For the last decade, Julie Chen has been a part of America's lives -- from anchoring CBS' This Morning to hosting Big Brother. But thanks to The Talk, Chen has become more than a TV personality best known as ChenBot for her somewhat-robotic delivery as host of the addictive reality show.
The Talk gave Chen a platform to voice her opinions, take a stand, reveal her true self and watch America fall in love with the woman free from the filter of scripted lines. And that filter is coming down even more in The Talk's season three premiere as Chen (along with co-hosts Sharon Osbourne, Sara Gilbert, Aisha Tyler and Sheryl Underwood) goes make-up free for the entire hour!
ETonline caught up with the charming Chen to talk all about the decision behind baring all on The Talk, what it's been like watching her "baby" grow up so fast and how she feels about the finalists on Big Brother 14!
ETonline: Congrats on season three -- has the time flown?
Julie Chen: It really has flown. Sharon [Osbourne] and I were both saying that it seems like yesterday we were doing the chemistry test for the show. It feels like our child, our baby, and now she's turning 3 – how did that happen?!?
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ETonline: You are all going hair and makeup free for today's premiere -- how did that idea come about?
Chen: Every morning at 8am we have an editorial meeting. The ladies come in with no hair or makeup and we discuss what topics will be on the air. One morning, we were looking at some gossip rag talking about celebrity plastic surgery. Sara Gilbert said, half-jokingly, that we should do a show one day with no hair or makeup. We all laughed [thinking] we'd scare people out of their seats. But the more we thought about it, the more we started to embrace it and have fun with the idea.
ETonline: Did all five of you embrace it?
Chen: Everybody was game, and for different reasons. Sheryl [Underwood] was excited, but we have barely seen her real hair. She comes in with this skullcap on every day, so it's going to be interesting.
ETonline: Knowing this event was coming, did you start being more attentive with your moisturizer?
Chen: Oh, so much so. It's funny, because I told the girls I was going to get this Beta Peel I've heard about for years. I don't care about taking care of my skin – I just slap on the makeup and hide all my flaws. Sara starts laughing because we don't take care of ourselves for ourselves, we're doing this one show and now we're all going to start taking care of ourselves. I started bleaching my teeth again, I haven't bleached my teeth in 6 years. Now, I'm cheating where I can and still go makeup free. I got a chemical peel, I started bleaching my teeth, I put on my zit medication every night. Usually, I never have time, but I have not been skipping lately.
ETonline: You've been in the public eye for years, but this show has given you a much different platform with which to engage with fans. Have you noticed a change in the way they treat you over the last two years?
Chen: Yes. The thing I hear most, and it's usually from other people [relaying stories since] the fans will never say it to my face because it kind of sounds insulting even though it's a complement. But they're like, "I never thought Julie was that funny!" [laughs] Which is a complement but someone could be offended because it means people though you were boring and not funny. So, yea, they now know who I am whereas before they thought they knew who I was.
ETonline: You've also seemed a lot more relaxed this season on Big Brother -- joking with the contestants and ad libbing. Is that a result of being so much more open on The Talk, you think?
Chen: This is the first season where I'm much more relaxed about things. I used to dot every "I" and cross every "T" – and while I still do that, it's not as much because I feel this relaxed confidence. The show is so much fun, I don't look at it as work anymore. I get to be part of a show that I know in my sleep. I love it so much, and it's been a lot of fun this season. Big Brother and The Talk are tied in my mind as the best jobs you can have on television.
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ETonline: I recently stumbled across a video from season one of Big Brother -- it was almost unrecognizable compared to the show airing today!
Chen: Oh, completely – between the rules, the set and America voting ... it's totally different. It's funny, that's the format that came out of the Netherlands, which works in every other country in the world but America. I feel as a culture, we're very puritanical and we wanted to vote out the troublemakers ... but the troublemakers are the most interesting ones to watch.
ETonline: That clip also featured Julie Chen's First "But First" -- when did you realize that had become such a catchphrase for the show?
Chen: Probably in season 4 or 5. There was a website that sold Chenbot T-shirt, mugs, posters that all said "But First!" with a silhouette of my head and my arms up like a blow-up doll. I thought, "Who is making money on this?!?!" [laughs] My husband's assistant bought us a bunch of the mugs for the house, which I love, and a sweatshirt, which I wear all the time.
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ETonline: With only 5 people left in the game, who are you hoping makes it to the final two?
Chen: I would love to see a final two of Dan and Ian. When we started, I wanted a woman to win it – I was rooting for Janelle first and then Britney.
ETonline: Were you a fan of the Coaches Twist?
Chen: When we first started, I loved the ideas of the coaches, but a few weeks in, we realized it wasn't working because the coaches didn't have anything at stake. It also allowed the people who were playing to hide behind the coaches and not really play the game they wanted to. I didn't like it early on, but as soon as the coaches voted to become players, it got good – it's become the classic game we love. Then it took another turn with blindsides. It's been a summer of blindsides and some of the smartest players to ever play the game completely had the rug pulled out from under them. That's the beauty of this game – you can be so smart and so good and feel so secure, but come live eviction night, I'm like, "By a unanimous vote, you're evicted from the Big Brother house." And they're like "Whaaaaat?!?" It's cruel but human behavior is totally unpredictable and that's what makes the game so good because there is no formula to say, This is what I have to do to win. You just never know.
The Talk returns at today at 2 p.m. EST/1 p.m. PST on CBS, while Big Brother airs Sundays and Wednesday at 8 p.m. and Thursdays at 9 p.m.