great season. I love putting that older player in. It’s like a catalyst that brings good entertainment out of everybody.
Negrotti: I want to see a diverse group and all ethnicities. And obviously I want to see a cheerleader and peppy girl like me. I’m always rooting for the cheerleaders. I want to see people that are eager to play the game. I want it to be a house full of thirsty and competitive people.
Meyer: I want to see people that speak their minds! I want to see fights. I want some major drama like Paulie and Da’Vonne jury fights every episode. I’d love to see another strong female like Amanda Zuckerman. We haven’t seen a strong female in a while. Our cast had strong females, but not like Amanda.
Reilly: I want someone who will be their own character. I hope they don’t just try and copy Paul.
Levasseur: Let’s get it back to the roots! You’re going to see a lot more people who really know the game. And let’s get the winnings up to a million dollars for these people. $500,000 is not nearly as much as you think it is. (Laughs.) Taxes are brutal!
Rachel, last year before entering the house some players didn’t know who you were. What do you have to say to potential castmembers who might not know you?
Reilly: They better do their research and learn about the legend! (Laughs.)
What’s one twist you’d bring to the show?
Calafiore: A twist that would be really cool is instead of having a “Battle Back,” you have a skeletons twist where there’s a point in the game where instead of just one person coming back there’s two or three people that come back at the same time. Or bring back vets that some of the new people in the house absolutely hate. Any alumni that sit there and talk shit about the season, I just feel like they are pathetic humans. Everybody knows it’s a game and everybody knows what that house does to people.
Rance: Boys versus girls! That’d be sick, right? You would have people that like each other be on opposite teams.
Negrotti: I really want to see them bring a huge fan into the game just for 24 hours and see what happens. What is the fan going to say? What if the fan likes one person over the other? What if they give false information?
Middleton: I would love it if they did some type of second-chance season for people whose game got cut too short and blew up in their face too soon. [It would be] people who underestimated the game, but would have a whole new attitude going into it again.
Is that you?
Middleton: I mean! (Laughs.) Yeah, it is me! So I’m totally biased.
Do you think the following season, Big Brother 20, will be an all-stars season? Would you come back and who would you want to play with?
Middleton: I’d love to play again with Vanessa [Rousso] and Shelli [Poole.] I don’t know if I’d want to play with Frank because he’s so abrasive and at times seems like a time bomb. I would know a time bomb very well.
Calafiore: If I got asked to go back, I would go back in a heartbeat. I lost and I failed so I reflect on the game and think about what I could have done better. I’d want to play against the best people that have ever played the game like Janelle, Brendon, Rachel, Mike Boogie and Dan Gheesling. Even throw in Derrick, Frankie and Cody.
Levasseur: If there was a season 20 and it was all all-stars, the only way I would consider it is if Dan and Will [Kirby] came back.
Slater: I would want to play with Rachel, Zach, Frankie, Danielle Murphree, Janelle, Ian Terry, Dan Gheesling, but I don’t know if Dan would ever go back on. No offense, but I wouldn’t want to play with anybody from my season. (Laughs.) Especially because recently Amanda asked me to use my wedding veil for her wedding and I sent her two of my wedding veils and she didn’t even invite me to her wedding! Why would you ask me to use my wedding veils and then not invite me to your wedding? How messed up is that? (Laughs.)
Reilly: I would love to see Amanda come back, but I would not want to play with her! She’s so feisty and I think she’d probably try to backstab me. (Laughs.) They always mention to me that it’s going to be an all-stars season soon. Of course you always want to go back, but then there’s that part where you have your real life. It would be their biggest obstacle getting players to come back. When [Brendon and I] came back, we had just been on the show so our lives hadn’t really settled in yet. We didn’t have a baby, we had just gotten engaged, so it was easy to go back on the show the next summer. I would want to go back. I would want to play with Janelle, Vanessa, my sister, Daniele Donato and Alex.
Roy: I would be extra surprised if they ask me back now! They’d only ask me because Frankie Grande wants too much money.
Abrahamian: If they asked me back, of course I would do it. I want to play with someone like Zach or Frankie. It’d be fun to play with them because they’re crazy too. Vanessa would be fun to play with. Everybody else is either super good and I wouldn’t want to play with them or they’re really drama-filled and would give me a headache.
Rance: Season 16 is the best season that has ever hit that network. Every single person knows it. No season can even come close to season 16. If season 20 was all-stars and they asked me back, I would respectfully decline. I can’t put myself through that again. They would have to bring Frankie back eventually. He’s a beast and has the best social game in the world.
Willett: I do not want to play with Frankie! I’d love to play with Janelle. She’s a badass. I would love to have some of the Big Brother Canada people play. Me and Jon [Pardy] have gotten close so it would be tempting to be in a showmance, but I’m all about girl power.
Martin: I would love to play with Paul, the Willett sisters, Andy Herren, Spencer Clawson and McCrae [Olson]. If the Canadian show doesn’t come back, take four Canadian players and give them a chance to play. Give Emmett [Blois] and Peter Brown a shot to go to the American version. It would be awesome to see Big Brother Canada versus Big Brother U.S. Robyn, if you see this interview please throw that in your think tank.
Do you think there will be more involvement with America this season? Would you want to see a Canadian invasion on Big Brother? Do you want to see this season feature an all-new cast or are there some returning players you want to see come back? Sound off in the comments section below and stay tuned to The Live Feed for all things Big Brother including a house tour with Julie Chen and executive producers Allison Grodner and Rich Meehan on June 21. Let the games begin.