Sometimes the smartest characters and the most compelling human drama on television aren’t in the conference rooms of Lockhart/Gardner or the meth labs and zombie killing fields of AMC. As fans of the best reality competition shows know, sometimes great non-guilty-pleasure TV comes at the hands of a school teacher from Michigan who knows his way around a house straight out of Orwell’s nightmares. Dan Gheesling delivered one of the most engrossing seasons of TV ever when he came back from near-elimination in Season 10 of Big Brother to win the season in the only unanimous jury vote in series history, and he won our Best Reality Star My TV Award in the process. So you can imagine how excited we were to see him back for Season 14, even if it was just as a “coach”.
His second season started out a little shaky as two of Dan’s three players were eliminated in week one and he spent most of the following weeks laying lower than low, taking a backseat in the Quack Pack alliance even after the coaches entered the game as players. Then Head of Household Frank pushed Dan’s back against the wall, he lost a crucial veto competition and was sent to solitary confinement with his eviction imminent. 24 hours later, Dan emerged from his solitary “disco party” punishment and pulled off what is now considered the greatest move in Big Brother history to save himself and his teammate Danielle from eviction; a move that is now simply known as “Dan’s Funeral”. Dan flipped the house, created a fake alliance to oust his greatest threat Britney, then flipped it back and maneuvered his former alliance to propel him into the final two. His status as a former winner ultimately lost him the jury vote and the grand prize went to 21-year-old superfan Ian Terry, but Season 14 was the season of Dan Gheesling either way. Those final weeks of Big Brother last summer were some of the best TV of the year and the best Big Brother since All-Stars (if not ever), securing Dan his place not only amongst the best to ever play Big Brother (those who don’t give him that solo honour place him on an even level with beloved mastermind Dr. Will Kirby) but amongst the best reality competition players of all time.
Not only is Dan a past My TV Award winner and a rare double nominee this year- a contender for both Best Male Reality Star and Moment of the Year– but he’s also one of the nicest guys we’ve ever had the pleasure of interviewing. He found a full hour to talk to us about both his seasons in the Big Brother house and the secrets behind his now-infamous game.
I know you watch a lot of reality shows, why Big Brother?
The first time I ever applied for a reality TV show, I applied for Survivor, but what I did was I shot an audition video the second I turned 21. I shot this elaborate audition video, and for whatever reason, I don’t know why, I decided to send it to Survivor—because I always wanted to go on Big Brother. But what I did was I exchanged the beginning and the ending of the audition video. So instead of saying, “Hey, my name’s Dan Gheesling, I want to be the next Big Brother winner”, I shot one like that and I shot, “Hey, my name’s Dan Gheesling, I want to be the next Survivor winner.” I don’t know why I did that, I just did. So, I actually ended up applying for Survivor first, and then Big Brother, and yada yada yada—so, to answer your question, I was always drawn to Survivor, because that was the first reality show that I watched. But I’m not an outdoorsy kind of guy, so I didn’t stand a great chance competing on that show. And then when I saw the second season of Big Brother, I was like, “This is exactly like Survivor except without the one thing I wouldn’t be comfortable with,” which was living outdoors. And I saw someone [Season Two winner Dr. Will Kirby] win the show who wasn’t more athletic, you know, wasn’t stronger, but was just mentally able to manipulate people to win a half million dollars. And at the age of 16 or 17, that really appealed to me, and I never let that thought or passion out of my head until I got on the show.
Did you know you’d be as good at it as you are?
[Laughs] To be honest, no. The first time I stepped into the Big Brother house, I was scared. Here was a kid that was dropped in there- and I was very confident when I [first] got in there, but once you’re there, I saw everyone around me, I was like, “I got some work cut out for me”. But, obviously, what plagued you one season, another season was completely different—in terms of confidence. But I always felt that, as a young kid, if I got in the house, I would have a chance to do well because I could control my emotions pretty well.
If you were nervous going into the house, you must have been really nervous when your alliance was completely devastated in the first week.
In Season 10? Oh my gosh. I was like, “It took me four years to get on the show, and it’s coming down to this? My alliance turned their back on me”—but then, to me, that’s when I really found out what I was made of. I was in trouble, but I learned early on never to give up, no matter what the situation. Logically, anyone who watches Big Brother [knows], if your alliance is falling apart, you’re the next to go and you can jump ship— there’s a lot of people that jump ship. I want[ed] to do the exact opposite, feign like I’m staying with the alliance, and pledge allegiance to the guy who was getting voted off at the time. I figured, I’d roll the dice and play the dividends at the end. Which, obviously, payed about $500,000 in dividends.
