Q &A: Big Brother’s Exiting Howard Overby on Surviving the House’s “Immature” Racism

Richard Rushfield
Yahoo! TV

Big Brother's 15th Season has been beset by controversy, turmoil and angry bed tipping from its first moments. Most of the fireworks have come around the racially charged statements of contestant Aaryn Gries, a blonde Floridian who seems to have stepped out of a "Mean Girls" manual. Last night, Howard Overby one of the two African American contestants who absorbed her sentiments, was voted out of the house by his fellow contestants after being nominated for elimination by Gries.

Yahoo spoke with Overby this morning as he was still taking stock of all he had been through.

How are you feeling today?

Feeling pretty good. Getting my thoughts together a little bit.
What are you looking forward to doing most today?

Getting somewhere and watching ESPN. Other than that, seeing my family of course.

What did you do last night after the elimination?

I got briefed by the staff and execs. Just kicked back. Put everything into perspective. Got filled in on things that are happening in the world. Took that in. I took time to pray. The crew that was with me last night, we just watched movies.

What movies?

Couples Retreat, Fahrenheit 9-11 and For Colored Girls.

What surprised you hearing about how the show was received?

Oh man it was definitely a surprise. From where I'm from (Hattiesburg, MS) you kinda - you've seen these things before. And as heated as it got and as much as there were comments that I really didn't like - and I wasn't privy to every comment that was derogatory - I never thought that it would grow to be this big. You kinda lose the thought of how it would be received outside because you're inside the house so hearing it was very surprising, along with how it meshed with everything else that's going on in society right now.

Were the racist comments very much on your mind while you were in the house?

At the time, I'm always prepared for the worst. Coming into the house, that was one of the things that production asked: what are the things that I hate, and of course, I said, racism and messiness. I knew we had a lot of Southerners there. So I was anticipating it a little bit but until it happens in the moment you're never quite as prepared as you think you are. So you know, I stayed prayed up and tried to handle it as best I could. It definitely fractured any personal relationship that I might have wanted to have with anyone who made those comments. At the same time, you have to play the game and look over things. Its horribly hard being there and knowing that may be how someone thinks, but at the same you, you gotta look over it?

That moment where we saw you struggling to keep it together after the bed flipping incident was very powerful.

That night was probably the hardest. Knowing that Candice wants to retaliate and fight back. She wants the bed and she has every right to it. My thing was, I don't want to get involved but I was trying to be there for her. I wanted to do what she wanted to do but I just didn't feel that was a smart thing at that time, even though she wanted it so bad. Then I felt like a disappointment to her, I felt like a disappointment to people rooting for us, or who have been in that situation. I felt like a cop out or maybe a punk out of the whole thing because after all, not only did we leave the bed, we slept in the "have not" room which futher infuriated me. But I didn't want my temper to get involved and cause me to go home. Even if it would've felt good in the moment, it wouldnt've done me any good. After I got her calmed down and able to go upstairs, all my anger from it and wanting to do something about it, kinda overwhelmed me a bit.

Were you able to push this all out of your mind when you were dealing with Arryn?

It was always in my back pocket but I felt this was more of a personal matter. A lot of it was things I didn't like. I knew we had a young cast. One thing that helped me get over it was thinking, these are kids to me who may be a little immature. To me, there were only about six grown people in the house that conducted themselves consistently as adults.

Coming out and hearing what outrage its provoked and that Arryn has lost her job over this, unbeknownst to her, do you feel vindicated at all?

No, I never feel vindicated from anybody losing their job. I spoke to Arryn a few times after that, burying the hatchet and wanting her to get over it. I hope the best for her, I hope she learns from it. She's pretty strong willed. She's a fighter. Even now she'll say that she hasn't done anything and that she's not a racist or anything like that. Maybe she's not. But once you've conducted yourself in that manner, it's kind of hard to fight it. So I just hope she learns from it and I know that she does like the limelight. She wants attention and was hoping the show would kickstart something for her. But at the rate it's going now, I feel sorry for her. I don't feel vindicated. I don't feel happy about that. And I'll be the first one to pray for her or reach out to her if she would allow it.

How do you get by in the house with this kind of tension?
It's hard sometimes. Especially when you maybe trying to play the game with someone like that, because you don't know if they're going to use their personal beliefs against you from a game stand point. There were plenty of opportunities to break up the alliance of Amanda, McCrea, Helen and Elissa, but she didn't do it and she let them dictate to her. I don't know if she was timid to do it or if she didn't want to play with the rest of the house, and the rest of the house included Candice and me. But it made Candice and me tighter in our relationship, because we were the outsiders this past week, and the one regret I have was I'm not there to protect her now.
I know a lot of the hatred from the other girls is towards her. I know a lot of it is cattiness over the life that Candice led, and the other girls want that or something, and don't feel that she deserves it. But right now she's got to fend for herself and that's the only regret I have.

Why does no one stand up to Amanda and Helen?
Basically, we had a very young cast and there were a lot of indians and not chiefs. To me, its not even about the competition, it's about mind games and preying on the weak, and for the weak to hope that things will happen instead of making them happen. Any regular season of Big Brother where there might have been a few more adults, you could see through the bs and the lies, but this season people just wanted to be protected.

Given all this are you glad you went on the show?
Absolutely. I wouldn't change one thing about it. It was God's wish that I was here. I was able to grow even more spiritually. I was able to grown in knowing what I could take from people face to face. I was able to grow in terms of being a true friend in the house and being honest at all costs. The greatest thing I learned, I told Julie last night was I will not, whether it's a game, playing pick-up ball or working out, I will not exclude God or my morals at any cost. I'm more than fortunate. I think when people leave the game it was time for them to go, and I'm excited about whatever is next for me.