Leading up to the July 6th season 24 premiere of Big Brother, EW caught up with 12 former U.S. winners from the show with a set of questions designed to have them look back at their time in the house as well what life has been like since leaving it. Our final entry is with the season 15 champion found a way to stay above the fray while pitting alliance members against each other. (Also, make sure to check out our Q&As with Eddie McGee, Derrick Levasseur, Jun Song, Dan Gheesling, Ian Terry, Rachel Reilly, and Will Kirby, and Cody Calafiore, Jordan Lloyd, Xavier Prather, and Steve Moses.)
Andy Herren played Big Brother. But was he even playing Big Brother? Viewers can be forgiven for asking that question a few weeks into season 15 since they rarely heard Andy talking about the game. Which is why the eventual champion says now that, "I got the worst winner's edit in the history of the show."
In the final entry in our Big Brother winners series, Andy (who was the franchise's first-ever openly gay winner and never had a single eviction vote cast against him) explains what he was actually asked about when he went into the Diary Room (hint: not strategy!) talks of his regret of not speaking up more when horrible things were being said in the house, and muses about how, thanks to Big Brother, he can now die happy.
Sonja Flemming/CBS via Getty Images Andy Herren of 'Big Brother' season 15
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: First off, give the update as to what you've been up to since appearing on Big Brother.
ANDY HERREN: After winning, I really just went back to my everyday life in Chicago. I resumed teaching for a few years and even taught a class on reality television at Columbia College in Chicago. On my days off from teaching, I started walking my friends' dogs, and after some time I started to establish a relatively wide net of clients. One day, I decided to crunch the numbers and figure out how much I could make as a full-time dog walker and it was nearly double what I was making teaching, so I quit my teaching jobs and started a dog walking business that is now thriving. Basically, I walk dogs around Chicago all day and listen to podcasts and I have truly never been happier in terms of work!
Besides winning, what is your proudest moment from playing Big Brother?
My proudest moment is evicting Amanda in the double eviction and framing Elissa for it. I prepped for that double for basically an entire week. It wasn't shown on the show, but I gave Spencer, Judd, and GinaMarie roles for every scenario that would possibly come up, and I would make them literally practice with me.
If Elissa won HoH, we all had an intricate plan to frame McCrae for evicting Amanda. When McCrae won the HoH, we went into our plan to frame Elissa. I knew McCrae would be suspicious of me, but we all hit him from every angle and he was so confused that he did exactly what I wanted him to do. I also couldn't believe how much I tricked Amanda and Elissa. As Amanda walked out the door, she tried to HELP ME, and when Elissa was sitting with Julie, she was so hoodwinked by me that she thought MCCRAE EVICTED AMANDA. I was just so proud that my hard work paid off. That double eviction truly took like 10 years off of my life.
What is your biggest regret from your Big Brother experience in terms of anything that happened in the house?
Honestly, my biggest regret is not speaking up more. A lot of the horrible things that were said in the house weren't said around me because the people saying them knew I wouldn't have liked what they were saying, but some things definitely were, and instead of really speaking up, I would pull people aside and let them know that I heard the comments and didn't agree with them. But looking back, that wasn't enough.
I think it would have meant a lot to the people watching the show if I had been more vocal and spoken out against the injustices I saw as opposed to just turning a blind eye sometimes. I know I was playing a game and it wasn't real life, but I genuinely felt terrible for people like Candice, and while I was always kind to her and there for her, I could have spoken up more when s---ty things were said to and about her.
Cliff Lipson/CBS Andy Herren of 'Big Brother' season 15
What are your thoughts about how you were portrayed on the network episodes of the show?
I think my edit sucked. In the early days of the season, production would try to get me to make lame gay sex puns and they'd only ask me about which men I thought were hot even though I was truly running the house from week 2 on. Everyone told me everything. I was the only person who was NEVER shocked by any vote or plan because I was included in all of them. Every person in that house thought I was one of their biggest allies and nobody ever compared notes on me.
I was never once in any real danger of going home even though I was absolutely the most dangerous person in the house. But the edit just showed me as this invisible floater because I truly feel like production didn't know how to accurately portray a smart, strategic gay man. To them, I was the funny side character. I was the flamboyant guy who jumped when a bird flew by him. But I was actually the mastermind of the season, and I absolutely think that I would have gotten a mastermind edit if I were straight. The season after mine, Derrick played a very similar game to me and got this grandiose mastermind edit whereas I got paid dust.