You wrote a book about how to get cast on reality TV. What would you say is the biggest trick to pulling it off?
I think for the average person it’s two things. Number one; you’ve got to get extremely, extremely comfortable in front of the camera. Because for normal people—like you and I (I use the term “normal” loosely)- having a camera plopped in front of your face and someone saying, “Tell me how great you are,”—that’s not something people are used to. So you gotta practice and get better at it. And the second thing is, be very, very self-aware. If we’re not even talking about reality TV, if we’re talking about life in general, that’s very difficult for people to do. So, to really be able to look at yourself with a critical eye outside of who you are, and say “How would a complete stranger view me?”, “What personality features are accentuated by how I talk to them?”. You just really have to look at yourself how a producer would look at you—not as how you see yourself, if that makes sense.
Were there elements of yourself that you played up, specifically for the producers, even before getting into the house?
Oh, without a doubt. I’ve been rejected so many times in casting, it took me four years to get on the show. So the final time that I applied, I was like, “you know what? I’m playing this game from the second I shoot my audition videos.” I haven’t released it yet, but at some point I’ll release my audition video. I can kind of laugh at it now—but even then it was kind of embarrassing, because I was over-the-top confident and cocky. And then, as I went through the casting process, I started to notice that they were asking questions slanted in a way that would paint me as kind of a misogynist, and super super conservative, and I just ran with it. Because that’s how they saw me, even though I’m not like that. That’s how they saw me, so I was like, “you know what? I’m going to give them what they want.” And it worked out for me. Granted, there’re a lot of nuances to doing that—because you don’t want to play up this role and then be the complete opposite, but, you know, as a 5’9” 150 pound guy from Dearborn, Michigan, I had to do what I had to do to get on the show.
In season 10, I remember a lot of talk about you basing your gameplay on Chilltown—
You already mentioned how Dr. Will’s win inspired you to apply for Big Brother . Strategy-wise, what did you learn from the preceding seasons that helped you the most?
When I got cast on [my] first season of Big Brother, I really treated it very seriously. I went back and watched a ton of seasons; I watched every episode, I watched elements of the Live Feed. And I think the biggest one thing I learned strategy-wise, was– you take someone like Dr. Will, [for example], you never, ever, ever—no matter what the situation was—you never saw him lose his cool. He never raised his voice, he never yelled, even when people would yell at him. I remember looking specifically at the times when people would approach him very very angry, and I just watched how he disarmed them. And I said, “you know what? There’s something to this, in terms of not fighting back to people, and finding ways to calm people down so they forget about how dangerous you could be”.
You famously never lost your temper in the house—or, close to it—
First season I would say, “yes.” Second season—well, first season there was one– second season, I definitely had my fair share of outbreaks.
It was that one Veto competition…
Oh yeah, I mean, it was—it was cursed.
Other than the few times that you did let the cracks show, what do you think was the moment—in either season— that was the hardest to keep your temper, but you did?
I don’t know. Because the second time I played, I knew what I was getting myself into. So it was actually a little bit easier. Season 10 was so long ago, I can’t remember there being a time when I was really angry in Season 10, just because I really enjoyed every second of it. But if I had to pick out a specific moment from Season 14, I think it was a point when I was talking to Frank and Boogie, and they were trying to figure out who sold them out—and here I am, and I was perfectly fine taking heat for Ian, but at the time, you just didn’t—I didn’t see the foresight—or I didn’t see the long-term plan, I just knew I had to keep my mouth shut, where normally, you know… [he trails off]. I guess that’d be the only situation. And then in terms of getting angry, in [Season] 14, I got pretty mad at Ian—[Laughs] I laugh about it now– he tried to pull a cartoon, kind of old-school move on me, where he acted like he used these quarters on the machine [during the laundry veto competition] but he really didn’t. I got pretty mad about that, because it was a super important competition. But other than that, I mean, it’s just fun for me. And that’s the thing about how I approach Big Brother—it’s just so much fun for me—I just enjoyed being there. And that’s why I don’t take any of it too seriously.
As someone who did watch all the other seasons, and who did emulate previous players, how did you feel then, coming into Season 14, being the sort of player that other contestants emulated, especially people like Ian?
