‘Big Brother 21’ winner Jackson says he’s ‘very, very not racist,’ will take ‘complete ownership of my mistakes’

It’s safe to say finale night didn’t go quite as Jackson Michie had imagined on “Big Brother 21.” He won over his showmance Holly Allen by a 6-3 vote and got the confetti on his shoulders like he had manifested pictured, but before all that, Julie Chen Moonves confronted him with allegations of racism and bullying. And let’s not forget Tommy Bracco‘s jury question about his (mis)treatment of women. It all made for a very awkward winning moment.

But game-wise, it’s hard to argue that Jackson didn’t deserve the $500,000. The watermelon-lovin’ mama’s boy was a comp beast, winning every eligible HOH in the second half of the game, and concocted a big fat lie about Tommy to save Holly that encapsulated his ruthless ways.

We caught up with Jackson to get his thoughts on his big win, his conflicting emotions Wednesday night and more. (Check out our interviews with Holly here and Nicole Anthony here.)

SEE ‘Big Brother’ finale recap: Jackson wins the $500,000

Gold Derby: Congratulations! How does it feel now that you’ve had some time to digest it?
Jackson: Thank you! I got a little bit of sleep and woke up with some money in the bank, so I’m a happy man.

Gold Derby: This was a very memorable finale, to say the least. You got put in the hot seat in the last 10 minutes and then you win half a million dollars and you had one of the most subdued reactions. What was going through your mind at that point?
Jackson: I got hit with some tough questions that are very sensitive subjects and subjects that I do not tolerate or stand for. So sitting there and trying to campaign and get my thoughts together, they cast their votes, and then I get hit with even tougher questions from Julie and the folks that were evicted pre-jury — it was a lot to take in and then walk out and have the shock of winning and the excitement of winning and seeing my family. All of those things were going through my head. There were a lot of emotions.

Gold Derby: I imagine it was frustrating being confronted with these questions but not be told specifically what you had said or done — Kemi [Fakunle] said she couldn’t accept your apologies because you guys didn’t know what you’re apologizing for — because this all demands a longer discussion.
Jackson: Right. More frustrating than you can imagine. Being away from reality and the real world for 100 days doesn’t seem like that long outside of the house, but on the inside, there’s a lot that happens and you miss out on a lot of things. Trying to catch up on things and figure out what was being referenced — I’ve got a long journey ahead of me. I’ve got a lot of digging to do.

Gold Derby: Between that and Tommy’s question about your treatment towards women, were you afraid you lost some jury votes because of that?
My concerns were not about the game at that point. Those are two big things that I hold dear to my heart. I respect women more than anything. I’m very, very not racist. The way that I am is just high tempo. I go full speed in everything that I do and I can be abrasive. I have a personality that some people like, but a lot of people don’t. My intensity levels in everything I do — I go a thousand miles an hour, and I’m learning that about myself. And sometimes it needs to change. It’s great on a competitive level, but on a personal level, I need to be more sensitive, I need to be more sympathetic and subdued sometimes.

For me, anytime I got into an argument, it was never personal. I never said things that were intentionally trying to belittle someone. I did say things in the heat of the moment that I wish I could take back, but it was never on the basis of race, gender, age, sexual orientation or anything of that nature. I looked at everyone in that house as 15 competitors, and nothing I ever did was based on anything but that. I did say things about people who pissed me off and upset me, but I would’ve said it about anyone who pissed me off in that way. I am the first one to admit when I’m wrong and I will take complete ownership of my mistakes. I do respect women more than anything. I love my mom and I love everyone who’s been in my life. And I’m not racist. So it’s disheartening. But I know who I am, and luckily, I have a platform to explain myself and hopefully get a little forgiveness from some people.

