'Big Brother' returns with color-coded pods and no hugs amid coronavirus pandemic

By Marianne Garvey, CNN

    (CNN) -- "Big Brother" Season 22 kicks off tonight with an all-star group of returning contestants, cast and crew taking extra precautions amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The housemates identities are still under wraps -- even host Julie Chen Moonves said she doesn't know who the 16 people are who will be living in the house. The potential castmates have been quarantined leading up to the premiere, according to Chen Moonves.

Production flew in "a bunch of people, more than 16," Chen told CBSN Los Angeles.

"Some people I thought were definitely going in the house, they tested positive for Covid-19 so they couldn't go in," Chen Moonves said.

In a separate interview with SiriusXM, Chen Moonves explained that production staff who are essential to get the show on air wear masks and take weekly Covid-19 tests.

"I'm the only person that's not going to be wearing a mask for the limited time when I'm on television, but when we're in commercial or what have you, that mask is going on," she said.

Crew also wear color-coded lanyards and can only be in the areas that are marked with their color.

"So let's say you're in the orange pod and your lanyard and ID has orange on it. You can only go into the spots where orange can go into," Chen Moonves explained.

On screen, when a houseguest gets evicted, social distancing will mean no more shaking hands and no hugs with the host.

Reflecting on the 20 years since "Big Brother" debuted in the US, Chen Moonves said her approach to hosting has evolved over time.

"Season 1, I was terrible," she said. "Let's just say what everyone knows: I was the Chenbot. I deserved that name because I was robotic. I came from a news background and I was asked to do this show and I thought, 'Okay, I'm going to be really straight, with no personality, because my original dream was one day to be a correspondent on '60 Minutes.' And I was told if I do this reality show, I probably am shutting and sealing that door shut from ever going through it. I'm going to prove them wrong.' They were right, by the way. I was never asked to do 60 Minutes."

Chen Moonves said she's grown into the role.

"I finally learned how to embrace the Chenbot," she said. "The stars of the show are the ones in the house. I'm just the conductor of this train. So sometimes letting my personality show. I learned that also from I did eight years on 'The Talk,' where again, I had to learn how to not be so newsy and just not editorialize and kind of bring a little bit of my real personality to the table. So it's been a journey for me."

The-CNN-Wire
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