‘Big Brother Canada 3’ exclusive: Host Arisa Cox on raising expectations, new twist, ‘Side Show,’ and more

Arisa -Before Monday night’s season 3 premiere of “Big Brother Canada,” we come bearing one more surprise: An exclusive chat with the woman who presides over many of the proceedings, and someone every houseguest speaks with immediately after leaving the house: Host Arisa Cox. She’s had a chance to watch this show grow and develop over the years, and tonight the show completes its latest transition: A move from cable network Slice to Global, one of the biggest broadcasters in Canada.

So does this move change the show? What does she think about some of the new twists in store for the houseguests? These are just a few things that we had a chance to discuss with Arisa during a chat via phone this morning. Remember, you can read our exclusive pre-show interviews with the contestants now over at the link here.

CarterMatt – With the move to Global, is there any change that the show has had to make, or that you have made?

Arisa Cox – I think the last two seasons have proved that we’re willing to go the extra mile to put out an extremely high quality show. We came out really strong the first year. Sophomore year in general for any project, movies, music, TV shows, they really have to work that little bit harder to make it better than the first season, and I think we did that. The people who work on the show are the best in the country; there’s no one else with this sort of scope in the country. We all love quality so much; we want to knock everyone’s socks off and expectations rise every year, so of course we want to make it better. That would be with whatever channel we were on.

What’s cool about this year is that so many people who have never seen ‘Big Brother’ before are going to get a chance to experience it. I’m jealous of those people! I really am.

Even though you cannot mention the twist itself, what did you think about the idea when you first heard it?

I’m such a fan of the show that it’s hard to not rub your hands together and do a super-evil laugh. That’s generally my reaction to almost every twist.

We have some really strong ones, and we come out of the gate with some really cool twists, which I love to see because if you love ‘Big Brother,’ you’ve probably seen at least a couple of seasons and you’ve seen some things before and you’ve seen some things you like and didn’t like. What we want to do as a production is keep innovating. Twists are cool because we just set the trap. You know that there are people who are like ‘you just put that twist in because you want so-and-so out.’ Um, no! These are planned months and months in advance, and that is the cool part about this thing and being on the other side of it. We just put the people in. We have no idea what’s going to happen!

When do you find out about new elements during the season?

I’ll tell you this. There are things I want to know, and then there are things I don’t want to know. For example, the cast reveal was last week. I didn’t want to know anything about the cast until they were revealed. I just wanted to watch ‘ET Canada’ along the rest of [the country]. Even though everyone in production knows everything about the houseguests, I like to be just a fan for some of these things.

However, when it comes to the structure of the show, like the challenges or the twist, I’m dying to know. When I get that call and I do find out what’s happening, that’s a great day. It’s like you love the game so much, imagine you find out what a bunch of crazy people were planning for another bunch of crazy people to do. It’s pretty amazing and a really fun show to work on.

The Side Show’s coming back again this year. How much do you enjoy having that extra outlet, given that there is only so much time you have for a voice during the regular live show?

I’m so excited we are coming back. I’m so excited we are an hour long, which is going to be such added value. These conversations that we’re having on set are the exact same conversations everyone at home is having on their couch, right? You’re talking about the game, discussing who you like and don’t like, and it’s probably pretty funny while you’re doing it. Well, we happen to have a really analytical mind on the show in Peter Brown. Love him or hate him, he’s a fantastic addition to our whole ‘Big Brother’ family.

Gary [Levy] is just so entertaining. You have no idea what is constantly going [to come] out of his mouth. Then there are their rants, which are some of the best things I’ve ever seen on TV. I’m really excited for this year because we’re going to have some great guests, and a lot to talk about. We’ve got a really great group of houseguests, and they know the show! That is really exciting from a fan perspective.

What’s your take on the cast this season? I feel like that’s the perfect segue.

I would say it’s the fan thing that got me really fired up. Granted, it really doesn’t matter. You could have never seen the show before, Jon Pardy is an example, but hook up with the right person who does know the game, and you can get far enough to win the whole thing.

But, I really love the idea that no one is at a bigger advantage than anyone else. There’s this classic ‘Big Brother’ theory that everyone knows, like ‘you don’t want to win the first HoH.’ You should know that. You want to lay low for the first half of the game and then come out strong. You should have a really strong one-person alliance and then be a part of as many different alliances as you can, while keeping it all straight. These are things that everybody knows.

The twists in this game are designed to throw these people all off their game. I think ‘Big Brother’ is a game of adaptation. If you can adapt to the tools you’re given [you will be better off], and I think Bruno, one of our older houseguests this season, had a great quote on that about how you see the tools you are given, and then you build your ‘Big Brother’ game. I think that’s really smart. You could read all of the books in the world and seen every episode, but it will not matter unless you are able to suss out what is happening at the very exact moment.

Is there ever anything in particular that you ever want to see during the game? It’s hard to remain unbiased when watching or writing about the show, so I imagine it has to be as a host.

It is and it isn’t, because I’m a part of production and I’m in that longer than the actual show. Going into year three, it’s weird. A lot of people ask me ‘who’s your favorite? No really, who’s your favorite?’ People don’t even believe me, but it’s kind of like when you have kids and someone asks ‘who’s your favorite’ and you’re like ‘but I love them, but I love them all!’ It’s for completely different reasons. Even when they infuriate me or even when I’m disappointed, I still have to love them. They’re like your family. You can’t just toss them out the door because you don’t like what they’ve done. You like them for who they are, and that’s just how I feel. The casting process is a big deal, and the people we have made it out of thousands and thousands who tried out for the show. Obviously there’s something special that brings them in, and I’m excited to see where that goes. That’s the best thing about this show; it’s so unpredictable, and then refreshing from a viewer perspective. So many shows you know what’s going to happen, and this is not one of those shows.

Finally you’re someone who has been there for crazy live-TV moments, like with Topaz at the finale for the first season or when Neda was eliminated [last year]. What’s going through your head when some of those sort of things happen?

I have this feeling that they’re part of my family, and so I watch like that. There’s a part of me that can’t stand to see them hurt, angry, disappointed, or lonely; I watch and I feel really protective of them. Remember that I spent a year on reality TV myself [on ‘The Lofters’], so I have a whole lot of empathy for them. People can make fun as much as they want, but [these people] are taking a risk! That’s living without regret, and I’m so amazed that they can do that. So when I see them out there in challenging circumstances it’s hard, but it’s some of the best television I see.

You know the letters from home, the infamous Ika Wong episode that will go down as one of the best episodes of reality TV out there, you should have felt the studio. It was electric watching these things happen! If you looked out in the crowd to see the emotional responses these people were having, this is what thought-provoking entertainment is about and that’s what we do at ‘Big Brother Canada.’

Thanks to Arisa for her time! This was a fun interview to do, since we always like to get at least one behind-the-scenes perspective about the season before it starts.

We’ll be back later with some more “Big Brother Canada” news and a review for the premiere at the link here. Stay tuned! Also, sign up now if you want to get some other updates on everything we cover, courtesy of our official CarterMatt Newsletter. (Photo: Global.)

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