The longtime CBS host, 51, spoke exclusively with Us Weekly about this year’s “Big Brother Beach Club” theme and how they’re embracing the idea of “no risk, no reward” with high-stakes opportunities she will present houseguests throughout the season.
“It’s definitely a gambler’s summer,” she explained, adding, “We’re also introducing a new competition that will unveil itself on the first Sunday night show. … You’re not just going to find out the two people that the Head of Household has nominated for eviction, you’re also going to have this other competition with a whole other layer to it.”
The Talk personality also spoke with Us about how the network has committed to diversity, promising at least 50 percent of the cast will be BIPOC on its reality shows. “I think it’s a great move because we’ve seen, almost every summer, racially insensitive comments that are made in the house,” Chen Moonves said. “That has become a topic of conversation. … I think it’s a good thing that we’re going to see the most diverse cast ever. And that’s not to say something won’t happen or won’t be said that is racially insensitive, but hopefully – as always we will address it – if that happens, it could be a teaching moment for everyone involved.”
The daytime talk show host also embraces the longtime Big Brother theme of “expect the unexpected” – even outside the game. “I always love the unplanned things that kind of happen to us,” she explained. “I love those unscripted, unexpected moments that happen every summer that surprises all of us and puts us back on our heels a little bit. It’s live television.”
Watch the video above and scroll down to read the full interview.
Big Brother 23 premieres on CBS Wednesday, July 7, at 8 p.m. ET.
Us Weekly: OK, so let’s talk about premiere night! We have a lot going on. What can you say about the teams and how you think that will affect the game?
Julie Chen Moonves: On the live premiere, you’re going to find out who the four teams are and the way we’re going to form them is … you know, we always like to move groups of four in at a time. So each group that moves in, they’re going to have to head right away to the backyard and compete to become the team captain. And after each group moves in, you have four captains, and what they’re going to find out then live [is] that each captain has to form a team of four. They have to pick the other members of their team. And it has to be two men, two women. And they’re doing this based off of first impressions. They’re going to be presented with a little snippet of a houseguest describing himself or herself. And then what’s really going to heat things up is after the teams are formed, the four captains are going to compete for one of them to become Head of Household.
So at the end of the night when the HOH is feeling – “I have safety for a week, my team has safety for a week. Everything’s hunky-dory” – I’m going to present that Head of Household with an offer that he or she really is not going to be able to refuse. And this whole summer it’s no risk, no reward. And I’m going to present them with a double or nothing challenge. And they’re going to have just a minute to decide on their own. They can’t be influenced or huddle up and talk to their teammates about it.
Us: Are these offers going to be popping up throughout the season?
JCM: Oh yes, absolutely. Throughout the season. That’s the whole theme. We’re calling it the “Big Brother Beach Club,” but it’s a beach club that would be set, if you will, in a Monte-Carlo kind of background. So, it’s definitely a gambler’s summer, and we’re also introducing a new competition that will unveil itself on the first Sunday night show. So Sunday nights are going to be exciting for a second reason. You’re not just going to find out the two people that the Head of Household has nominated for eviction, you’re also going to have this other competition with a whole other layer to it.
Us: I want to talk about casting. CBS has committed to casting at least 50 percent black, indigenous and people of color. What are your thoughts on that and what do you think of the cast this year?
JCM: I have seen the cast. I think it’s a great move because we’ve seen, almost every summer, racially insensitive comments that are made in the house. That has become a topic of conversation. And it was only last summer where you had seasoned players, all-stars, come back and talk about that. And those were some of the best conversations that were had in the house. And they were also more mature as a group because years had passed … a lot of them came back in as a parent and they’re like, “What kind of world am I raising in?” So I think it’s a good thing that we’re going to see the most diverse cast ever. And that’s not to say something won’t happen or won’t be said that is racially insensitive, but hopefully – as always we will address it – if that happens, it could be a teaching moment for everyone involved.
Us: Speaking of last season, the all-star season was super hyped up. Some favorites went home early and some people were disappointed by it. What did you take away from season 22, and do you prefer those all-star seasons of a cast of all newbies?
JCM: I like them in different ways. I think I’m always a little bit more excited to see the new people because when you see returning houseguests, you already have an opinion on them. And rarely does that change. I think the only time it changed was Rachel Reilly when she was playing. Halfway through, she turned things around, and she ended up winning. She had a big target on her back and she could be seen as a little bit … like you either love her or you don’t. And for me personally, when I found myself rooting for her at the end, it was just so rewarding to see her really be the underdog and come out heroic. So I liked meeting the new people and then I like when they come back as like a visitor to do something in a future season.