At the end of the day. I won and lived a dream, but it was still so lame to see that the show didn't portray me as funny or interesting or intelligent, because I am all of those things. I think I got the worst winner's edit in the history of the show when you actually compare what I did to what was shown on the show.
What are your feelings on the Diary Room and the interviews you would do in there?
I kinda answered this in the last question, but for WEEKS I would go in and they'd ask me about innocuous stuff and I'd be like, "Why aren't you asking me about my strategy AT ALL? I am manipulating the hell out of these people and you don't ask me about it. I know you're giving Helen and Amanda all of the credit even though I'm right there with them. This sucks!"
What was it like coming back to regular society after being in the house? Was there culture shock or an adjustment coming back?
Coming back really wasn't that tough for me! I just wanted to live my everyday life. It was wild how often I would get stopped for that first year, though. I was once running late to a movie and a car pulled over and was like, "Andy from Big Brother? Can we stop and get a photo?" and I was like, "Yes, but it has to be quick! I'm late for Gravity!" And they then offered to give me a ride and I let them!
Also, right after I won, a gay intern at CBS pulled me aside and basically filled me in on all the gay news from the summer. He was like, "Cory Monteith and James Gandolfini died. By the way, James Gandolfini is in a great movie with Julia Louis-Dreyfus called Enough Said that you need to see. And you MUST check out Miley Cyrus's new music!"
Sonja Flemming/CBS via Getty Images Andy Herren of 'Big Brother' season 15
Was there ever a point either during the game or after you got out of the house where you regretted going on the show?
I truly never regretted going on the show. It was a dream of mine to be on Big Brother since I started watching in season 3, and living it was so amazing. I know this is kinda dark, but, like, if I died tomorrow, I would die as someone who lived their literal dream, and how many people can say that!?
Whom do you still talk, text, or email with the most from your season?
I will always be close with Amanda. She was my rock in the house and she's also one of the smartest, funniest people I know. Humor in the Big Brother house goes a long way. When you find someone who genuinely makes you laugh, you keep them close. That's a primary reason why I will also always love Spencer. As everyone around us acted like lunatics, we would just look at one another and know what the other person was thinking.
Helen is another one I talk to often, and she's the one I actually see. We try to get together at least a few times a year since she also lives in Chicago. I FaceTime with Jessie from time to time as well and genuinely adore her. Judd and I message a lot, too! I mean, we all shared a really strange, intimate experience together, so I like to at least remain somewhat in contact with most of the cast. Not Aaryn, though. She has somehow gotten even worse since the show ended and has been rewarded for it by gaining a massive social media following. A primary example of our broken America! Yikes!
Do you still watch Big Brother, and, if so, what's your favorite season you were not on and why?
Yes, I still watch! Of recent seasons, I loved 17 and 20 because the casts were so dynamic. Lots of strong female players in 17 and just such a fun house dynamic in 20. I also adored the cast of 23. My favorite seasons are 6 and 10, and my favorite player of all time is Renny. It doesn't get better than Renny. "YA BETTER NOT!"
Sonja Flemming/CBS 'Big Brother' winner, Andy Herren, host Julie Chen Moonves, and GinaMarie Zimmerman during the season 15 finale
Who's one player from another Big Brother season you wish you could have played with or against and why?
I wish I could have played with Claire from 23. I just think we have so much in common and we would have really gotten along. I would watch her on feeds and think to myself, "Oh wow, this person would absolutely be my friend in real life." And having a friend in that house is so important!
If you could make one change to any aspect of Big Brother, what would it be and why?
Stop making the format so predictable. The same comps the same weeks. Doubles happening the same time every season. It is so easy to plan for it all. Make things scarier and keep everyone on their toes. Also, stop making the Diary Room confessionals so scripted. I miss the days when people talked like actual people in the DR. Also, cast no straight white men. We've had enough of them!!!! But that is wishful thinking.
What did you do with your prize money from winning the game?
I invested it!! I mean, I took a trip to Australia after the show, and I recently bought a $2,000 hairless cat named Andy Jr. (I'm allergic or I would have adopted) but I'm not one for extravagant purchases. I want the money to be there for me later in life. I remember after I won, the producers were like, "Ugh, we love that we know you're actually gonna be smart with this money. We can't say that about some others."
Finally, would you play again if asked?
I would absolutely play again if asked, but I just don't think it's gonna happen. And I would have more fun! I wouldn't bite my tongue and I would have to be much more aggressive. Or would I? Maybe I'd just fade into the background again and take out everyone's faves, making me the first gay winner and the first two-time winner. That would really piss some people off, which I love!
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