reality tv

Tully Smyth: The 19 most frequently asked questions I get about Big Brother. Answered.

Almost six years ago to the date I squeezed myself into a tiny orange Shakuhachi dress, tousled my balayaged locks, polished my nose ring and stumbled down a catwalk like a newborn foal caught in the headlights.

Hundreds of people were chanting my name.

How?

How on earth did all these strangers already know my name?

Little kids and spotty teenagers with braces were grabbing at my ankles, begging me to high-5 them as Tina Sparkle took my hand, shoved a microphone in my face and began reading her auto-cue.

What the f*ck had I gotten myself into?

The rest, I would like to say, is history… except that it’s not.

Six years on and there still seems to be this inherent fascination with Big Brother and my time on the show, trapped away in a house on the Gold Coast with 19 other people, our every waking (and sleeping) move filmed 24/7.

So, consider this the pervy insight you’ve always craved. With the help of my fellow housemates, I’ve compiled the ultimate list of most frequently asked questions and more importantly; their juicy answers.

1. Do you still keep in touch with any of the other housemates?

Perhaps the number 1 question I get asked is whether or not I’ve stayed in touch with any of the other housemates. The short answer is: yes. Of course I have!

In fact, there was a time right after the show where they were the only people I felt comfortable to be around… I felt like they were the only ones that “got” it.

When you’re spending every minute of every hour of every day with people, you form bonds that will last a lifetime. The boys felt like my brothers, the girls – my sisters.

Watch: Tully talks to Drew on Big Brother. Post continues after video.

The fact that most of us live in Melbourne also helps us stay in touch.

I still see Jazz almost weekly… we’re catching up in a few weeks for a boozy lunch with Tahan and Boogs. Heidi has continued to be a huge support to me and we chat regularly via social media and text. Ed and I spent a lot of time hanging out in the years after the show and Tim and I are always excited to catch up when we bump into each other in Sydney. Finally… we’re all part of a closed Facebook group, creatively named “BB 13” (and instigated by yours truly) so regularly post funny memories or YouTube videos in there.

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2. Do you still talk to Drew?

If that was question number 1, this is most certainly number 2. Whatever happened to #Drully? To answer the question, yes. We still talk. He will always be a very important person to me and I only want the best for him. He was my rock through the most insane, alien experience and I will forever be grateful to the show for introducing us.

I risked it all when I fell for Drew – literally my entire life.

My relationship, my reputation… I put it all on the line because I was madly in love with him and whilst it didn’t work out in the end, it would be such a waste to have lost him entirely.

In saying that, it hasn’t always been easy.

It’s required a lot of work, from both sides.

I’ve often said that out of everyone I’ve dated, Drew knows me the best. He knows me down to my core. He’s seen me at my worst and at my best… he’s been to all the deep, dark corners of my brain and loved me because and despite of it all. That’s pretty rare to find and something I’ve worked hard to preserve.

3. Are you still friends with Tahlia?

And with that question… comes this one. People are often shocked to hear that Tahlia and I are still very, very good friends. And rightly so, I mean, I completely and utterly f*cked her over on national television.

But that’s just a testament to the kind of person she is. Wise beyond her years, Tahlia decided 6 or so months after the show that resentment was a heavier burden than forgiveness.

Listen to the teaser for Tully Smyth’s new podcast, Social Squad. Post continues after audio.

She has been a source of support for me every day since, keeping my ego in check and reminding me who I am away from the ‘Gram and I am extremely grateful to still have her in my life.

4. Did anyone have sex in the house?

Another crowd favourite. Was there any doona dancing in the 2013 Big Brother house? Yes. There was. However definitely not in my bed…

Let’s just say the washing machines seemed to be getting a work out.

5. Is it scripted?

I wish! Had it been scripted, I probably wouldn’t have said or done half the stupid sh*t I said and did!

I can’t speak on behalf of all reality TV programs but Big Brother is definitely not scripted. We were never told to repeat lines or rephrase anything we shared in the diary room. The only time producers would step in and give us instructions would be on eviction nights when we’d get warnings about going live and sternly reminded not to swear.

 

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Cheering @tommybugg and @maxygawn from the stands, beer & hot dogs included. @jazzdbell #OurHeartsBeatTrue ❤️????

A post shared by Tully Smyth (@tee_smyth) on

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6. What did you miss the most when you were in the house?