To me it was flattering, because the thing I love about Big Brother as a game is that you see people play hard and play with the tools that they’re given. That’s what I like watching (’cause I watch every season). I like seeing the game progress as much as possible. But in terms of me entering the house, I was just surprised that I was continually able to do what I was able to do on a long term basis. I mean, I was just as shocked as, probably, some people at home watching.
Because of your day-job (as a high-school football coach), the twist this season seemed almost designed just to get you back in the house.
How quickly did you sign on?
Uh—oh. Well… I’m trying to think of a good analogy; I can’t come up with one on the spot [Laughs], but if you were in the desert, dying of [thirst], and someone says, “you want to take a drink?”, you’d say “yes” of course. That’s how I feel about Big Brother. No matter what situation I’m in, if someone comes to me and says, “you want to play Big Brother?” I’m playing. It’s just one of those things that I love to do. It’s not like they had to sit there and be like, “Well, you know Dan, we really want you, think about it.” They called me, and I was like “When do we get this thing started?”. It was just a matter of how fast I could get up there.
Was part of that how successful you were last time? Do you think if you’d had a more negative edit, or you hadn’t done as well that would change, or do you just love the game that much?
Oh, I love the game. The thing I was very conscious of the first time I played was: it’s a reality show, and they have to make it interesting. And the only way they can make it interesting is if they say a lot of controversial or dumb things, or at least they can edit you in a negative way if that’s the kind of stuff that comes out of your mouth. So in Season 10, I was very conscious of you know, they can’t feed words to me, they can’t edit me to say something I really didn’t—so I was never really worried about it. There’s obviously a big difference between Season 10 and Season 14 in my edits. But I don’t really care. To me, people are going to like you or dislike you no matter what you do, and the big thing for me was, as long as I didn’t disappoint any of my family and friends back home, that’s really the only thing I care about.
Signing up to come in as a coach, what did you think the chances were that you were probably going to enter the game as a player?
To be honest with you, I was hoping and praying that I’d have a shot. Even if the odds were 100 to 1 that I would be dropped in the house, I’d still take it. I was on the concept that I would be a coach for the entire season, which I was fine with, but if there was any slight chance for me to get to play, I would love to. But in terms of what I thought, I thought there might be a chance, but I thought that it was so slim that it wasn’t going to be something I could really bank on.
Your team was almost totally wiped out in Week One, so you really only got to coach Danielle for the whole season.
If there was one other player in the house that you could have picked, who would you have liked to have coached?
It’s funny, because things are kind of cyclical. And maybe it’s me being crazy, but there’s so many parallels between Season 10 and Season 14. If you’re a superfan, you would probably pick up on some of them. There’s things I didn’t even try to do- I’m in a lot of trouble in a veto meeting, I’m going to wear the exact same thing and put the exact same [look] on my face as when I was in trouble with Jerry. Things just happened in very similar fashion, just tweaked a little bit. So it was very interesting to me to see how the game was repeating… I forgot your initial question. Sorry.
It was: If you could have picked anyone in the house- other than your initial team- to coach, who would you have picked?
I’ll give you two.
It would have been a lot of fun to coach Frank, because I would have coached him in a completely different way, and try to have him play in a subdued manner, as opposed to [playing as] a big physical threat. So it would have been interesting, for me, as a coach, to see if I would have been able to kind of talk him into playing a low-key game, because everybody knows Frank’s not a low-key guy.
Then, as a coaching challenge to myself, the other person I would have liked a shot at coaching is Willie. Could I have stopped something like [his expulsion] from happening?
Those are really the two that run through my head, in terms of being challenged as a coach. Maybe not so much in terms of actually having a shot to win, but in terms of, as a coach, to see if I would have been able to get anything done with them.
I wrote that early on in the season, if Willie had had another coach, the game would have gone an entirely different way. He could have really done well.
Yeah. People really liked him, and he was actually- he didn’t really get a chance [to show it] in the episodes, but he had a really endearing personality, a really tough upbringing and he survived. I think it was just a perfect storm- Britney and Willie wasn’t a great fit. Because, you know, Britney has a certain way about her- she’s great, I just don’t know how well it matches with Willie. [Laughs] Obviously we know how well it meshed.
The plan you came up with in Solitary Confinement is one of the most beloved moves in reality TV history. But what were some of the not-quite-as-great moves that you tossed out before landing on hosting your own funeral and blowing up the Quack Pack?
