After a 5-year break, Big Brother has finally made a comeback. Shifting from Channel 5 to ITV2, the reality series not only changed networks but also welcomed a new pair of hosts – Will Best and AJ Odudu – who have been bringing a new life to the iconic show. And if you’re wondering why their chemistry on screen is so strong, the pair previously hosted 4Music’s Trending Live together. Remember those days?
Leading up to the highly-anticipated relaunch, both Will and AJ time and time again expressed their love for Big Brother and proved they were the perfect duo for the job. With fans gripped and reacting in real-time every night, our timelines every evening have everyone joining in and getting involved, just the way it should be!
With six housemates evicted and now only 10 remaining, Will exclusively speaks to Principle in his first interview following this year’s launch.
How have you felt about the reception of the new Big Brother series so far? There must have been a lot of pressure going into it.
Oh, mate. We’re totally blown away. I still have been kind of avoiding Twitter and stuff just because I’ve never been much of a Twitter person anyway, but it only takes one mean comment and I’m very, very thin-skinned. I know from my friends and girlfriend going on about it that it’s been good. I’ve never done a job where it resonates so much with people. I get messages every day throughout the day from people just saying thank you for it being good. I think everyone was nervous because if you love it, it’s been a big part of your life. But the thing is, it’s the same for me and AJ. We’re big fans of the show and were feeling that pressure as much as everyone else because we wanted it to be good because we were actually working on it. People have been really positive and it’s been quite kind of humbling in a way.
I think part of it is out of your hands, though. The housemates play a big part in making Big Brother what it is.
No, no. It’s one hundred percent that. That’s what we were saying from the start in all our kind of initial interviews. People were saying like, “Oh, pressure on you guys.” And we were like, “Well, pressure on us in a way,” because in the lead-up, we were the only public faces who you could pin your hopes on. But as soon as it starts, that opening show where we are getting them all in, that was us handing the bat on. They’re so good. They’ve been cast so well. They’re such a big mix.
At Late and Live, the audience is properly involved in the show. And before we go live, I’m chatting to everyone to get their opinions on stuff because obviously, we go to the audience throughout and pick up on whatever topics we’re talking about. It’s very interactive and one of the things I love about it is you get to meet the fans of the show and you’ve got something in common with all the people in the room because we all love the show. I got this lovely message from somebody saying they’re so grateful that the show is as good as it is because of the cast. Their best memories of the show were when they felt like the housemates are kind of almost like their own friends. You like some more than others, but you’re so invested in them that you feel like you’re part of that group in some way. I definitely had that back in the day. The first series that I was really into when I was a young teenager or whatever was series three and I really felt I was so into the show. I really felt like those people in the house were my mates. It’s this kind of weird emotional connection that you get with them, which you don’t really get with any other show. Because they’ve cast it so well, this series is kind of recreating some of that magic that the best series of the past have had. That has been the biggest relief. It’s because they’re normal people and everybody in there essentially are all good people. There are still some weeks where one person is a villain, one person isn’t, you know. People have strong feelings one way or another about everyone. But essentially, I’ve now met them all and I’m meeting them as they come out and they’re all nice. Deep down, they’re all solid. I think that also kind of helps with that overall as it gives the audience the ability to connect with them. There’s that humanity there.
Since you’re a huge fan of the show, was it a no-brainer for you to take on the role of host?
Yes. A hundred percent. I’m not gonna lie, I was fairly taken aback when I was up for the job. I mean, I was delighted to have been asked to screen test for it. I feel I’ve been very lucky in that I’ve managed to stay busy enough throughout my career. There are peaks and troughs as with anything. I’ve been able to keep earning a living and it’s been good but I certainly hadn’t done anything as big as this and I hadn’t been as active in the kind of entertainment space. I’d been doing more music and live events and that kind of stuff. That’s just the way my career had kind of gone. Because I love to travel and I love music, I was very happy for it to go that way. When I got the call asking if would I come in for a screen test, that was a bit of a surprise, but one that I was super excited about. When they said, “Yeah, we want you to actually do it,” um, it was, I know it’s sort of an overused phrase, but I mean, it was a dream come true because when I was young, I’d loved the show. Davina was probably the first presenter I was really aware of as a presenter who made me think I would like to do that thing that she’s doing. There was no hesitation whatsoever. Before they kind of officially offered it to me, we’d had conversations. I’d had meetings with ITV where I’d been able to ask them questions as well. My first question was the same that a lot of fans of this show had asked, which was, “How much is it going to be like Love Island?”, “Is it gonna be sexy people with six packs and amazing bodies?”, “Are you gonna be casting people for aesthetics?”, “Are you gonna be casting people because they’re influencers and they’re bringing an audience?”, and all of those kinds of things. And ITV was like, “Absolutely not! The beauty of Big Brother is that it’s real people, anyone can enter. We want this to be a true reflection of British society as it is now.” That was the only slight reservation I had. And when they dispelled that straight away, I was all in from the start.
