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Big Brother kicks off three months of endless tears, twists and fights when season 17 premieres Wednesday.
As the latest group of contestants begins their battle for the $500,000 prize, The Hollywood Reporter spoke with past winners Rachel Reilly (season 13), Dan Gheesling (season 10), Jordan Lloyd (season 11) and last season’s winner Derrick Levasseur to get their advice on speeches, showmances and floaters.
What is the biggest mistake houseguests make?
Reilly: Not playing with their whole heart. You have to go in and play with your whole heart. People who throw the competitions and say ‘I don’t need to win it.’ Really, did you not need to win it or were you not able to win it? Don’t think everyone is your best friend and you are on summer vacation. It’s not summer vacation. You’re on a TV show and playing a game!
Gheesling: Especially, early on, a lot of people are lacking an extreme control of their emotions, and essentially that’s why they’re put in the house. Control your emotions, get to know everyone and don’t make a scene. Every season, though, you’ll see in the first two weeks somebody has a meltdown.
Lloyd: Going in there and already having a plan of how they’re going to play the game. You just have to go in and be yourself. Go in with a clear head, talk to everybody — you can tell who’s with you and who’s not. Some of these people go in there thinking you have to have this huge game play, and you don’t.
Levasseur: Playing too hard and too fast. People do that every year even though they know. You have to establish yourself as someone who wants to play, but you do not want to be the head of the snake.
What do you advise saying in a pre-eviction speech?
Reilly: At that point and the Veto speech, people need to get it all out there. It’s a TV show still, as a fan I want to see people throw people under the bus. I hate it when people are like, ‘Thanks so much for letting me play guys; we’re going to be best friends after this.’ ‘It’s like dude, ‘Come on. Be honest. You’re getting evicted. Talk some smack!’
Gheesling: A lot of people don’t take it very seriously. They will downplay it; even old players will say ‘you can’t get a whole lot done in that time.’ You can’t move mountains in that time, but if you’ve been moving mountains all week and you just need to push someone over the edge a little bit, that’s the perfect time to cause some doubt and uncertainty. I like to see people fight ’till the end and that’s the way to do it. If you’re on the block and you know you’re going home, clearly you’ve done something wrong because there’s always a way to get yourself out of harm’s way.
Lloyd: Be nice. Unless you know you’re leaving then go guns blazing and call everyone out. [Laughs] But keep it classy.
Levasseur: Look at the person you’re going against and figure out what differentiates you from them. You want to make sure you make it known to everyone in the house that the person sitting next to you is more capable of beating them in the long run. You want to emphasize their attributes.
Unfortunately, voting with the house seems to have been a trend the past two seasons. What do you think about that?
Levasseur: I love it. As a fan of the show you hate to see it. As somebody that’s in the game, though, I was a culprit of making sure voting against the house didn’t happen. We have these big alliances and you never want someone to feel like they’re on the outs. If that happens at the voting, that causes people to be concerned. If they’re not comfortable, they’re going to venture out to new people and might divulge information about previous alliances that could hurt your game. … For me, somebody who’s a strategist, no other winner has done what I was able to do, which was never be nominated with more nominations in the show’s history. How was I able to do that? By exactly what I just said. I’d rather win the game, be considered somewhat boring and change my family’s lives then make sure I give viewers a better show. Why would you vote the other way just for the hell of it?
Reilly: Ugh, I hate it! Vote for yourself. If they’re your friend and you’re in an alliance with them, vote to keep them. You could actually end up being that swing vote; you don’t know how anyone else is voting. Throw a curve ball.
Gheesling: People don’t realize this, but you can get mileage from voting against the house, even if you’re in the majority and you know you’re safe. If you have 10 people voting, and you have nine people voting one way, and you know you’re fine, why wouldn’t you throw the one vote the other way and cause tension among the ranks. Because depending on where you are in the totem pole, even if you’re leading that group of nine and you don’t like someone in that nine, you throw a vote the other way and you convince enough people that it’s that person you don’t like in the group that did it, you can get rid of someone.
Lloyd: Everybody’s so scared of getting voted out, no one wants to get singled out. I know the votes are secret, but then everyone starts pointing their fingers. I’m a terrible liar so I get nervous and I would freak out. I would just say go with the house, I know that’s boring for viewers, but you’re playing it safe.
What is your message to floaters this season?
Reilly: Grab a life vest! They drive me insane. They act like it’s summer camp and they’re useless. It sucks because, there are lines of people that go to all these castings so if you’re going to be a floater let somebody else be on the show.
Gheesling: Regardless of what I say, you know this is going to happen. There’s going to be people there who float, and unfortunately, it’s inevitably part of the game. I just hope they don’t make it to the end. As long as a floater doesn’t win again, I’m happy.
Lloyd: Stick to an alliance and quit going back and forth because it’s annoying. But having played the game, I do understand, though, why people are floaters.
Levasseur: You need to go in there and play your own game. If you miss opportunities, it will be difficult to make your own moves. You want to be able to float throughout the house, but you don’t want to be a follower.
Showmance or no showmance? [Editor’s Note: Rachel married her showmance Brendon Villegas, and Jordan is currently engaged to hers, Jeff Schroeder]
Reilly: I’m all about showmances! They can help you. It’s so different because Big Brother U.S. everyone wants to target the showmances, but Big Brother Canada the showmances go really far. I don’t know if it’s the players or why that happens, but every season it seems showmances are targeted.
Gheesling: No chance. You see too many people make questionable decisions when that’s going on. For some people it works, but I’m just not a fan.
Lloyd: It was a good thing for me, so yes. You have to feel them out; you definitely don’t want to be used. You can tell when someone is being genuine or not. It could hurt you in the long run, but if you feel it, go for it.
Levasseur: There are more negatives than positives. If you’re in a showmance with somebody who’s kind of a floater, but you do it as a vote for you, it could hurt you. What they could potentially do is put you two on the block to split you up. There are no guarantees of who would go home. If you are in one though, keep it platonic so people don’t feel like you’re too close. Then you can make it work to your advantage.
What would your ideal season to return to be?
Reilly: If I ever went back I would hope that it was an All Stars season. Five people off the top of my head to come back would be Janelle [Pierzina], Daniele Donato, Dominic [Briones], and Derrick or Dan.
Gheesling: I wouldn’t come back. I’d love to see all returning players though, especially those that are very outspoken about how they would play a second time around.
Lloyd: I wouldn’t come back, two times is enough.
Levasseur: If I come back it would either be a coach’s season, or All Stars. Some coaches I’d like to see, that have never been coaches before would be Dr. Will [Kirby], Danielle Reyes, and Rachel.
Big Brother 17 premieres Wednesday at 8 p.m. on CBS.
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