Julie Chen Reveals 'Big Brother' Once Booked Paris Hilton for a U.S. Celebrity Edition

by Raphael Chestang 4:32 PM PDT, September 23, 2015
Playing Julie Chen Reveals 'Big Brother' Once Booked Paris Hilton for a U.S. Celebrity Edition

Big Brother host Julie Chen told ET that potentially the biggest season of the CBS reality show never made it to production in the U.S.

While a celebrity version of Big Brother exists overseas, Chen said that we'll probably never see an American version, as an early attempt was shot down.

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"It was so early on we had confirmed Paris Hilton, and one executive said, 'Who's Paris Hilton?' That's how early it was, OK?" Chen revealed. "Then, we realized at some point -- seasons in -- if we do that, are we jumping the shark? We don't need to get celebrities into this house, because you're probably not going to get the dream team. Let's keep it with people -- real people, if you will. They're fascinating to watch, because they're going to be more genuine."

A rep for Hilton told ET, "Paris has never signed on for Big Brother."

Chen also shared that she didn't want to take the hosting gig at the time, because she was told that it would ruin her chances of achieving her lifelong dream of being a 60 Minutes correspondent.

"I tried to turn it down," Chen admitted. "I was told by my boss at that time -- the person who, at that time, was the president of CBS News -- that if I didn't take this job it could be seen as 'insubordination.'"

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After reluctantly accepting the position, Chen was received with mixed reviews from viewers, some of whom nicknamed her The Chenbot for seeming distant in her delivery.

"The 'but first' was a way to make fun of The Chenbot," Chen explained, referencing her trademark transitional phrase. "Other people took it in other directions just to be funny ... Hopefully whenever someone says 'but first' they think of Big Brother."

After its debut, the show became a huge hit for Chen, changing her life in many ways. She considers herself to be a part of the first official marriage to come out of the show, as she met her husband, CBS Corp. president and CEO Leslie Moonves, after taking the job.

"If Big Brother never existed I probably would have never been on my husband's radar or gotten to know him, and it has changed my life forever," Chen said. "Thank you, Big Brother!"

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Chen revealed that CBS presented her with the gig after other news anchors declined their offer, a topic that she and Moonves joke about today.

"I say, 'Well, you could have been married to Meredith Vieira if she said yes!'" Chen said. "We have a good laugh. One day we'll have to do Thanksgiving at her house."

The Big Brother 17 finale airs Wednesday on CBS.