[Laughs] This has been a very interesting interview. Because, not gonna lie, most of the time when I get ready for interviews, it’s like, all right, here’s the question that I’m going to get asked. And you’re asking stuff that no one’s ever asked me before, so I really appreciate that— it makes it interesting, for me.
Well, I figure everyone’s asked you about coming up with that plan—
I’ve read you talking about it already.
I want to know what the failed plans were.
You gotta remember I had 24 hours to think about it, so there was a ton of stuff running through my mind. One of the ones that sticks out to me, was when I was in solitary confinement, I was on slop but there was a cake in the room, and so one of my ideas was, I had this card that said “Solitary Confinement” on it, and I was going to act like I ate the whole cake and found a special power inside. [Laughs]. So, that was one of my first ideas. And then I quickly talked myself out of that, because there’s no way to prove that kind of stuff. I think that’s the one that sticks out the most.
I always knew at some point, in some form or fashion, that I was trying to wrap things around—I wanted to talk to the group as a whole. Because I didn’t want there to be any miscommunication about what I was trying to do. ‘Cause it’s like [a game of] telephone in there—you tell one person one thing and it gets twisted and screwed around. But if you address the group as one, then you know exactly the message that everyone heard. I just didn’t know how I was going to do that at first.
Did everyone in the house buy the idea that you had turned on Danielle?
Yeah, but I’ll tell you what—I knew ahead, before the funeral. It’s kind of a long and convoluted story, I’ll try and save you the time and trouble, but I acted like I was mentally ill, and went and poked into the DR. I had a very long DR, kind of simulated like I was talking to a psych—I didn’t tell them that, but you know, that’s what I simulated like I was doing—because I acted like I was really messed up in the head. And when I walked out of the Diary Room—this was pre-funeral- everyone was around the couch, they looked very concerned and scared for my wellbeing; I walked out and I knew I had ‘em. Jenn looked me in the eyes, and I almost smirked a little bit; [Laughs] I almost felt myself smirk, and I was like, “Holy crap I just lost it right there.” But that’s when I really knew I had a shot, because they were all into what I was selling them.
Over the course of either of your seasons, is there one big move you tried that you just couldn’t make work?
I’d say, maybe in recent history, trying to get the coaches’ alliance together. Normally, I’ll try something once— I’ll float the idea, I won’t even put my foot on the pedal, but I’ll just float it out there, and I can tell if it’s going to go or not. This coaches’ alliance kept getting shot down, but I think I just wanted it so bad ‘cause I was trying to think of the endgame, the value of having coaches in the end. Plus you have dominant players working together. I wanted it so bad that it almost cost me. I tried that multiple times and it failed.
You’ve confessed that if you did win the final HOH, you were going to take Ian with you.
Why not take Danielle, so you could tell the bitter jury that you were loyal to at least one person, like you were to Memphis?
Honestly- this is giving Ian some credit- we both were convinced that Danielle had so many friends in the jury that we would both get slaughtered. So no matter what, I didn’t even stand a chance. Against Danielle—this was me in my head; obviously, hindsight is 20/20—I just felt like I didn’t have a fighting chance against her, and I thought I had a fighting chance against Ian. But it turns out, it would’ve been better the other way [Laughs].
Did she ever start speaking to you again?
Yeah. The one thing I can kind of hang my hat on in Big Brother, in terms of, you know, living my life and moving forward, is that I always do my best never to insult or embarrass or really truly make fun of anyone personally. So I think because I really am conscious of trying to do that—I’m like that in regular life too—I think eventually everyone can sort of forgive me. It’s fortunate that Danielle and I are actually on speaking terms now.
You and Memphis stayed close after Season 10. He was in your wedding, right?
How about the other house guests?
It’s funny because, you look at someone like Memphis- who’s into nightlife in LA- and you look at me- I’m a conservative dude from the Midwest- you’d never think we’d be as good of friends as we are. But, you know, he stood up in my wedding, I stood up in his wedding. I guess I just never really expected that. But, as far as anyone else from Season 10, every once in a while, like maybe around the holidays or something, I’ll text or talk to Jerry– and Angie a little bit. But it’s kind of like summer camp; you go there as a little kid, you think you’re going to be friends with everyone when you go home, but you really don’t talk to many people. And it’s unfortunate, but it’s kind of the way it is. But I think Season 14 was a little different because- you know, someone like Britney and I shared a bond of being in a crazy environment as newly married people, so I’ll keep in touch with her and Janelle. It’s interesting, you’d think people would be a lot tighter, because they go through all that crazy stuff, but you’re really not.