Gold Derby: After Cliff threatened jury votes against you, you started getting a little paranoid and the last thing you said to him as he walked out was, “Remember to vote on game.” How concerned were you about a bitter jury?
I was terrified because I knew, especially sitting next to Holly, it was going to go one of two ways. They were either going to vote based on a personal level or a game level. If it was personal, I was up a creek without a paddle. So I did the best I could to emphasize to them and remind them of all those things they said this summer. Everyone said that if they, hypothetically, were a jury member that they would not vote bitterly and not vote based on emotion, and would look at the game only. So seeing Cliff [Hogg III], Christie [Murphy] and Tommy and Sis [Talavera], honestly, vote for me was reassuring in the sense that they stayed true to that because we are here for a game. There’s nothing more frustrating than watching a season where someone played and earned that No. 1 spot but did not get it because the jury was salty towards them.

SEE The houseguests getting dragged for their ugly behavior on the ‘Big Brother 21’ finale was incredible television

Gold Derby: I feel like your lie about Tommy clinched the win for you because he said, “You got me” when he left, and it seemed like he respected the move and wouldn’t be bitter. How do you look at that move at the time and now?
For me, I don’t enjoy lying. I don’t lie in real life and I don’t like hurting people. I don’t like seeing people upset. Seeing him cry and seeing his reaction broke my heart. It really did. Those tears you saw were genuine because that’s not the kind of man I am. But I was forced into a corner and forced to adapt into a game I didn’t want to play — a “Big Brother” game that I didn’t want to have to play, but that I was willing and able to play if I needed to. I was not going to sit back and watch Holly leave that house without putting up every single fight I could. Even if Cliff and Nicole were going to go to bed that night saying they were keeping Holly, I knew that if they had 16 hours with Tommy, he would’ve been able to convince Nicole to keep him. I either had to act on it that night and roll the dice or I do nothing and sit back and hear it’s a 2-0 vote one way or the other. And I did not want that to happen and [for] Holly go meet Julie.

Gold Derby: How did you get so good at eavesdropping? That was not the first time you eavesdropped.
It was not. It was always something I wondered about and no one really did it in the house that I can remember. We have these microphones — these little things connected to use that go to millions of people in the country. The way I see it . is if somebody is going to talk to the United States of America, I probably should be able to listen too. The doors are thin, the walls are thin, and it’s a relatively small house. Any opportunity I could to listen to people going on tangents or get some info behind closed doors, I took it because that’s the only time you’re really going to hear people’s true thoughts. You can’t hear anything in the Diary Room; we’re not allowed to talk about it. But if people are having conversations in bedrooms or the Have-Not room, I’m going to take full advantage of it if I can.

Gold Derby: You seemed to thrive on adversity. You didn’t care that America didn’t like you. You were basically kicked out of your alliance and could’ve been easy pickings after Six Shooters blew up, but you won when you needed to, formed new relationships with Cliff and Nicole, and you pulled off that lie against Tommy. Have you always embraced pressure like this?
I have. I love pressure. I love being uncomfortable. When you are uncomfortable is when you grow the most. I don’t know if y’all saw my reaction — I guess you did — when America’s Field Trip was revealed, there was a 66 percent chance that something bad was going to happen, but I was thrilled about it. I was like, “Let’s go, let’s play.” The double eviction — same thing. I can’t even compete in the HOH, but I was so pumped up and excited to have a double eviction even though I knew it could’ve been my life on the line. I like taking chances. It’s high risk, high reward behind these walls and outside of it. I enjoy pressure. Whenever life is on the line, I’ve got a job to do, I do it. I do the best I can to succeed when I need to the most.

Gold Derby: Had the whole thing with Tommy not happened — let’s say it was a straightforward week and he was evicted — would you still have taken Holly to final two or would you have strongly considered Cliff or Nicole depending on how that shook out?
So Holly was always the person I wanted to be next to in final two. But I’ve also said, if it’s not Holly, then I want to sit next to Cliff. If it wasn’t Cliff, it was Nicole. I really wanted to go to final four with them. The way I wanted it to be — I know it’s “Big Brother” and people are going to roll their eyes — but I wanted to be up-front and compete fair and square in final four. If we had done that, Holly more than likely would’ve won that HOH, in which case Cliff and Nicole would be on the block. And if I would’ve won the Veto, I would’ve been picking between Cliff and Nicole, and it would’ve been very game. Who between the two would’ve helped my game most? Offer me your best deal going into three. Who could give me the best deal? And I would’ve taken that person. I would’ve been very up-front and straightforward. That was the game I wanted to play.

