Ross Mathews did not win the 2018 season of Celebrity Big Brother. He was, however, voted Americas Favorite Houseguest by viewers. And it likely had something to do with his unexpectedly revealing conversation with fellow contestant Omarosa Manigault-Newman.
As a red carpet correspondent for E!, Mathews has interviewed dozens of high-profile celebrities over the years. But none of those conversations had quite the impact of his chat with Omarosa, who had been ousted from her nebulous position in Donald Trumps White House less than two months earlier.
Cozied up on an L-shaped couch together, Mathews asked Omarosa to reassure him that things were not as bad as they seemed in the Trump administration. No, its going to not be OK. Its not, she whispered dramatically, adding Its so bad. And that was before she said Vice President Mike Pence would be even worse.
That aired? People saw it? Mathews asked excitedly of the Omarosa bombshell in an interview with Entertainment Tonight moments after he was let out of the Big Brother house. Reached by phone the next day from his Palm Springs backyard, Mathews tells The Daily Beast, I am so excited about how it all went down. Its no wonder hes feeling goodthis is the first time hes seen the sun in a month.
Mathews, who also serves as a judge for RuPauls Drag Race, knew he got a good scoop from Omarosa, but even now he is learning just how much the comments dominated the news cycle earlier this month. The whole thing has the man formerly known as Ross the Intern from Jay Lenos Tonight Show reimagining the possibilities for his futurethat is, assuming Omarosas dire warnings about the fate of the world dont come true.
Below is an edited and condensed version of our conversation.
How does it feel to be back in the real world?
It feels weird. Im right now standing in my backyard in the sun. And until this morning it had been 30 days since I had seen the sun. We didnt go outside except for every other night for an hour, but we were under a ceiling so we couldnt see the sun, we couldnt see the sky, we couldnt see anything. So it feels amazing.
Yeah, I bet. Why did you want to go on Celebrity Big Brother and do you feel now that its over that it was worth it?
I wanted to go on Big Brother because I have, for 19 seasons, watched and said, I know how I would play this game. I love this show. I love this game. And I always felt like, if I could make it into the house, I knew exactly what I would do. And so when they asked me I was like, you cant say that for 19 seasons and then say no when they ask! So go in there and play the game you know you can play.
And how different was it from what you had imagined after watching it for so long?
It was way harder than I ever imagined it could be. It throws you off your axis, just by the nature of the game, cutting you off from the outside world. It reminds me of the feeling you get when you first step off a merry-go-round. Youre just kind of dizzy and discombobulated. And then, throw onto that fact, you cant trust anybody that youre surrounded by. Oh, and theyre strangers. And youre just trying to get your footing. It was really tough. And then the boringness of it. The fact is, with these competitions sometimes, they need to separate you. And production takes a long time, so sometimes they put you in a room for six hours. I was in a room for six and a half hours just by myself, staring at a wallwith no music, no books, no anything. And that can be such a mindfuck.
When you first got out of the house, you didnt know that your intense conversation with Omarosa had even aired on the show, let alone that it became a top news story for about 48 hours. What was it like to find that out?
Well, I assumed it would make news. In fact, as soon as the conversation was over I ran to the Diary Room and said, Did you guys see that?! I know what a scoop is. I knew what I was doing when I talked to her. I was curious. I knew she never talked about any of this, outside of the interview with Michael Strahan. And she certainly hadnt said anything like this. I was just trying to get any juicy scoop that I could and she was willing to talk, which shocked the hell out of me. So I thought, shut up Ross and keep asking questions until she stops talking. I assumed it would make news. I kept asking the producers, Is it the number one story? I said, Make sure they spell Mathews correctly, only one T. They said, We cant tell you anything Ross, Im sorry. But I knew it would be big.
To miss your 15 minutes of fame in this case must have been odd, right? To not be able to experience it?
Oh my god, all I do is have CNN or MSNBC on in the house. So when I got out, my partner Salvador said, All those shows you watch? You were on all those shows!
What do you think it says about our culture that cable news covered her comments non-stop like that?
I think it is a sad state of affairs. It is not OK that the White House had to comment on a conversation I had in Celebrity Big Brother. We should not be living in that kind of world. But the fact that we are says something. I dont know what it says, but if I figure it out, Ill get back to you.
You seemed genuinely concerned for the country in that clip.
Well, I am! I think anyone thats paying attention should be genuinely concerned. And heres someone who had, not a front row seat, but a co-starring role in it all. And I just needed her to tell me, You know what? The medias making a bigger deal out of this than it is. Were fine. She did not say that!
So how did that make you feel when she said the opposite?
It made me want to eat pizza and cake for the rest of the day. If were all going down with the ship, honey, then eat the carbs. Thats what it made me think: just start eating carbs. I really felt a lot of despair then. I was feeling multiple things. I was feeling fascinated. I was feeling excited, because I knew I was getting a scoop. But I was feeling, thats certainly not the answer I wanted for myself. Thats certainly not the answer the country wanted. So I felt like were all fucked.
In addition to the cable news coverage, it also got a lot of attention from the late-night shows. Jimmy Kimmel said he thought Omarosa was making up a lot about her experience in the White House. Do you think she was telling the truth?
I dont know when shes telling the truth or not telling the truth, but I know shes seen some shit.
Is there anything she confessed to you that didnt make it onto the show?
Can you share any of those?
I dont want to say yet, but I asked questions every single day. I asked about Mueller, I asked about being subpoenaed, I asked about if Hillary Clinton would be a good president, I asked everything.
Is there one thing she said that stood out to you, whether it appeared on the show or not?
Well, I was fascinated to hear that she worked for the Clinton campaign, for the 2016 Hillary campaign, prior to working for Donald. She worked for an organization called Ready for Hillary and she said that Hillary would have made a fantastic president. So I just dont understandshes never a woman that doesnt have a strong opinion. So the fact that she could be willy-nilly, like, Donalds the one that called so I went and worked for him. I dont understand. And Im not talking smack about Omarosa. Youve gotta hand it to her. I know people that are good at what they do, and she is the best at what she does. Im not sure what she does, but whatever it is, shes the best at it.
So whats next for you now that youve had this experience? Does it make you want to do more political interviews?
Listen, I think people thought of me as, you know, sort of an amusing little clown that theyve seen for a couple of seconds or minutes on a late-night show or a red carpet. And I am absolutely that. But there is a lot more to me. And Im so glad on this show I got the opportunity just to take a deep breath and chill and have people really get to know me. I am fascinated by everything pop culture, and that of course includes politics. Im passionate about it. I just feel really good that America voted me their favorite player. When I grew up, there were not people like me on television because we werent allowed to be on television. And now, on a major network, millions of people voted for me! And that, to me, is more important than any title of winner of Big Brother than I could ever ask for.
Well, congratulations on that and good luck with everything coming up.
Thank youand listen, I would love your support when they nominate me for a Pulitzer Prize for my investigative report on Omarosa.
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