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This season of Big Brother is upping the ante.
The reality show is known for its twists every season, but this time around there will be a new twist every week. Titled BB Takeover, a special guest will appear on the show every week and throw a new curve ball into the game.
Executive producers Rich Meehan and Allison Grodner spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the other “unique twists” ahead, this season’s “very different mix” of houseguests and the prospect of another all-star season.
Going into season 17, knowing you’re renewed for season 18, did you approach it differently than years past?
Allison Grodner: For one, we try to make it as amazing and fresh and different as possible. Hopefully, get all the fans together. We want to make sure that we have the best show possible every single season. So we need to think about this season right now. Get to the next season.
Rich Meehan: For now we thought, “let this season have its moment, to have a great summer, have twist and turns that everyone is going to talk about.”
This season’s twist is especially different. There’s a new twist every week?
Grodner: Expect the unexpected. This season the big twist that will be announced on opening night to the houseguests is that we all know that “expect the unexpected” is our motto, but each week you are going to need to expect the unexpected because there will be a special guest who will take over. It’s called the BB Takeover. Every week there will be a new special guest who will take over the Big Brother house and mix up the game in some way. It can be anything from casting twists to game twists to interactive twists.
Meehan: Normally you have to deal with one major twist over the course of the season. Now they’re going to have to deal with a new twist every single week. Julie [Chen] will be doing a big reveal on the live show about who the special guest is for the week. Then she’ll have a conversation live with the guest, and then we’ll learn how the guest will affect the game throughout the week.
Grodner: Some of these are fans. Some of these are celebrities. [It could be] everything and anything. Ultimately, each week we’ll have very unique twists based on whom that person is.
Will they be Head of Household or do they take over in a different way?
Grodner: All of them are involved in different ways.
Meehan: Some of them enter the house potentially to be nominees or giving out nominations. Everyone is a little bit different.
So, there are only 14 players?
Grodner: Well, we’ll reveal that later.
Meehan: That’s a separate twist.
Grodner: You figure every week that there’s going to be a different twist after opening night. You never know what’s going to happen. We have a two-night premiere. There’s going to be special guests on the premiere and with the special guests, they are going to be bringing with them a new twist or turn.
Unlike in season 15, last season everyone seemed to get along. Did you approach this season with the idea of keeping a compatible cast in mind, ruling out any bullies?
Meehan: I don’t think last year we did anything to make them get along and be friends all summer. They just formed an eight-person alliance and stuck to that over the summer, but we didn’t do anything differently.
Grodner: Their personality is what put them in the house. We’re going to be watching them for three months. We have ideas of how people are going to be, but there’s always a hard pick and people act in different ways. Every cast is different and … there are a lot of types we’ve never seen before on Big Brother. It’s a very different mix. It’ll be interesting to see: do they bond? Do they clash?
For the first time, you cast a transgender contestant, Audrey Middleton. Do you think Caitlyn Jenner, Transparent on Amazon or Laverne Cox paved the way for that this season?
Grodner: Audrey applied early on in the process. Honestly, she would have been cast whether she was transgender or not. We cast for the best people to play Big Brother. We’re thrilled that she is transgender and she’s bringing something new to the house.
Meehan: She’s smart, she’s a competitor, she’s a superfan of the game.
Grodner: She says this herself: being transgender doesn’t define her. She will be telling her story to the houseguests on opening night. I want to leave it for her to tell.
How do you hope her story impacts audiences?
Grodner: I hope they embrace it, just the same way, the transgender community has seen great support with Caitlyn Jenner and Transparent. We hope it’s a positive thing, absolutely.
Meehan: Her story is going to keep the conversation going and open people’s eyes to all different ways of life. She’s amazing with a great story to tell. We’re hoping everything is positive.
Have you gotten any advice from CBS on how to approach this season?
Grodner: We work very closely with CBS. They’re of course involved in casting, the show and they always have been. They’re wonderful partners. We have such a collaborative group that we work with, on the creative side and all the way up to [CBS Entertainment chairman] Nina [Tassler] and [CBS president-CEO] Leslie [Moonves]. We’re just thrilled to come back every year and do the show. Ultimately they sign off on everything, they don’t just turn on the TV for a surprise. They’re very aware and supportive here. It’s so collaborative here; we’re very lucky.
Julie Chen is a fan of the game, and she’s the face of the show. Does she impact any decision-making?
Grodner: She is Big Brother. She is the Chenbot to us. She is a big part to the show. We hope she’ll be with us for many years to come.
Meehan: She knows about the cast, she sees the cast. We run our ideas by her and she’s very involved with all aspects of the show.
Superfans have been urging for another all-star season. When will it happen and why not this season?
Grodner: It’s always a little mixed. People ask for it and then are like, “No, we like the new people.” There’s a split here. You never know when the all-star season will happen. The more seasons we have, like this season and last season, now we have more people to pull from, for a fabulous twist on an all-star season sometime in the future.
Meehan: Right now, we’re building more all stars.
Who do you think has the best shot at winning the game this year?
Grodner: [Laughs.] I try not to do that. They all have a fair shot at winning the game. There are some standouts in terms of intelligence, and in seasons past sometimes that helps with Derrick [Levasseur] and Dan [Gheesling]. But in some seasons it doesn’t as much where you have the popular, well-liked people like Jordan [Lloyd] who rise to the top. This season we have very intelligent people like Steve Moses, who is a superfan and off the charts intelligent. On the female side we have strong game players like Audrey and Vanessa [Rousso], a professional poker player and we’re excited to see what they accomplish in there.
What do you think the show’s lifeline is, and what are your plans for the future?
Grodner: Every year, we’re like, “Just get to the next season.” If anything, that’s the difference about this season: we were renewed for another season. But we never take anything for granted around here. We’re proud of the show — that it’s successful and people come back every year. As long as that happens, we hope to stay on the air.
Meehan: We’ve definitely caught up with different platforms we can play on, new technology. There are so many different ways our show can deliver to all the fans. We have such a loyal audience with the live feeds and Big Brother After Dark on Pop; there are so many different channels. There’s such a great fan base and they can watch it whatever way they want. We love that our fans have many ways to participate.
Grodner: It continues to be this unique live event that takes place every summer. Summer starts when Big Brother starts.
Big Brother premieres Wednesday at 8 p.m. on CBS.
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