Julie Chen Was Essentially Threatened Into Taking ‘Big Brother USA’ Hosting Job

Julie Chen has explained that she initially declined the Big Brother hosting role she has kept for 16 seasons, before her superior told her that rejecting the offer would have been seen as “insubordination”. But luckily she doesn’t seem to have any regrets now!

The franchise, which originated in the Netherlands and recently wrapped its 15th main cycle in the UK, launched against a certain other reality gem that was proving incredibly popular at the time.

“I never thought it would be here this long,” Chen told David Letterman on The Late Show on Tuesday. “The problem was when it came here it was at the height of Survivor… The shows are similar; strangers co-exist, they vote each other out of the house [or] off the island and they’re competing for a lot of money. The problem was because Survivor was so hot we were kind of like the cousin, the bastard stepchild… We were the imitators.”

Chen also explained that she initially declined the job because she had her heart set on one day hosting 60 Minutes; an iconic CBS newscast that has been around for decades. “I was shocked [to get the BB offer], I had just started at the network. I was on the morning show, I was hired for local news, I was 29… So I get a call from the head of news… and he says to me, ‘I got a call from the West Coast and they want you, in addition to being the news anchor in the morning on CBS, they want you to fly out to LA every week to host this new reality show coming from Hollland called Big Brother.’

Julie Chen (WENN)

“And I said, ‘why me? Why not an actress?’ They said well it’s a live show where you have to know how to do Q&A. And I said to them flat out, ‘if I take this job am I forever shutting the door to being on 60 Minutes?’. He said, ‘probably, yes’, flat-out. He was honest! I said, ‘well thank you for your honesty; if thats the case then I decline’. He said, ‘Well you’re new at this network… This would be seen as insubordination’!” Letterman, of course, pointed out that “what he said was not legal”.