TORONTO – The global “Big Brother” franchise is known for encouraging its outlandish participants to lie, manipulate and scheme their way through the game.
Meet the Big Brother Canada houseguests. Season 2 debuts March March 5 at 9 p.m.
In the Canadian spinoff, the reality show also wants the back-stabbing cast to provide plenty of laughs, and producer John Brunton says that meant seeking out some seriously funny houseguests.
“Comedy combined with all of the drama and the tears and the heart-and-soul and the absolute insanity of it all, I think it’s an important part of the mix,” says Brunton, going on to compare the Canuck version to incarnations around the world.
“Perhaps we view that as an important part of the mix more than people do in some other places.”
The Slice series returns Wednesday with a whole new crew of attention-seekers ranging in age from a 20-year-old student to a 43-year-old Cape Town refugee.
Most of the 14 houseguests are in their 20s, with a 15th contender set to be revealed during the premiere.
Brunton says one of the surprises of last year’s debut was how goofy things got — when people weren’t having tantrums or tear-filled breakdowns, that is.
He’s hoping for more of the same this year, and 25-year-old houseguest Sabrina Abbate suggested she was more than willing to oblige.
“This is my dream, you don’t understand, like it’s two in one — (being on) my favourite show and then (getting) my TV moment,” gushes Abbate, who says she’d like to parlay the appearance into a career as a comedy actress.
“I’m so excited.”
The antics will unfold in a brand new “Big Brother Canada” house — an unexpected changeup that only came about because the studio used for the inaugural “Big Brother Canada” season was sold, says Brunton.
The new home-away-from-home is smaller but features a two-level layout that puts the bedrooms on a separate floor.
The modern design includes a red-and-white communal bedroom and an icy blue “head of household” master for the winner of weekly challenges, while the main floor features a circular kitchen and a spa-like pool just off the “outdoor” space.
And of course there are plenty of remote-operated “robocams” and two-way mirrors to make sure there is no place for the houseguests to hide.
“There are some places where you want people to become a little bit congested for shots and there are other places where you need all sorts of places where people can sneak off and have private conversations. So we’ve added a few more of those,” says Brunton.
Season one finalist Gary Levy encourages season two schemers to have fun and not take things too seriously.
“You can’t really map out what’s going to happen in that game, it kind of just unfolds,” says Levy, who injected a lot of levity with his flamboyant cross-dressing persona “Glitter Gary.”
Levy emerged as such a fan favourite that he gets his own show this year, alongside fellow season one houseguest Peter Brown, with the “Big Brother Canada Side Show.”
The after-show, hosted by “Big Brother Canada” host Arisa Cox, will feature interviews with eliminated competitors and special guests.
“It’s going to be Arisa kind of combating and maybe shutting me and Peter up because we tend to go on,” says Levy.
“Me and Peter have a different perspective on everything — he’s more analytical and I’m very personality-driven and what’s going on with body language and this-and-that.”
Brunton says the general format remains the same: Each week, houseguests will be pitted against one another in a series of physical, mental and social challenges.
They’ll vote each other out until one claims a prize of $100,000, a $25,000 gift card from The Brick and a $10,000 trip courtesy of Twistos.
Levy says he and Brown each have strong opinions about what they’d like to see this year.
“Peter really wanted there to be more challenges — tasks for the houseguests to do — because he thought that was really fun and I agree with him on that. Having tasks really brings the houseguests together a little bit more and there’s more friendships and you have more memories.”
Levy, who won $20,000 as the runner-up, says he would love to see a “Pandora’s Box” this season — presented in U.S. versions as a small door in the head of household room that unleashes good and bad consequences when opened.
“I think those are fun because you open them up and you never know what you’re going to get,” he says.
Brunton teased that new elements will be introduced this year, but he wouldn’t say what.
“There are things in this house that did not exist in the previous house. There are special secret places,” he said, adding there will also be a “major twist” in the first week.
“It’s all about evolution, changing, twists and turns. Surprises. Just when you thought you had the format nailed and you knew what to expect we’re going to throw curve balls at you and we’re doing that very aggressively.”
“Big Brother Canada” returns Wednesday on Slice and Global. The show will air three nights a week on Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Sundays on Slice.
The “Big Brother Canada Side Show” airs Thursdays, while “Big Brother Canada After Dark” airs seven days a week from 2 a.m. to 5 a.m. ET/11 p.m. to 2 a.m. PT.