And I also like to see the new people come into opening night, having an opinion on these people based on what they’ve told me about themselves, and then that slowly shifting and really getting to know them. You feel like you’re on 50 first dates with these people, and then you see their true colors come out. And quite often, they see a side of themselves that they’ve never seen before. You know, because they’ve never been in this pressure cooker with a group of people that they may not necessarily be hunky-dory with, all of them.
The most exciting part is that we never advertise it as a romance show, but we have had so many successful marriages. I mean, just a week ago, Memphis proposed to Christmas and they weren’t even an item in the house. And we have single houseguests who say they are ready to mingle, they’re ready to find romance, a future spouse. That happens on Big bBrother. When you’ve lived with someone 24/7, chances are you know their warts and all, the good and the bad and the ugly about that person. And you’re bonded, like it or not, you’re bonded. Some of these people end up dating after Big Brother and they weren’t even necessarily on the right season with each other. They’ve become like their own fraternity outside the house.
Us: Speaking of outside the house, the Big Brother fanbase and alumni are super passionate and vocal on social media. How much do you pay attention to that? Do you check in or do you kind of avoid that kind of stuff?
JCM: I don’t make it a thing to check in. What usually happens is it’ll somehow pop up on my Instagram feed. So I’ll see it like Jessica [Graf] with like her child, her two kids. That’s how I found out about the proposal. But what I did do before Instagram existed is, every summer, I’ll ask the executive producer, like, “What’s up with so-and-so?” So I’ll usually get the low-down that way. Or sometimes people will send me an Us Weekly story about an update about something. That’s how it usually happens. I am interested, but I don’t stalk.
Us: Every year I ask the houseguests a few of the same questions and I’m curious how you would answer. One being, if you were playing and you had a ride-or-die from day one, and you could take them to the end, but it would be a close vote. Would you take them or would you take the easier person to beat?
JCM: I would take them. I would do a Cody season, whatever it was, like 14 – [Editor’s Note: It was 16.] – when he knew, you just saw it in his eyes, he didn’t quite say it. But when he knew he was kissing the grand prize of half a million dollars away when he took Derrick and evicted Victoria. But, it paid off for him ’cause he came back last year and he won.
Us: We’re not going to have a live audience again this year due to COVID. Do you hope that may change by finale night and what else can you say about the precautions this year?
JCM: I don’t know. I was disappointed that there wasn’t going to be a live audience at all this summer. And I think once we start that way, we have to probably end that way. Hopefully there is a next season and then all bets are off. But in terms of everything else behind the scenes, what worked last year is going to be put into place this year because it worked at the height of COVID. Everyone is going to be wearing a mask except when I’m on stage, I’ll be the only one who’s not wearing a mask. A lot of people are still working from home and everyone’s still working in pods, if you will, and getting tested every week. You can never be too safe.
Us: You mentioned next summer, do you ever envision Big Brother being on the air without you as the host?
JCM: No, I cannot. I cannot picture Big Brother without me hosting it. I mean, I’ve been there since the beginning. I feel like it’s my child, you know. It’d be giving up my child. No, and I’ve said this before, but Bob Barker hosted The Price is Right for 55 years. But that show did go on without him. I mean, at some point, I hope it only goes on without me if I’m six feet under, and I’m not hoping for that. Or pass it on to my son, I’ve told them. That would be funny.
Us: Anything else you can tease about season 23? Anything you’re particularly excited for fans to see?
JCM: What I love is … you know, we always tell the houseguests to “expect the unexpected.” I always love the unplanned things that kind of happen to us. Looking back, it was kind of a funny moment when like the door to the have-nots’ room wouldn’t open on premiere night. We weren’t laughing then, but you know, like the old saying, if you’re going to laugh about it later, you might as well laugh about it now. Or when we had a technical glitch on the triple eviction night, and when I went back on screen to talk to the houseguests, they saw the words behind me. So I love those unscripted, unexpected moments that happen every summer that surprises all of us and puts us back on our heels a little bit. It’s live television.
Us: Speaking of that triple eviction, how much more stressful was that than a regular double eviction?
JCM: What’s always stressful is like, “Are we going to pull this off and get off the air on time?” Yeah, it is stressful, but I only know live television, so I love it. It keeps me on my toes.