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Reality TV Interview

Dean O'Loughlin ('Big Brother 2')

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Dean O'Loughlin ('Big Brother 2')
For this week's Big Brother interview, we've gone back to the show's glory years with Big Brother 2 finalist Dean O'Loughlin. The Brummie music and football fanatic impressed viewers with his patience and intelligence during his nine-week stint on the show. His post BB-career has included releasing a football single, a book about his time on the show, and setting up Z List Ltd with fellow BB2 alumni Stuart Hosking to produce their tea bag bin. We caught up with Dean to ask about his memories of the summer of 2001.

You went back in the house for the show's tenth anniversary. Was that strange?
"It was weird actually. When they asked me I didn't think anything of it, because it was a different house to the one I was in. Plus, it's so long ago, I don't really feel that I did the show any more. But when they put me in the task room, which was all mirrors and cameras, it felt a bit flashbacky and weird. I was really surprised at how I fell straight back into being institutionalised and doing as I was told. It came naturally to me, behaving myself for Big Brother, and that's why it took me so long to knock down the sugar cube tower they wanted me to build."

They had your famous guitar from Big Brother 2 in the room. Why didn't you have a strum?
"It's funny you should say that actually. Dan, one of the producers, told me that they put the guitar in the room hoping that I'd pick it up and start playing. They were all queued to say: 'This is Big Brother, can Dean put that bloody guitar down!' I mean, I didn't know that, otherwise I'd have played along. I was just so bloody humble and thought, 'ooh, I'd best not pick up that guitar'. In normal circumstances, of course I'd pick it up and play. So, that would have been a nice joke, but I didn't play ball."

Brian [Dowling] and Helen [Adams] were considered wild characters back in your series. How do you think you'd have coped with the extroverts in recent years?
"It's interesting because if I'd seen Big Brother 2, I wouldn't have applied to go on the third one. I'd seen the sedate one - Big Brother 1, which had a very normal cast really. The producers try to up the stakes each year and the people get more and more extrovert and strange each year. I wouldn't last five minutes in the house now. I mean, I had trouble back in my series because everyone was being vacuous and shallow, but they look like Stephen Hawking and Patrick Moore compared to the people in there at the moment. It's all way too superficial now."

I bet you never thought Helen would seem like an intelligent housemate.
"If you look at Charlie at the moment, he's as extravagant as Brian Dowling. But you look at him and he's just like wallpaper in this series compared to some of the others. Personally, I think that's the show's downfall. They always assume you have to push it further and further. This year, I think it's a great example, because the more interesting stories have come from the less extravagant characters. Marcus's ridiculous crush on Noiron is far more interesting than loud transsexuals getting drunk and shouting like Nadia in Big Brother 5. Who wants to see that really? I mean, that's just circus TV."

Do you still get recognised in the street?
"These days, thank God, really rarely. Going back on the show has reignited it a little bit. I remember the first time I left the house with my wife and we weren't recognised. We wanted to throw a party! It just felt like I'd got my life back. Nowadays, I only really get it from real fans of the show, but that's generally harmless because they understand the show and understand me. I just thought it was hilarious when I went back in the house for the anniversary and half of the housemates didn't know who I was. They were like, 'Who? Who?' That was brilliant."

How did you deal with the stigma of being a former Big Brother contestant?
"Well, a lot of it's about choice. Very quickly when I came out, I realised I didn't like the fame thing and made it my target to lose my celebrity status as quickly as possible. If you want to do that, you can do. Don't go to the opening of an envelope and just get your head down. People often bring the problems on themselves by staying in the spotlight for as long as possible and going to every cheesy event they get offered. Plus, I was just a normal character. I was portrayed as boring because I was a normal lad. That made it easier for me to continue with my life as well."

Did you totally avoid celebrity events then?
"I did go to some things and we had fun. But I remember me and [my wife] Vanessa coming out of some event in London, where we were chased by paparazzi. Then we just stopped, turned around and let them take our picture. They were all like, 'No, you're supposed to keep running'. We were like, 'No, if you want a photo, have a photo, we don't mind!' If you have that normal attitude, no one cares. That was ideal for me, because it's a million times better being normal and anonymous than it is being famous."

Did you annoy the show's producers with your book Living In Box: An Adventure In Reality TV?
"There's all this stuff about how you're not supposed to write about the show, but my PR told me, 'If they bring an injunction against this book and try to ban it - brilliant! We will sell hundreds of thousands'. So that was our whole marketing campaign, hoping Endemol would ban it. We posted the book out and the head of Endemol said, 'We wish Dean all the best with his venture'. The PR added a tag underneath the email, saying 'The reasonable bastards!' It was exactly what we didn't want and they were totally cool with it. I was really angry when I left the show because I went in naively and came out feeling like I'd been done over and chopped up into a cartoon character. But the book was two years later and a lot of that anger had subsided and gone away, so my take was more measured and I didn't address things that may have annoyed them. I was too reasonable basically and I should have just made a load of s**t up and retired on it."

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