We’re back with another edition of our weekly “Big Brother Canada” season 2 series, and this time we have an exclusive chat with someone who knows the reality TV business inside and out. John Brunton has an extensive resume working in the genre as the head of Insight Productions, which was also responsible (for those curious) for the excellent “The Amazing Race Canada” this summer. So there is really no one better equipped to talk with about the first season of the franchise north of the border, and also the planning process for the upcoming season.
For a point of reference, this interview is largely casting-based thanks to it being conducted at the the casting call in Toronto earlier this month, but there is also some scoop on challenge production and a MAJOR hint at a twist that is going to be coming your way when the show returns next year.
CarterMatt – So how has the process been going?
John Brunton – We spent all of Thursday and Friday (note: This interview was conducted on a Saturday) looking at everyone that we have been casting prior to coming here. We just have an incredible group of people; I guess the success of the first season really has people coming out.
Yeah, I personally find that the second season is when you find some of the best people, since you have people coming out now who may have been unsure the first time.
We’ll have a hard time outdoing last year, which was a phenomenal cast and some of them really surprised us in terms of how they ultimately behaved in the house. Guys like Tom. We never thought that Tom would be that guy; he was a fireman and a good guy and a jokester. Then, the power went to his head and it was very entertaining.
From your perspective now, I mean, you’re not looking to find another Gary…
No, you can never do that and replicate. You can travel all over the earth and never find another Gary. That guy is one of a kind and is cut out of his own cloth. You have to be inspired by whatever people turn you on in that year; you can’t really say ‘I want one of these.’ It doesn’t quite work that way. It’s like who are you really interested in? Who do you want to know more about? Who do you want to turn your TVs on to follow?
There’s every kind of human being out there, and this country has changed so much in the last 15-20 years. It’s so multicultural, so liberal in so many ways. The politics surrounding sexual orientation and race, it’s very different here in Canada than it is in the United States; we can actually put people on our show that they may not consider putting on the US show.
So specifically, how involved are you in the production of the show? Are you involved more in casting, or in the production side of things?
I’m involved in everything when it comes to the show. Erin Brock and Sue Brophey are our showrunners per se in that they are involved 24/7. I’m involved 22/7. (Laughs.) No, I’m involved in all aspects, from the production to the design of the house.
I like to particularly get involved in the casting process because I think it’s the single most important thing, and the meetings that we have about the challenges and the twists and the weird s**t that we’re going to do.
What do you think you guys learned from season 1 that is going to help you make season 2 more of a success?
It’s relentless. It’s literally 24/7. There’s no show that’s 24/7 where things happen all day long, where I might get a call at 2 or 3 in the morning about something happening in production, whether it’s technical or it’s a personality clash in the house. Nothing ever stops. There’s also no other show that has 85 cameras.
How has the creative process been so far? Have you been enjoying the brainstorming?
We have a MAJOR theme that we are working on this year. I can’t reveal it to you, but it’s something that I don’t think that anyone has ever seen on a ‘Big Brother’ show in the United States or Canada. It’s a major, major thing that we’re pulling off. We’re going to do something at the beginning that again, nobody’s ever seen on any ‘Big Brother’ anywhere. It will have a huge involvement with Canadians all across the country, and it’s going to be shocking to the houseguests. They’re going to be freaked out.
I’m excited to see it now! But does this put pressure on you guys to execute it?
Oh, huge pressure.
More than last season?
Well it’s one thing to have a successful show one year, it’s another thing to maintain it. Of course, we’d like to maintain it not just this year, but in future years. You have to think outside of the box; it’s one of those shows that lives and breathes, so when you think you’ve figured out how to do it, you have to think again … That’s really an important element; you’re constantly trying to come up with new and innovative things, and also things that distinguish our show from the American show. We want to have our own DNA and Canadian vibe. It is a particularly unique and special place; it’s not the UK and it’s not Ireland [or the US].
I’m telling you: It’s going to be a freakin’ barnburner. People are going to be on the edge of their seats.
Before I let you go let’s just touch on one last thing: Was there any particular moment from season 1 that caused you to lose sleep?
I didn’t have time to lose sleep (laughs), but when Topaz made the mistake, which was epic, and there was an enormous amount of pressure being brought to bear about what we should do. Should we allow her to change? She clearly made a decision, she made the wrong decision, and I felt very strongly that we couldn’t turn back the clock. When you put your chips on the table you put your chips on the table.
Everybody on our team was freaking out. We had an instinct that it was not the way that she had intended to vote, she said that over and over again, so we were in absolute shock when we saw what she’d done.
That was surely the most shocking thing that we’ve done, since I don’t think we’ve ever really had anyone in the house where we thought that anything scary or dangerous was going to happen. They were a good group of people, and while I shouldn’t say that they were [always] respectful, they did know where their boundaries were. Living in a house like that, you can only imagine the tension of being on camera 24/7 and revealing to the world a romance that you’re having, knowing that people see all sides of you in the house. At least we didn’t have anyone like they had in the US house where they were hitting people. (Note: We assume that’s a Willie Hantz reference for his infamous “headbutt.”)
I also don’t think we would ever get away with having a racist person (likely a reference to a good chunk of the “Big Brother 15” cast) on our show. I don’t think Canadians would have it quite frankly. We have a different sensibility, we’re much more comfortable with sexuality than people in the United States, and we don’t have a huge political, religious right that’s going to be upset about show romances or things like that.
We’ll be back next Monday afternoon with another “Big Brother Canada” exclusive, and you can read another executive’s point of view about season 2 by clicking here. It also has some more interesting insight into the casting process.
Photos: Slice, Brendan Cooney