For those of you who didn't tune in because you think Big Brother isn't your thing...I have to tell you, I used to be in your shoes. Then my brother and sister-in-law got me hooked on the American version three summers ago. The timeline went something like this:
Episode 1: "Fine, I'll just watch one episode - with a book in my hand - but I won't like it."
Episode 2: "Well, I guess I'll watch one more just to see what Rachel's up to."
Episode 3: "Drive faster! Big Brother starts in five minutes!"
I was really excited to hear that the franchise was branching out to Canada, and thrilled to get a chance to pose some questions to the beautiful new host. Here's what Arisa has to say about her new gig, motherhood, and her favourite things:
This Mom: What was the audition process like for landing the role as Big Brother Canada host?
Arisa Cox: The audition process was a treat, I have to say. Considering I was on a reality show in 2001 (back at the dawn of the modern reality tv age), it was like coming full circle. Most hosts in Canada threw their hat in the ring for Big Brother Canada, so I wasn't too precious about the audition process. In general I find you have to do an audition, do everything you can to rock it, then forget all about it. Otherwise you'd be constantly heartbroken! Before I got the coveted gig, I was flown in from Edmonton for a final meeting with the executive producers, and at that point the possibility became real. And then the news came just before Christmas, and it was the best gift ever.
TM: Did you spend much time researching Julie Chen's style, or just forge ahead with your own? Do you see any similarities or differences between the two of you?
AC: I love Julie Chen in her role, but I also love some of the other international Big Brother hosts. Everyone is so different, so doing that research chilled me out. Every host brings their own flair and experience to the table, so I wasn't too worried about being similar or not to Julie Chen in particular. I have an entertainment journalism background, but I've also been a producer, been part of casting other shows, and lived for a year on camera for Canada's first big reality experiment U8TV: The Lofters. I understand the entertainment value of Big Brother, but I'm extremely empathetic to the participants. So that's where I'm coming from.
TM: BB Canada seems to be doing a good job of continuing the franchise without just slapping a "Canada" on the end. How do you think the new show is distinct from the American version that most Canadians are used to?
AC: Big Brother Canada definitely has stuck with the US model, but that was just the beginning. This is a really high budget production, with a beautiful, unique house, an incredible staff of producers and technicians and some of the best characters ever to live in a Big Brother House, so there's that. I think the "Canadian-ness" comes out in some of the challenges (lumberjacks, anyone?), the secret talking moose and definitely some of the accents. Plus Canada is such a diverse country, and that is reflected in front of, and behind the cameras.
TM: Do you have any favourite houseguests from previous seasons of Big Brother?
AC: I am totally in love with the gamesmanship of Dan Gheesling (who is so good at this game it's scary), and I love Mike Boogie for sheer entertainment value. I also spent a bit of time with Eddie McGee (winner of the first Big Brother USA, and good friends with Tre Smith, one of my old Lofter pals), and he's amazing too.
TM: With a 3 year old and 1 year old, do you have any recent parenting joys and/or dilemmas to share?
AC: I've thrown sleep out the window, as many parents can relate too. Recent joys? Watching my son go from rolling to crawling to the zombie walk to a drunken cowboy walk. Now he just looks tipsy, and amazes me that his knees aren't black and blue. My daughter grows and changes every day, and I love watching her relate to the wonderful people in her life, and now that I'm back in Toronto, watching her meet so many of my old friends. She's a total handful. Energetic and funny and outgoing and smart and curious. My mother used to call me a "day's work" when she reminisces about raising me, and my daughter is definitely a day's work, so I suppose history repeats itself. My son meanwhile is a very cool customer. Very laid back. I'm very blessed. I also love that my children have forced me to let go of so much. I feel like I'm much more supportive of other women and especially mothers. It's hard to be judgemental now when I know first hand how tough it is to be superwoman - which is the expectation these days.
TM: How would you complete the sentence "This Mom Loves...."?
AC: This mom loves West Edmonton Mall...our daughter dubs it the "crazy mall." Seriously, it IS crazy what with the water park, the sea lions, the playground, the rides, and it was the first place Aella ever went skating, making a super healthy dinner that the kids eat without prodding, Baby Centre emails, Scholar's Choice for cool toys, the incredible options for inexpensive but awesome kids clothes (Joe Fresh is one of my faves), Etsy.com, Fab.com, Zulily.com, bubble bath time with 2 babies in the tub, cuddling with my husband and a good movie (I'm an insane film buff) when the kids are finally down for the night. Hiking in Canmore and at Lake Louise, the aquariums at Atlantis in the Bahamas, and visiting my uncle-in-law's farm in rural Alberta. Oh and iPads = lifesavers!
Thanks, Arisa! For more about the BB Canada host, visit her website or follow her on Twitter.
Big Brother Canada airs on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays on Slice, and you can catch Arisa at the Big Brother House on Thursdays for the dramatic eviction episodes! If that's not enough, there's a 24 hour live feed, and you can check out Big Brother After Dark seven nights a week, also on Slice. Go to the Big Brother Canada website for more info, or follow Big Brother Canada on Twitter.