People often ask how I lasted as long as I did without access to my phone. Truth of the matter is, I didn’t miss it at all. The only time I wish I’d had my phone was when I wanted to take photos for the mems but we were given old school digital camera’s on Friday nights so the social media team had content to play with.

The one thing I think we all missed the most was music. You really don’t know how much you rely on music – to cheer you up, to relax and unwind, to drown out the sound of another person’s voice – until you don’t have access to any. The silence was deafening.

7. Do the producers give you alcohol in there?

They certainly did! Didn’t you see footage of me slurring “I love you” to Drew, struggling to keep my eyes open? Or Tim projectile vomiting red wine all over one of the toilets, Exorcist style?

In all seriousness, most nights we were allowed 1 or 2 beers each for the boys and 1 or 2 glasses of wine each for the girls.

Friday nights or special events such as birthdays were different. They’d often make us get ready separately (boys in the bedroom, girls in the bathroom for example) so that we’d gossip about the others and leave us both a big ice bucket full of champagne, beer, wine.

Then, depending on how the night was going, they’d either give us more or cut us off. If the drama was entertaining and people were making out… more. If someone was sick or the boys were getting aggressive… it was bedtime. End of the day, they have a duty of care to us and the family format of the show meant they couldn’t show us looking white-girl wasted.

8. What was it like to live with Tim?

Exactly as you’d expect – exhausting. Tim doesn’t have an “off” switch. He was often the first person awake and the last person to bed. He was constantly trying to create great TV or drama… forever manipulating conversations and situations which was tough for the naive dumb-dumbs like me who just wanted to make friends and have fun. (Idiot!)

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He was a master at the strategic side to the show and it was both annoying and impressive. He had a way of making you want to slap him and simultaneously desperately want him to love you.

In my opinion, one of the most worthy winners in Big Brother Australia history.

 

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@timdormer and I match making Lunie and Meatloaf. (It was a match made in heaven!) #lunawildfang

A post shared by Tully Smyth (@tee_smyth) on


9. Least favourite housemate?

To be honest, had you asked me this immediately after the show wrapped I would have said that nobody really ground my gears enough to dislike them.

In saying that, there were some comments made on social media after the fact that just seemed petty, negative and unnecessary so for that reason: Rohan.

Who? I hear you ask… exactly.

10. Favourite housemate?

Jazz. Despite being on opposite sides of the house (who remembers the whole Safe House/Halfway House twist? I sure do. Pretty sure I’m still suffering PTSD from being forced to sleep on HALF a mattress) we hit it off right away.

Our first task as a house was to “find our best friend” and spend the day getting to know each other before completing a quiz on what you’d learned. We nailed it and have been besties ever since.

11. Did you ever meet Big Brother?

Which one? There were a few and we met most of them at the wrap party which was surreal.

The main Big Brother or “Showtime” Big Brother who was the voice for all the nominations, evictions and big events is a lovely guy named Leon Murray. He has remained close with most of us since the show and even recorded Tahan’s voicemail message for her. As his voice was the one we heard the most, he will always feel like a real-life Big Brother to us.

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There was also “Hot Big Brother” aka. Pete Cunningham who sounded a bit younger and was definitely more flirty. He was the voice for a lot of the daily shows. I absolutely had a crush on him which proved hilarious when I met him at the wrap party and found out he was gay.

Finally, we had “Lady Big Brother” who would work the lazy weekend shift and wake us up with her silky smooth voice, telling us all about the sun shining and birds chirping. We all recognised this to be the voice of Lisa Fardy who was a producer most of us had already dealt with during the audition process.

There were others but those 3 were the voices you would have heard most.

12. Can you see the cameras?

Some of them, yes. There were a couple of cameras up on poles in the backyard or attached to the roof in the bedroom that you could see (and hear, which was creepy when you were alone in a room and you’d hear the mechanical sound of a camera following you around). There was also a camera in every toilet, facing you, red light blinking away. This caused severe stage fright for some housemates, especially in those first weeks.

The cameras attached to cameramen behind the one-way mirrored walls were pretty much hidden. Unless you squished your nose right up to the glass and squinted, you couldn’t see them.

You could, however, hear them. Quite often you’d hear the muffled laughing or a cough from someone behind the mirror but it was against our contracts to acknowledge them or “break the fourth wall” so we’d just refer to them as the “possums in the roof”.

