“Celebrity versions of ‘Big Brother’ in the U.S. have been talked about since almost the beginning,” reveals producer Allison Grodner in our exclusive video interview about this winter’s first-ever edition of “Celebrity Big Brother” (watch above). “I started producing with ‘Big Brother’ 2 and we looked to cast a celebrity version during Season 3 and Season 4. At that time there wasn’t a lot of the celebrity programming, so we’re thinking, ‘This is perfect.’ It just wasn’t the right time. The show was successful but hadn’t taken off as sort of the pop culture hit that it is now. It didn’t feel right, and I’m glad we waited.”
Grodner readily admits that the high ratings for last summer’s 19th season helped CBS make the decision to greenlight “Celebrity Big Brother.” “We came off an amazing summer with ‘Big Brother’ 19. Strong ratings, consistency, lots of good buzz, and so the network said, ‘Let’s do this, let’s give it a shot.'” She agrees, “It’s great timing with the Olympics [airing on another network]. It’s great counter-programming. We’ll bring the ‘Big Brother’ audience into the winter and with a celebrity cast we’ll bring in an even bigger audience.”
As for the daunting task of casting the celebrity version, Grodner readily admits that she was “skeptical” about the process. “They’re committing to a month,” she explains. “They were gonna be gone from the lives and their careers for a month. We went into casting, and honestly we have so many celebrity fans that have enjoyed us over the years that it was great to reach out to them first. Truthfully, a third of our cast were superfans and that worked out perfectly. We had Ross Mathews and Marissa Jaret Winokur and Shannon Elizabeth and Omarosa.”
“One of the reasons Omarosa said yes — and that was a tough get — was because she’s an actual fan,” confesses Grodner. “If she wasn’t a fan of the show I don’t see how she would have done this. I mean, she’d just left the White House, she had book deals and other things to consider.” As for whether the producers were worried Omarosa might not be willing or able to talk about her time working with President Donald Trump, Grodner responds, “That was a big part of her coming on. She wanted people to hear her unedited version of events that she could talk about. And also to show another side of herself.”
Also in our interview, Grodner discusses what it would mean for Emmy voters to embrace “Celebrity Big Brother,” what potential changes she’d make if they got the chance to do it all over again, and what we might expect from “Big Brother” Season 20, due out this summer on CBS. Grodner is a two-time Emmy winner for Best Children’s Program for producing “The Teen Files” (1999 and 2001).
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