Big Brother: All Stars comes to CBS this Wednesday, August 5th at 9/8c. The 22nd season of the worldwide phenomenon comes with a special twist as all 16 houseguests will be returning players unveiled during the premiere. Julie Chen Moonves returns as host for this unique season that saw the houseguests spend weeks in isolation before entering the house due to the coronavirus.
CBS’ Matt Weiss spoke to Chen Moonves ahead of the show’s premiere to discuss the new season, the new house and answer the question, are you smarter than a fifth grader?
MW: First of all, how have you been holding up the last couple months with quarantine. How have you been doing?
JCM: Well, how much time do you have, Matt? [Laughs] In a nutshell, home schooling and my 87-year-old mom, who was on March 1st going to test out living with us for about three weeks because of my father, who was 89, unexpectedly passed away.
So, it’s like, mom do you really want to live alone? That test turned into five months. She just left like three weeks ago to go back to her retirement community, where God bless, she’s enjoying it. But it was a little bit of craziness we were all learning how to handle that.
With the home schooling I went from being a Tiger Mom to being like, ‘hey Troy, do you want to watch Tiger King with me and dad for a midnight showing?’ Luckily, he wasn’t interested. That being said, I did hear him singing the Carol Baskin song one day and I said things have got to change. I’m building back structure. I’m going back to work. I’m putting a structure in. We’re slowly pulling it together. [Laughs]
MW: A learning experience for everyone.
JCM: He’s a rising 5th grader and he’s starting school in a couple of weeks. I realized how not tech savvy I am. Do you remember that show are you smarter than a 5th grader? Turns out I’m not even as smart as a fourth grader. I’m going back to Big Brother where I know how to do what I do.
MW: [Laughs] Speaking of Big Brother, this will be a season like never before. What can fans expect from this all-new season?
JCM: You gotta think about it. Big Brother, we’ve been on for 20 years, this is our 22nd season. Anyone who doesn’t know the concept of the show, you basically take six strangers lock them into a house and they have to coexist for up to three months. Each week voting out one of their own, while they’re all competing with one another, only one person takes home the half $1,000,000 grand prize. We were the original quarantine!
What’s different this season are two main things because of the pandemic, we brought in former Big Brother houseguests, an All-Star cast. We’re bringing back eight of the most memorable women and eight of the most memorable men for various reasons. We have past winners, past people who almost got the half $1,000,000 but didn’t, people who came in 11th place but due to circumstances got bounced too early; they all have something to prove.
We had to bring in these 16 houseguests to our area of Los Angeles, whether we had to fly them across the country or some already live in the area, then put them up in homes by themselves for weeks. During that time we were testing them on a regular basis to make sure they don’t have the virus so that we can put them into the Big Brother house. Once we threw all these 16 past houseguests in that Big Brother house might be the safest house in the world! Once they go in they don’t have any contact with the outside world.
There are no camera operators inside the house. All the camera operators are on the other side of the glass or we’re using cameras that are locked down in various corners and walls. The good news is we were kind of designed to do a show during quarantine. It’s going to look exactly like how you saw it last year. It’s not going to look like a Zoom show because it’s not.
MW: A bunch of people locked up in a house for three months, the show is more relatable than ever!
JCM: Exactly, we were ahead of our time, we’ve been doing this for 20 years, we are the original quarantine. We joke but when it comes to this season and taking precautions we’re not taking anything lightly.
MW: Great timing as well to be able to provide some normalcy for fans of the show to see something new yet familiar.
JCM: I think that it’s going to be a nice break. We could all use a little bit of a break from all the drama but not stick our heads in the sand to what’s happening out in the world. These houseguests, I’m sure, they’re going to talk about what the quarantine has done to their families. A lot of these returning houseguests went in single when they first did it and now some of them are married, some have children, there’s a lot to offer there.
I think it’s going to be perfect break we kind of need, without ignoring the reality of the world we’re living in right now. Here’s the hope, the hope is whether you’re a returning Big Brother fan or you’re new to it you’re going to watch this and learn, can’t we all get along? We all want the same thing. We all want to be safe. We all want a vaccine. We all want to be working. What can we do? What small thing can we each do, small or big to help get to that common goal we all want. We all want to be heard. We all want to be respected. How about we all start by practicing the Golden Rule; treat others the way you want to be treated.
MW: Absolutely! I think the last few months have really shown people what’s important and allowed folks to examine themselves.
JCM: It’s pretty simple. I have to tell you, we should all take this time just to lean into God. I’m telling you whatever behavior have, you have to think for a second, now is God looking down at me and being like ‘yeah that’s who I created you to be, that’s how you should behave.’ I learn my lessons all the time like when I lose my patience with my 10-year-old, I have to remind myself patience is a virtue; this is not who God created me to be. I just need to [deep breath].
MW: I couldn’t agree more. Circling back to Big Brother and some changes that needed to be made for this season. Were there any major changes you had to make as the host?
JCM: We’ve had to do a lot of things. Everyone has had to take tests before returning to work and we all have to be masked but when you see me on TV broadcasting, I won’t be wearing a mask. Each week when someone gets evicted, they won’t be shaking my hand we will be keeping a distance.
If you were to pull the cameras wide and see you know everyone who works on the show, they’re all wearing a mask. No live audience this season for obvious reasons, but if you’re a long-time fan of the show, we didn’t have a live audience from season two to I think like season seven or eight.
I really feel safe about going back to work and happy about it. We’ve taken the precautions and yet it’s going to be not only a safe environment but a fun environment for people at home to watch.
MW: And when people are watching in their homes they’ll be looking at a brand new Big Brother house, the reveal came out online earlier this week and it looks incredible. Where does this house stack up to you all-time in Big Brother history?
JCM: Well this is the first year I’ve never gone into the house. Usually I bring cameras into a house tour, but for obvious reasons I did not. I got a tour through Zoom and I was blown away. This house celebrates some of the most memorable moments and former houseguests in the history of the show. Twenty years and 21 seasons, plus the two celebrity runs and one version that was just online. Whether you’re new to the show or you’ve only watched the last few seasons, or you’ve been there since season one, you’re going to see the history.
I told Scott Storey, who has been doing the house and the show maybe since season two or maybe since season 1, I said Scott you have to submit for an Emmy this year, it looks so good. I never want it to change again. Let’s make it a museum, let’s add more memorable houseguests.
MW: And now last question before I let you go, what message do you have for fans heading into season 22 on Wednesday night?
JCM: So this is what I always think about Big Brother, it’s fun but yet it’s very real life. When you’re watching it, you’re probably not going to love everyone that you see in the house. Hopefully you can find out this one facet of that person, where you have compassion for that person, or you relate to that person. Let’s all watched this summer and have a good time, but let’s also learn, let’s not be so quick to judge one another and let’s try and give everyone in our world, in our life, and these houseguests, if you’re watching them, the benefit of the doubt.
I think it’s important for everyone to remember if you communicate in a respectful gentle manner you will get far in the Big Brother house and in life. Treat others with respect. If you don’t agree with someone we should respectfully and peacefully agree to disagree. Let’s bring forward the better sides of all of us. I got warts and flaws; we all do. Let’s all put our best foot forward.
MW: Very poignant advice for everyone out there. Thank you so much for the time today Julie, always a pleasure speaking with you. All the best with the new season and with the home schooling!
JCM: God bless you, stay safe. Thank you Matt!
Tune in the all-new premiere of Big Brother: All Stars Wednesday night at 9/8c, only on CBS and streaming on CBS All Access. Check your local listings for more information.