You’ve said that you got a pretty good edit the first time around but were expecting to be portrayed as more of a villain this time, because you were more ruthless. What’d you think when you finally watched the show?
It was fun for me, because, like I said, I don’t take anything too seriously. The first time I got edited, I couldn’t find anything really negative they put on me. I use the term “negative” loosely- like, what’s negative? The fact that you’re a villain on a reality TV show?
That’s actually kind of cool, isn’t it?
[Laughs] You know, for me to be able to play both sides of the fence- to have a season where I was good and have a season where I was the villain- it’s kind of like I got to experience the whole Big Brother gamut.
And “villains” are traditionally the best strategists.
[Laughs]. One would think so. But not in this case. It clearly didn’t work out for me. [Laughs]. It was fun. To be honest with you, I had so much fun playing the game this time around, and this season I knew I could do things to at least try to make a more entertaining show and have fun with it. I truly had a twice in a lifetime experience. I have no regrets.
What I noticed about your edit this time was that the first half of the season you seemed to be mostly absent—
– then about halfway through the summer it became The Dan Show.
[Laughs] Well that’s the danger—I guess “danger” is more than I’m trying to say—but that’s the danger of playing the style of game that I played. I tried to not rock the boat, tried to let people take each other out early on. And then, when all the rubble’s cleared, that’s when you start taking people out. So that’s the danger of it. This is something I haven’t come out with, this may be of interest to you: after the show, you get briefed by the executive producers, and one of them told me, “Dan, we were really worried about you early on. You were just kind of laying around here, mumbling, you weren’t really doing a whole heck of a lot. We were expecting you to bring more to the show.” And I told them- I can tell they’re disappointed- I’m like, “Guys you know how I play. It’s not like you should expect any different.” But it’s funny because, as the show goes on, you start to turn things on a little more. Even when I watched my introduction- when they come to the house and they shoot you- I’m kind of a more subdued Dan. But once you get going with the interviews, you get that ball rolling and become a little more dynamic. It’s like riding a bike- you just got to get the rust off of it.
Was there anything that surprised you when you watched the whole show at home?
I’d say, from a show standpoint, when I watched and I recorded commentary material, the two biggest surprises for me personally were that Wil did not get a funny edit, but he was hilarious in the house, and that Jenn really wasn’t on the show all that much. Those were viewer things that surprised me. And really the only game move that I was unaware of in the house— everyone pretty much told me everything. That was kind of the unfair thing about it, was that, playing with Danielle, I had two players in the game, you know what I mean? She didn’t withhold anything from me. And it really allowed me to understand what was going on in the house. But the only game move that really surprised me came from her. In the fast-forward, I wanted to get rid of Shane, and I told her and I told Ian, but when I decided against it, I was like, “Don’t tell Shane”. [Watching the show,] I found out that she told him that I wanted to put him up as a pawn, not that I really wanted to get rid of him. I’m like, “that is a smart move”. But that was the only thing I was really surprised by, game-wise.
You hold a ton of Big Brother records—only person to make it to the final two twice; only person to play twice and never have a vote cast against them; only winner to get a unanimous vote—which do you hold most dear?
[Laughs] You know, that’s kind of cool to hear, because it’s not easy, and Big Brother—yeah it’s strategy, and yes there’s work, but there’s an element of love to it. I have some pride to the fact that no one said to Julie, “I vote to evict Dan”, that’s pretty cool.
And also winning unanimously, because it seems like that’ll be really tough to do again. I remember when it happened, I didn’t even believe it. It just seemed like— it’s just such an odd kind of outlier statistic, you know? There’s an NFL team from the mid-to-late 70s, The Miami Dolphins, that went undefeated. And every year, when a team’s getting close to undefeated in the NFL, they get together and, if they lose, they pop champagne. And I’m not exactly popping champagne when people don’t win unanimously, but you can imagine that I sit at home and smirk a little bit when it’s not unanimous.
If you were to cast a perfect Big Brother All Star season off the top of you head, who would you get?
