"Big Brother 10" is returning to its roots.
The claustrophobic CBS reality show is sealing 13 actual strangers - no ex-lovers, secret twin partners or long-lost siblings this time - inside a makeshift house on a Studio City soundstage for the chance to be the last houseguest standing and take home the $500,000 grand prize.
"We have an amazing mix of houseguests. So diverse in age, backgrounds, all of that," executive producer Allison Grodner told Early Show co-anchor Julie Chen. "From a 22-year-old bodybuilder to a 75-year-old great-grandfather."
The contestants - who will include a gay bull rider, a Hooters waitress, a professional bodybuilder and a 75-year-old former Marine - will spend the summer competing in challenges and evicting each other while being monitored by over 50 cameras. It's the first time since the show's third season that the houseguests are all strangers.
In last season's first-ever winter edition of "Big Brother," which was quickly put into production because of the writers strike, contestants were partnered with each other and evicted as pairs for the first four weeks of competition. Grodner said a new "Big Brother 10" gameplay twist would be introduced during the premiere episode on July 13.
"It's really a power-play," teased Grodner. "The game will actually start before they enter the house."
In recent seasons, contestants have come under fire outside the house for controversial remarks made inside the house. During the eighth season, Amber Siyavus said that Jewish people tend to be "really money-hungry" and "selfish." Last season's winner Adam Jasinski was fired by a nonprofit autism organization because he used the word "retards."
"Those types of comments are not something we want to happen," said Grodner. "It's a live show. It's not censored on the Internet. These are real people. We aren't telling them what to say, but we're not telling them what not to say either. Things do happen. We, of course, can choose what we put in the show, and we do so carefully."
This season's contestants seem to be more aware of the repercussions of their actions from the outset. Before meeting their competitors or entering the house, the "Big Brother 10" cast was individually interviewed by the AP while they were voluntarily sequestered - no television, newspapers or telephones - from the outside world in a Studio City hotel.
"If you make a mistake and say the wrong things, you may offend people and be known for that forever," said Steven Daigle, a 35-year-old geographic consultant and gay rodeo competitor from Dallas. "People make mistakes. If I do make a mistake, I hope I can learn from it and know that was some part of my life that I was ignorant or uneducated about."
The rooms inside the "Big Brother" house this season will be themed to different decades. The kitchen, for example, resembles a '50s diner while one of the bedrooms is filled with '70s-inspired furnishings. The timeliness extends to this season's crop of contestants. At 75, Gerry MacDonald will be the oldest "Big Brother" houseguest ever.
"Age does not bother me," MacDonald told the AP. "I hope it doesn't bother them."
Libra Thompson, a married 31-year-old human resources representative from Spring, Texas, left behind her husband and three children - including 4-month-old twins - to participate in "Big Brother 10." During production, Thompson and the other "Big Brother" contestants are prohibited from communicating with the outside world.
"It's better for me that they're younger," said Thompson of her newborns. "At four months old, they're not going to remember much. It's probably going to be a little bit more difficult for my 4-year-old.
However, I'm going to stay focused and remember the reason I'm here, and that's the cash. That will help me."
Prize money talks.
"I'm motivated because I'm a big fan of the show, but I'm more motivated that I have a chance to win $500,000," said Angie Swindell, a 29-year-old pharmaceutical sales representative from Orlando, Fla. "I just have to keep telling myself that if I start feeling all queasy about the 24-7 thing, there's an end to the means."
April Dowling, a 30-year-old car dealership finance manager from Higley, Ariz., said she doesn't think the "Big Brother" experience will be any more difficult than the time she had to spend 15 days in a "tent city" jail for drunk-driving charges. She also believes living in the house may remedy some of her obsessive-compulsive behaviors.
"I have seen a therapist," said Dowling. "They tried to put me on anti-anxiety medication, but I'm not big on prescription medication. I just don't like to take it. I'm actually hoping the 'Big Brother' experience will be therapeutic. My life will not end if the green beans aren't behind the corn in the pantry."
The 13 contestants of "Big Brother 10" are:
- Michelle Costa, 28, real estate agent from Cumberland, R.I.
- Steven Daigle, 35, geographic consultant from Dallas
- April Dowling, 30, finance manager from Higley, Ariz.
- Robert "Memphis" Garrett, 25, mixologist and party planner from Los Angeles
- Dan Gheesling, 24, high school teacher from Dearborn, Mich.
- Jessie Godderz, 22, bodybuilder from Huntington Beach, Calif.
- Brian Hart, 27, telecommunication account manager from San Francisco
- Gerry MacDonald, 75, retired marketing executive from Magnolia, Texas
- Renny Martyn, 53, hair salon owner from Metairie, La.
- Bryan Ollie, 27, marketing sales representative from Bloomington, Minn.
- Keesha Smith, 29, waitress from Burbank, Calif.
- Angie Swindell, 29, pharmaceutical sales representative from Orlando, Fla.
- Libra Thompson, 31, human resources representative from Spring, Texas