Kenny Brain was the brains behind "Big Brother Canada" Season 2's fallen First Five Alliance. He's also the genius who turned the "Big Brother" franchise upside-down by introducing a ballsy new strategy: voluntarily sneaking back into the closet so he could flirt with his female housemates to gain votes and favour.
That controversial decision, while it ultimately bit him in his toned ass, added a complex and sometimes dark ethical and psychological thru-line to the Canadian reality TV series. HuffPost TV Canada spoke with Brain (who was chilling with his sister in Calgary after having been the last non-jury member to be evicted from the house) about "going straight" for pay, the story behind his beard, and who he'd date in the house.
HuffPost Canada TV: I'm over the moon "Big Brother Canada" cast a masculine gay dude! Were you surprised you were cast, given the fact that the reality-TV genre tends to favour more stereotypical gay contestants?
Kenny Brain: I was -- and I wasn't. I think we're in a place where Canada wants to see fewer stereotypes. Being gay is less about a demeanour or mannerism, but rather about the person behind all of that. After speaking to them during the casting process, and the fact that I knew who I was, I wasn't surprised they put me on the show. Along with my strategy, I think it was something the producers had never seen before, so I think that played a huge part in my casting.
Now that you're out of the house, what has it been like?
It's been super weird ... getting noticed around places. It's been strange adjusting to that. It's also been strange just to do what I want to do, because I've been told what to do for the past two months. It's been exciting, too. It's been a bittersweet moment because I didn't want to leave because I wanted to win the game so damn bad. But the consolation prize was not making it to jury so I can at least see my family.
Are you getting a lot more tail now? Or have you even had a chance to socialize in the gay community?
[Laughs] Yeah, no. I saw Andrew the first night I was out with my sister. And we had a ball. That hasn't been an aspect of my life quite yet but I'm kind of looking forward to it! [Laughs] I'm still single.
Have you watched the show back yet? And if so, what have you learned?
Yes, I'm already caught up. Number one, it's weird seeing yourself on TV because you begin to see yourself as a character and not a person! I sometimes forget I'm watching myself. Obviously, my head is still in the game. Arlie made a big move against me. Around Week 3, I had suspicions he was not to be trusted but touché to him for besting me. We all thought he looked like some crazy smart IT guy. Then, after he got the mission from Marsha the Moose, I realized he was a very good actor to be able to use his emotions to fool all of us; so that raised a really big flag for me. But we needed him for the numbers so we overlooked that.
It was my own fault for not following my own gut. Watching his diary rooms were surprising because he was such a diplomatic guy in the house. I had no idea how [cocky and manipulative] he was! I have to give it to him: he's quite the mastermind ... and a little s**t! But I can appreciate what he's done. Other than that, I think it's a great season. I actually really like Ika now that I'm watching the show. She's hilarious and spunky. I have no hard feelings against her. I got a kick out of her. I've forgiven her for the names she's called me in the house.
Do you feel like you got a fair edit?
I think they portrayed me extremely well. I am a giant baby. I'm super-competitive, which is one of my faults for showing that too early in the game, because that put a target on my back. But I'm really happy with it all.
What did you learn about yourself from the experience?
That I'm way too emotional. The tears were too much! Too much.
Have you gotten any flak from the gay community for pretending to be straight yet?
When I left the house, the response was overwhelmingly positive. I've had so many people tell me I was an inspiration to them. I helped them become more comfortable with themselves. Some have told me they've been able to come out to their families and friends. And that was very relatable in many ways, and ultimately, what I wanted when I left the house. When I realized my sexuality wasn't a factor in the game, that's when I realized I had to tell everybody.
Do you regret it now, in hindsight? It seemed like a lot of work with no reward. I also believe you playing these sexual charades distracted you from the game: you weren't paying attention to Arlie and Jon; you literally walked by a secret power of veto; and you underestimated gamers like Heather and Ika. Moreover, it would've been wiser had you entered the American "Big Brother" house, but we're Canada. I mean, last year's most popular house guest was a flaming drag queen!
