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Julie Chen: “Omarosa Can Win Celebrity Big Brother”

Expect the unexpected. That has long been the motto of CBS’s “Big Brother.” The program is in its 19th season and this season has been one of the craziest ever thanks to the infusion of celebrities like former White House employee Omarosa Manigault, NBA champion Metta World Peace and TV personality Ross Mathews.

Julie Chen has been the host of “Big Brother” since the show began in 2000. Chen talked with CBS Local’s DJ Sixsmith about what to expect on tonight’s 2 hour double eviction episode, Omarosa and how the show has grown since it first started.

DJ Sixsmith: You’ve been the only host in the history of “Big Brother.” How has the show evolved?

Julie Chen: The biggest evolution was from season one to season two and that was 18 years ago. When we launched in season one, we were copying the original model from the Netherlands. The original model had the viewers calling in to vote contestants out. That was a lesson for us as American producers that we Americans don’t like the troublemaker. We want them out. We then got stuck with a bunch of people who were not as interesting and who had nothing on the line against one another. There was no tension in the house and that wasn’t exciting. In season two, we completely flipped the script and said you have to live, eat and sleep together and turn on one another. You have to vote each other out. Suddenly, it became a competition. From season two to now, the show has changed dramatically. We always say to expect the unexpected. That’s our terminology to allow ourselves as producers of the show to put in a twist. Most of the people who enter into the Big Brother house at this stage are super fans, so we have to keep it fresh. You have to make sure you catch these house guests and throw them off their game a little bit. It has evolved, it has gotten more silly and I’ve gotten more silly and relaxed about hosting the show. We don’t take ourselves seriously at all and it’s less and less each year.

DS: This season of the show has been intriguing for a number of different reasons. What can people expect when they tune in tonight?

JC: It is double eviction night and the show is two hours. The great thing about double eviction night is in that second hour, you have the whole cycle of “Big Brother” that normally takes a week to play out. You have it all in one live hour. The second person who gets evicted is really anyone’s guess. None of us know, it all depends on who wins HOH going into it. With such few people left in the game, it is a little bit slim pickens. You may end up making an enemy out of someone that you didn’t have in your crosshairs. Tomorrow night is just one hour and it will feature the blooper and funny moments in the house that you didn’t get to see. They don’t necessarily have to deal with game play, but you are going to see a lot of Omarosa. She will be talking about her time in the White House. It doesn’t have anything to do with her game plan in the Big Brother house, but it’s juicy gossip. At the end of that episode, the HOH competition will be kicking off. There will be a cliffhanger at the end of Saturday night’s episode. You won’t know who wins HOH until the next night, which is the two hour finale. Going into the finale night, there will be five people left in the house. Before the two hours is up, there will be one winner and there’s only going to be two people to chose from when the whole jury comes together. Everyone from Chuck Liddell, who was the first one out, to whoever the last one out is will choose. They come together as a group and they vote on whoever the final two are.

DS: You mentioned Omaraosa. How has she managed to get to this stage of the show?

JC: She is very clever, cunning and can be the most charming person in any room when she wants to be. She’s not someone who is going to be ignored. Whether you love or hate her and a lot of people don’t like her, you can’t take your eyes off of her. The house guests feel threatened by her. They think she can win it. I think because she is a very persuasive speaker. At the end when you are campaigning for votes, her housemates feel insecure about themselves because they know that she has the power of persuasion on her side. She also has some street cred in the Big Brother house because she won a very difficult endurance competition. It’s not like she skated by and just had a good social game and manipulation game. She won a competition. She won an HOH. She’s definitely a force.

DS: This is the first time celebrities have been on the show. What has been the most surprising part of the experience this season?

JC: The most surprising part in my eyes is how awesome Ross Mathews is as a player and a diary room person. He is so funny. I think that has been the biggest surprise. I’ve always liked Ross, but I didn’t know him very well. I went from liking Ross to completely adoring Ross. That’s tied with seeing what a big heart Metta World Peace has and the love he has for his family and his soon to be wife. We saw an NBA champion basically throw in the towel. He’s a born competitor, but I made him cry. That was kind of surprising. The game made him cry. He’s awesome.

Watch “Celebrity Big Brother” tonight at 8pm EST/PST on CBS.

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