SEE ‘Big Brother 21’: Nicole Anthony named America’s Favorite Houseguest during uncomfortable live finale

Gold Derby: I feel like you had your mind made up already, but when Cliff told you that your final two deal was one-way because he’d take Nicole, which is insane to tell you, what were you thinking? Were you like, “Why the hell are you telling me this right now?”
Uh, yeah. One conversation after the HOH, he said he’d take me — he loves Nicole, but he kind of insinuated he’d take me to final two. And you can’t say no to deal offers in the house or alliance offers. He was like, “I’d take you to final two if you take me.” I was like, “Sure, great.” But then he tells me, “Yeah, so I’m not going to take you, but I expect you to take me.” Uh, what? It was confusing because he was openly setting himself up for Holly to take him, for me to take him, for Nicole to take him, and sort of have it handed to him on a platter. And that’s not how I live life or play this game. You want something, you gotta earn it and take it for yourself. So I was like, “If you’re not going to take me, this is not a two-way street. I’m still sticking to Holly. If Holly gets evicted, so be it, but I’m going to do everything I can to ensure that doesn’t happen.”

Gold Derby: Do you feel like he got overconfident with his deals?
Jackson: The Cliff that I knew for 86 days was one that one was meticulous and he thought everything out to a T. I feel like after the whole Tommy situation, he started creating a lot of deals very hastily, which is not like Cliff. He does everything with precision, but he started making a lot of deals left and right, telling Holly she had to throw the Veto, but then she was allowed to compete in the Veto if she took him over me. It was just a little sloppy. So, yes, he got a little carried away with the deals, but at that point in the game, deals can only carry you so far; it comes down to competitions. That’s where the power is. Your words can carry you, but your actions have to be able to carry you further.

Gold Derby: I know you’re going to get a car and you’re going on a trip with Holly, but what else are you doing with the money?
Jackson: I’m getting my mom a convertible and then it’s going into savings and investments. I’ve set aside 7 percent maximum for rent expenses, apartment, cars, things like that. But everything is long-term. Zingbot gave me a good ol’ zing about chess, not checkers, and that applies to life too. I’m trying to set myself up for success and be responsible with my money. I have no intention of blowing it or going on sprees to exotic countries. I do want to treat myself — it’s been a long summer and Holly and I do want to go to Disney and somewhere tropical. But other than that, it’s going to my family to help them and it’s going into the bank.

Gold Derby: Is there ever a time to play checkers and not chess?
Jackson: I don’t know! Chess is a strategy game. I didn’t play chess at any point before the end of the game. I didn’t play backgammon before the end of the game because I didn’t want it to reveal the way I thought. You can tell a lot about people with the way they play backgammon or chess in that house; they play very similar to how they play “Big Brother.” I never lost a game of chess except once to Cliff at like 2:30 in the morning and I was exhausted. I won, like, 30 or 40 games, and I didn’t want people to see my brain work that way. Checkers is just too quick and simple. I like complexity and I like strategy.

Gold Derby: Have you ever gotten sick of eating watermelons?
Jackson: No, never. That is the easiest question anyone will ever ask me. There was one summer when I was in college, from mid-May to the first week of August, my mom logged 126 watermelons. She kept track of every single one. Right before I went back to Knoxville for the fall semester, I came down the stairs and she had “126” in a candle sticking into a watermelon. It was 126 watermelons before I left for school. I can eat a lot of them, I promise!

Gold Derby: I’m kind of disappointed they didn’t bring out watermelons when you won.
Jackson: You know, it’s OK. There’s a Ralph’s not too far from here. I’m gonna wipe them out of watermelons. It’s been a few days since I’ve had one and I’m gonna need a fix.

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