To tell you the truth, I don't regret it at all. I know that women do love gay men and we have these great relationships. However, I found in my personal experience that I don't have those kinds of relationships, so I didn't know if I would have them in the house. I've dated women for most of my life. It's been fairly recent that I've been out. I've only had one boyfriend, you know? It was easier for me to come in -- and I was completely myself, by the way -- letting them believe I was straight because I was open to a showmance. I wasn't hoping for one, but I wanted to be open to see if something could possibly develop. I knew that was a huge aspect of the show last season. It was a season of showmances. I know two is more powerful than one despite the big target that goes along with it. I knew having worked as a bartender, it was natural for to flirt with women.
To mislead women with your sexuality is definitely a dangerous game to play.
It soon became a factor of "When will I tell them I'm gay?" And if I did tell them, will they consider me this massive liar, which would ultimately put a larger target on my back? It did play on me a lot, actually, because I never had to lie about who I was before. When I realized I was gay, I told my friends and family -- and they were all incredibly accepting and awesome, so I was experiencing this new emotion of hiding who I was for the first time. And you're right: It did distract me from the game a little bit, especially since I'm an emotional person. I don't regret doing it because pretending to be straight could have really paid off if there was a different group of people in the house. No regrets whatsoever.
Do you think you guys were too cocky about your First Five alliance? Every year, the first big alliance becomes arrogant in thinking they've made it, and their plans will go swimmingly ... despite the fact that their alliance is dismantled before jury because they automatically become the villains. And let's face it, it's not like you guys won a lot of competitions, either.
[Sighs] It was pretty evident. Some people didn't catch on, though. When I first started the First Five I said yes to it because there's strength in numbers, but in my mind, I wasn't fully committed. I was trying to strengthen other connections with Jon and Rachelle, but we became this runaway train that did so much damage. I didn't keep my secondary bonds and I relied upon the First Five too much. I mean, we were controlling the game for first five weeks -- and we were doing so well, so it was easy. As a viewer, I completely root for the underdogs. I mean, right now, I'm rooting for the Gremlins just because they're the little guys. I don't really want them to win, but I feel that way, sometimes. But when you're in a strong alliance, it's hard to see out of it even though your brain is telling you differently. But when I knew when Canada made the first big move, by putting Sabrina and Andrew on the block, I knew I was screwed. It was going to be a massive battle to be here and I tried to work on my secondary bonds, but the damage was done.
You now know about the three potential houseguests Canada got to vote in. Would having Scott, a drag queen, enter the game have impacted you being in the closet? That's another reality-TV beef of mine: producers always just cast one gay contestant. Putting two gays together would really rock the game.
Honestly, yes, I think having Scott would have made my game different, for sure. Going into the house, I had planned to tell people I was gay because it would've created a strong bond; confiding in another gay houseguest would have been even more massive. We're so different that we could've pretended we weren't in an alliance. It could've changed my game -- and sent my mind reeling.
I think you guys would've hated each other! Were you attracted to anyone in the house?
Are you kidding? F**k no! I would never date any of those people!
The big question: When did you decide to grow your trademark beard?
My ex hated me with facial hair, well long facial hair, so I always had to trim it down. So when we broke up to move back to Ireland, I stopped shaving! [Laughs] I thought I would grow it a bit, especially when I worked in a Labrador fishing lodge. Then I moved to Montreal and I got a modelling contract and they liked it.
And it literally worked as a beard in the Big Brother House.
Season 2 of "Big Brother Canada" premieres Wednesday, March 5 at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Slice, with a special presentation of the premiere also airing on Global. "Big Brother Canada" will continue to air three nights a week on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays at 9 p.m. ET/PT. "The Big Brother Canada Side Show" -- new this season -- will air Thursdays, following each eviction episode, at 10 p.m. ET/PT. In case that isn't enough, "Big Brother After Dark" will air seven days a week from 2 a.m. – 5 a.m. ET/11 p.m. – 2 a.m. PT.