That’s a really really good question. We talked about this a lot in the house. I feel like, you know what would be fun? Honestly, if I could mix it up in there with Dr. Will. But there has to be some sort of layer of protection, because if him and I are in the house, it’s just a matter of which one of us gets voted out first, and which one of us gets voted out second. You know what I mean? It would be fun to get in there and mix it up a little, but to be honest, I don’t see that happening.
I think if you bring back All-Star players from the new era, they’re all pretty astute to the game, they all watch, they all know. Let me ask you this, Kelly- if you were in the house with me, you wouldn’t vote me out first?
No. I’d team up with you. Or at least I’d try to. And then I’d be very wary of you calling me a Renegade. Because I’d be like, “he just told everybody they’re the other Renegade!”
So you don’t have All-Stars you want to bring back—other than Dr. Will?
It’d be fun to see Rachel and Frank in the house together—
–because I have a feeling they’d either hate each other or love each other. And if they hated each other, it’d take them a long time. But to be honest with you, the coolest thing I realized playing the second time around, is that someone kind of slid up, in terms of my favorite player and playing this game—‘cause everyone says Dr. Will—but after playing with Janelle, she’s my all time favorite now. I forgot that she made it to the final three twice. You know, she just had a kid but she was still dominant, she’s just so much fun to play with. She’s a great player.
But I don’t know, I couldn’t give you like a run-down list. Because I think the thing about Big Brother that’s difficult is that it’s very difficult to have—or, at least, it has been—to have memorable, great, female players. And as bad as that sounds, I think the girls on the show kind of get a bad rap. It’s like, you’re either a great or devious girl player—they’re viewed in a different light than the guy players, you know? And I think that’s unfair. Look at someone like Danielle Reyes— people don’t [talk about her] as much, but she’s a great player!
Who do you think is the most underrated player of all time?
I don’t think you’ll ever see her again, but Britney. I thought she was very very good this season. She has been underrated- if you look at her body of work, obviously, her first season and second season are completely different. Memphis doesn’t get a lot of credit, because of what happened in the end, but he was a great player. You know, you have a guy like Memphis who—everyone loves him, everyone’s afraid of him—yet everyone wanted to work with him, you know? So I’d say Britney and Memphis. I’d say Memphis in particular is really underrated. He doesn’t get a lot of credit for, essentially, my win. And there’s no way I could have won without Memphis. No way. Clearly, you saw that [in my] second season.
If Britney had won that extra veto instead of Ian, do you think she would have made it to the end?
For sure. If that didn’t happen like it did—if anyone else won that gold ball- Ian was going home. And really, that would have solidified me, Britney, Danielle, and Shane to go as far as possible. And then you look at someone like Britney, as being dangerous enough to potentially stab me at some point, then I’m not getting back in the game, you know? I think if anyone [else] won that gold ball, Ian’s going home, and Britney’s in it for the duration of the game.
Oftentimes good players go out just shy of the finals because of something as simple as getting a gold ball out of a machine.
Yeah, well, that’s an element of luck. To me that’s the crazy thing about Big Brother, is that there is an element of luck. When I play, my goal is to eliminate the luck aspect as much as possible, which means I try not to base my game on winning competitions, or having a ball go into a hole, you know what I mean? Sometimes the best players don’t get to the end, and most of the time, if you’re a really good player, you try not to bring the other good players with you to the end.
Having now watched the full season and, I assume, having read the commentary, do you have any regrets about the way you played this time around?
Not at all. If you look back, people are all, “Did you have to be as ruthless, did you have to do all those things?” and my answer to them is “Yes”. If I don’t do those things, if I’m not ruthless, people are going to take shots at me and I’d rather strike first than get voted out. To me, there’s nothing I could have done differently, you know? I tried to do things to soften the blow as people were getting evicted, but the only thing I guess I could have done differently was try to get an additional coach or two in the jury house. That would have maybe helped my end chances a little bit. But then you look at— if I keep Boogie longer in the game, then he’s in there with Frank. It’s just—it’s a lot of things—it’s not just one decision. If you make one decision then five other things change. So, to be honest, I don’t have any regrets, and it’s fun for me because I just look back on it—look back on 14—and I just had so much fun. I just really enjoyed myself.
You’ve said that you won’t go back into the Big Brother house. I don’t believe you.
[Laughs] Why not? Why wouldn’t you believe me? Do you think I’d lie to you?
No, but I think you couldn’t resist if they asked you to come back.