"Out of everyone I've dated, Drew knows me best." Image via Channel 9.

13. Who cooks the food?

We do! Well, not all of us but we ate very well thanks to a few talented housemates. Mikkayla had actually made it to the top 100 in Masterchef previously so was an amazing cook. Tim and Tahan were also both wizzes in the kitchen.

If we had successfully completed the task and won our shopping budget- we lived like kings. Chicken wings and pancakes and even coffee some weeks.

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If we lost? It was grim. Baked beans on toast, canned pears, and sardines as protein.

There were a few weeks where we lost back-to-back challenges and Drew and Tim had to get really creative with our “staples”.

14. Are you allowed to smoke?

No! We’re warned about a month out to try quitting smoking so that you weren’t having to go through withdrawals in the house but most of us were non-smokers anyway. Heidi I think was the only serious smoker at the time.

15. Are you allowed to leave the house at any time?

Absolutely not, there are no secret trips to the beach or “weekends off”. The only time we left the main house was to go to the Rewards Room or Showdown arena. To say we felt like rats in a cage would be an understatement!

16. Did you shower naked?

Only once! When I won Showdown and took Tahan to the Rewards Room. It was one of those things where it was always going to be all of us showered naked or none of us did. You didn’t want to be the one person standing there with your bits out when everyone else was awkwardly soaping up around their swimmers! I think the boys would band together and shower naked when they were the only ones in the bathroom though.

Another fun fact: we get told when we can shower. Big Brother only turned the hot water on twice a day and only for a short amount of time so if you felt like a mid-afternoon refresh, you were shit out of luck. Tahan was often begging for the hot water to be turned on so that she had longer to get ready on eviction nights.

17. What happens after you’re evicted?

You immediately hop on the back of a buggy and get transported to the auditorium. Executive producer Alex Mavrodakis meets you and hypes you up whilst you simultaneously get miked up by an audio guy. Then, you wait for your queue and walk back down that dreaded catwalk to meet Sonia Kruger.

As soon as filming wraps, you’re whisked away to a meeting with the show’s psychologist to make sure you’re not going to top yourself later that night.

After that, you’re allowed to go see your friends and family (who by this point are sufficiently hammered in the green room). Then you’re chauffeured back to your hotel, where you consume copious amounts of alcohol and spend the rest of the night glued to your phone - which has about 284,479 messages and missed calls.

tully-drew
Tully was reunited with Drew when he was evicted. Image via Channel 9.
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You’re up bright and early the next morning and spend most of the day doing radio interviews and press. Then, you’re flown home for a few nights before being flown back up to do your Dreamworld appearances and attend the next live eviction show.

It’s all a huge whirlwind and I’m not going to lie, you feel like a bit of a rockstar.

18. Is the house smaller in real life?

In my opinion, it’s pretty true to size. I know a lot of people who visited the house after filming wrapped said it felt much smaller than it appeared on TV but I think that’s hard for me to objectively judge when I lived in there.

What I will say however is that it’s not really a house, more a set. We’d often have chunks of the ceiling fall on us or dodgy door handles come off. Ikea stickers on the bottom of vases. End of the day, it’s a TV set and only meant to last until the end of the season.

19. How long were you in lockdown for?

10 days all up! For 10 days, all 20 of us were holed up in different rooms at The Hilton Hotel on the Gold Coast, each with our own chaperone and loved one of our choice. We are minded from 8am-6pm (although I heard Tim required around the clock minding because they didn’t trust him) and they basically did our grocery shopping for us, made sure we didn’t escape or accidentally meet any of the other housemates prematurely.

This was also the time we shot a lot of the promotional material; TVC’s, magazine shoots. It was a full military-style operation with our chaperones using phrases like “Housemate 7 is on the move”.

We weren’t allowed our phones or access to TV or radio so it was a lot of reading and watching DVD’s. (I later found out Drew kept requesting the “30 Rock” box sets but could never get his hands on them because I was hogging them. Meant to be? You tell me.)

In my opinion, the 10 days in lockdown was harder than my 9 weeks in the Big Brother house. The downtime and anticipation were excruciating, I couldn’t wait to be surrounded by people.

So! There you have it. The highly anticipated answers to all those niggling Big Brother questions for all you die-hard fans still crying over the charred remains of the house.

Now let’s all take a moment's silence out of respect to one of the original - and the best - reality TV programs Australia has ever seen.

#RIPBB


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