Do you think the show showcasing more “normal people” has been one of the main factors as to why the public has remained interested in it?
Definitely. That is the key thing when you look back at the best series from the past. They always had a good mix of age. They had a good mix of every demographic. That kind of diversity when it comes to age, gender, ethnicity, identity, and socioeconomic background has always been key and has set it apart from any other show. When it first started, the idea was it was a social experiment. What happens when you get people from all these different walks of life into a house? And that’s only interesting if you have a variety of people because that’s where you get the potential for friction, but also the potential for unlikely friends and unlikely relationships and learning curves that the housemates can go on. I mean, look at Trish and Henry being super close throughout in the house. I only saw who the housemates were on the day of the launch but as soon as I saw this guy saying, “I actually think Boris Johnson is great,” and then this girl saying, “I’m a feminist refugee migrant.” I thought, “Great, fireworks!”, but actually it’s more interesting and it’s better to watch that they’re really good mates. She’s educating him about immigration and refugees and he’s taking it all on board. That’s incredible. You don’t get that on any other show.
That’s very true, actually. Has there been anything about the relaunch that’s exceeded your expectations?
I think some of those things we’ve touched on, I think the quality of the housemates. It feels like the whole show is a celebration. It’s fun while still being interesting. It doesn’t have like a mean bone in its body. Reality TV has gone through stages where sometimes you feel like audiences are laughing at the people on reality TV. It’s not always so positive. One of the things that I love about this series is that it does feel like everybody is willing everyone to do well. I know that the production team and everything are all geared towards making sure that everyone is enjoying it from the housemates to the viewers. That has been a big relief for me. It feels like one big family, and everybody’s been saying that. When Kerry came out, she was considered one of the more controversial housemates in terms of her reception to the public. But when she came to the Big Brother Late and Live studio, her reception was amazing. Everybody was clapping for her. When she left, all she was saying was what an amazing experience she had. So far, it’s just been really positive for everyone.
Talking of evictions, have there been any that have taken you by surprise?
Well, I was surprised that Hallie was up for eviction and I was kind of surprised that she went. However, on the day, I was working it through in my mind and I had a formula in my head for who I thought was gonna go and I did actually predict it correctly. It’s only because up to then, Dylan, who lots of people thought would go, had been quieter than her. Inevitably, the more you’re in it, the more people have an opinion, and the more you’ll get voted one way or another. We know that Kerry hadn’t been as popular towards the end as she was at the start and Hallie was very associated with her. There were kind of signs that I saw that maybe the vote might go that way, but it’s always a shame when anyone leaves because they’re all such good housemates. And you often find that the people that you think are doing the most in there are often the first to leave because that’s the nature of it. The bigger you are, the more of a target you are. Hallie has been on Big Brother Late and Live a few times now and she’s so lovely. It’s been great having her on the show. She’s this young girl who has got such an exciting path ahead of her. It’s great to have been part of her becoming part of the public consciousness because I think she’s gonna be amazing.
I’m not sure if this is true, but I saw on Twitter that there have been talks about a Celebrity Big Brother next year. How much of this is true?
I don’t know anything about next year. I think there’s been things swirling around online, but I don’t know. We’re just focused on getting this series done and making this series as good as it can be. Hopefully, there will be more Big Brother to come because the public has enjoyed it so much that they want that.
If there were to be a Celebrity Big Brother next year, who do you think would be the perfect person to go in?
That’s such a good question. When you think back on it, the thing is no one celebrity is perfect in isolation. It’s about the interaction, it’s about the other people you put in there. Kim Woodburn was obviously legendary for her extraordinary rants, and she was in the house with other people who just pushed her buttons in the perfect way. That’s what brought out the Kim Woodburn that we saw. I always liked it when you had surprising people in there. I was really into drum and bass and then suddenly Goldie [Price] popped up in the Big Brother house. I used to interview Dappy a lot when I was on T4 and stuff and he was hilarious. These surprising people who represented different bits of culture make it interesting. I’d love to see Louis Theroux in there. I think that would be amazing. I wonder how long he’d last.
And finally, is there anything else you’re currently working on that isn’t Big Brother-related?
I’ve got my business outside of TV, so I’ll need to pick up on that again. That’s been slightly neglected while I’ve been working on this. I’ve got a good team and we’ve actually just employed someone to pick up some of that slack, so that’s in a good place. That’s my drinks company, Bloody Drinks. We make canned Bloody Mary cocktails. We’re sold in Sainsbury’s and Waitrose. And then music stuff. I’ve got a few music events coming up in early December and stuff for the club nights and DJ stuff that I do. That’s very separate from the telly stuff. And then a holiday! I’m gonna go to Mexico. I’ve got a mate who lives in Mexico. I’m gonna go and hang out with her in Oaxaca for a couple of weeks.
Big Brother is on ITV2 and ITVX nightly at 9pm followed by Big Brother Late & Live.
Big Brother: The Live Final is on ITV1, ITV2 and ITVX from 9pm on Friday 17th November.