You know, to be honest, I don’t have a direct answer for you. There are so many extenuating circumstances. As much as I love the game, you know, it’s a really selfish thing to do, ’cause I was married at the time. The first time, I was single, I’d play every other month if I could. But I’m married now, so when I made the decision to go back in, it wasn’t just me making it. I’m just lucky I’m with Chelsea, my wife—she’s super supportive. She really wanted me to go. I think she wanted me out of the house. [Laughs] It’s true, but she was super supportive. But if I’m in a situation where we have kids, am I gonna go? I don’t know. I mean, I don’t see that flying, because when you leave your life for three months and you’re married, you’re leaving that person for three months. Not exactly the most selfless thing you can do—it’s the most selfish thing you can do. At the same time, it’s a once or twice in a lifetime opportunity. But, to be honest, I don’t think you’re ever gonna see me back there.
What about Survivor? It’s shorter. Or The Amazing Race?
[Laughs] I think out of the two– I like travelling, I like going to places—I don’t like the logistics of going from A to B, so I don’t think I’d ever want to do The Amazing Race, but Survivor could be fun. You know, depending on who’s there.
People ask me, but from CBS’s perspective, that never happens. There’s some crossover in Amazing Race, but I don’t think you’ll ever see crossover between Big Brother and Survivor. I don’t think they’d do that, but it would be fun. I think that’s the kind of thing that would be really, really interesting to play, because as much as it’s the same as Big Brother, it’s also really different. But to be honest, I have played Big Brother for a third time, and I don’t think you know about it.
I did. There’s this company called Reality Rush, and what you do is, you stay in somebody’s house for a weekend, and they literally turn your entire weekend into Big Brother. So I played with a bunch of friends. It’s a long, crazy story—but Jamie Lynn Sigler from The Sopranos, we connected on twitter, and she was like, “Hey, you should come play”. She watches Big Brother, so I ended up playing a Big Brother weekend. We played 20 competitions, and we voted out 12 people over an entire weekend. It was a lot of fun. So I have played again, but I actually did get a vote cast against me, and I did get voted out.
Oh, no! What number were you?
I was voted out fifth-to-last. My own alliance- that was who voted me out, so…
See! You wouldn’t get voted out first! These are people who watch Big Brother and they didn’t think to vote you out.
[Laughs] I think it’s just because they wanted to play alongside me, and then they were like “all right, Dan, it’s time for you to go”.
Going into the Season 14 finale, did you think you had it?
I thought I had a fighting chance. To be completely honest, I thought I had Danielle’s vote and Jenn’s vote, for sure. I thought, “You know what? Those are two I don’t have to worry about. All I have to do is convince two more people,” you know? And then I’d have a fighting chance. But then, obviously, when—I think Danielle’s key was first, and then Jenn’s key was second—when I saw Jenn’s key come out, I looked at Ian and said, “Congratulations.”
Was there any big aspect of your season that didn’t make it onto TV?
The big thing was how much work I put into acting sick. When I got out of [solitary confinement]—and they showed a little bit of it—but really, to me, that’s where I made up the most ground, in actually making the funeral believable—the fact that I was acting like I had some serious mental issues going on.
What have you been up to since the show?
One of the things I’ve been doing, obviously, is promoting the book. I coach people individually. It’s kind of funny the way things work out, some people saw me coaching on Big Brother, and some people were scared of me coaching on Big Brother, but I actually coach people one-on-one, via Skype, about a lot of different things. So at the end of the day, I’m not this villain, I do actually care about people, and I pride myself on the fact that I really do enjoy coaching, and helping people get results. So I’ve been doing that. I’ve also been working on new things for helping people get on reality TV, through howtogetonrealitytv.net.
But I’d say the one biggest thing I learned between Season 10 and Season 14, was Season 10 I didn’t really embrace the interaction with people—I didn’t really know how to handle it, and this time I really, really enjoyed interacting with everyone. Like, if someone tweets me, I’ll always do my best to respond, and emails. Like, I really, just have enjoyed that aspect of it. It’s kind of like—you know, I didn’t win second time around, but I feel like I won so much more because I’ve been able to communicate and keep in touch, and interact with, you know, all these supporters I’m super lucky to have.
Is there anything you’d like to add?
I’d just say, if anyone’s interested in following what I’m up to– I’m a big time gamer, you know, I live-stream games that I play. Sounds kind of crazy, but it’s fun to watch– you can keep in touch with me through my website at dangheesling.com.