In late June 2014, Derrick Levasseur's life changed forever when he entered the Big Brother house. However, the Rhode Island native came in with a big secret that only the audience knew: he was a police sergeant for the Central Falls Police Department.
Throughout the game, the decorated police sergeant was a part of several vital alliances including The Bomb Squad and the Detonators, which controlled the house throughout the game. However, Levasseur was also part of a few secretive cliques including Team America, where he teamed up with Frankie Grande and Donny Thompson to turn the Big Brother house upside down for additional cash prizes. He was also part of a Final Two alliance with Cody Calafiore called the Hit Men. The men made a pact during Day 2 to make it to the 2014 finale. Both of them honored their agreement and at the end of the season, the jury awarded Levasseur a 7-2 victory over Calafiore and the $500,000 grand prize.
Levasseur used his Big Brother experience as a launching pad for the next chapter of his career. He starred on the Investigation Discovery series, Is O.J. Innocent? The Missing Evidence along with forensic police psychologist Kris Mohandie and together, the duo revisited the O.J. Simpson case to prove if Simpson's son, Jason, was associated with the Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman killings. Following the success of the docu-series, he reunited with Mohandie on another docu-series: Breaking Homicide. When the show premieres on April 15, Levasseur and Mohandie will travel across the country to help families solve their loved ones' cold cases.
On January 9, 2018, Levasseur released his first book, The Undercover Edge: Find Your Hidden Strengths, Learn to Adapt, and Build the Confidence to Win Life's Game. Throughout the book, he provides tips on numerous topics ranging from interpreting body language to creating a person's profile to help further success. The book reached the top spot on Amazon's New Releases and debuted at No. 4 in the Communication and Social Skills category five days after its release.
In this exclusive conversation with Enstars, Derrick Levasseur opened up about his Big Brother experience, how he overcame obstacles that he faced while writing The Undercover Edge, previewed his new Investigation Discovery series, Breaking Homicide, and talked about challenges the millennial generation faces.
Enstars: As Big Brother enters its 20th season, how has the show made an impact on your life?
Derrick Levasseur: When you go on the show, you are forced to evaluate where you are in life. Essentially, the world is still spinning while you are trapped in this environment. All you have is time and time to think about life. Time to think about what you have done up to that point and is it in line with what you really wanted to hope to accomplish.
When I was in the house, I loved my career and loved what I was doing. But being on a show like Big Brother, it forced me to take a deeper look into at what I was doing and was there anything more could I do. I can honestly say that besides winning the money and changing my life financially, the motivation that came from leaving that house and realizing how short life is and how you can have an impact by putting yourself out there.
I always tried to stay reclusive as a cop but being in the spotlight and exposing myself to people and letting them see who I was as I got to learn about them is why I am where I am today. Because I put myself out there by being vulnerable and opening myself up to others, it allowed people to open up to me. I am working on cases on a national level and communicating with people through social media. I think that is the deeper part of what I got from being on Big Brother. The show had not only a dramatic effect, but it also had a profound impact on my life. Going on Big Brother was probably the best decision I ever made in my life.
Enstars: Four years ago, you competed in one of the most favorite seasons of Big Brother. You kept your secret of being an undercover cop from the entire house all season long and outlasted a plethora of memorable houseguests. Why do you believe that your season still resonates with so many Big Brother fans?
Derrick Levasseur: It's tough because I'm biased. But if I had to say that there was a good mixture of different types of people and depending on what you wanted, you could find it in that person. If you were looking for someone who is over the top, was free spirited and fierce in competitions you had Frankie, if you were looking for entertainment, somebody who was funny, made you laugh and was outgoing and just off the wall you have Zach (Rance). If you were looking for that home body, that person who was an underdog to root for, you had Donny. If you were looking for that nice wholesome girl next door, that was just heart melting and nice to everyone in the house-you had Nicole (Franzel). If you were looking for strategy, you had someone like me. If you wanted to see eye candy, there was a ton of good looking people in that house like Cody, Devin (Shepherd), and Brittany (Martinez). We had a little bit of everything and the best part about it was even though we were all very different, we found a way to play the game, but remained cordial with each other. We definitely played Big Brother, but at the end of the game, we loved and respected each other. It is very hard to do in a game like Big Brother, you did not see any drama on social media afterwards with us because the bonds that we formed in the way that we portrayed ourselves, it was genuine.
Enstars: One of the moments that showcased your leadership happened when Frankie Grande revealed that he was Ariana's brother. Before he announced his secret, you stopped a potential screaming match between him, Zach, and Caleb (Reynolds). What went through your head as you watched that situation escalate and once Frankie ultimately revealed his secret?
Derrick Levasseur: For the fight itself, even though I was not directly involved, it involved three of my alliance members. I still had interest in my alliance members. If one of my alliance members felt that like they were on the outs, they were more likely to go to other side of the House and divulge information that may involve me. I never wanted any dissension within my group because even if it did not directly involve me, it still could have affected my game. So, I wanted to put the damper on any type of dissension within our group, our team. By everyone feeling like they had an equal partnership, they felt included and felt they should remain loyal, which may not have made things entertaining because no one is really turning alliance, but the way it went, we remained intact for the entire season.
As far as Frankie is concerned, him being related to Ariana did not affect me because I was not worried about the ramifications of her being a huge pop star. However, I did like the reveal. On every season, there is someone that is hiding their true identity and I thought that person was me. The housemates were trying to sniff out who it was, but when Frankie came out and said that, it gave me an out and I actually used it to my advantage. I told them that he was the twist and that he was lying about who they were. It took the radar off of me and brought everyone in the house's alert level down, because they successfully sniffed out that person. It allowed me to escape into the shadows and use it to my advantage for the long term.
Enstars: Could you describe to our readers your reaction when Big Brother host Julie Chen read your name off of Frankie's key and stated that you won the season?
Derrick Levasseur: To be completely honest with you, I was not completely surprised with Frankie's vote. Frankie and I were very close as far as Team America was concerned. We got along from the very beginning and we were both cognizant of each other and knew that we were each other's biggest competition, we were forced to work together, and it allowed us to open up to each other. I really like Frankie, but I had a better relationship with him than Cody. I put a lot of money in Frankie's pocket and he put a lot of money in my pocket. I thought that he would vote for me, and I thought Donny would vote for me for that same reason. But again, you never know. However, it was either Zach or Caleb sitting next to me, Frankie may have voted the other way, but because I was up against Cody, I felt very comfortable about the outcome.
Enstars: This year was the very first season of the US Version of Celebrity Big Brother. You made an appearance several other winners to discuss the celebrity houseguests. What were your thoughts as you watched celebrity houseguests such as Marissa Jaret Winokur, Ross Matthews, and Omarosa Manigault compete on Celebrity Big Brother? Do you think there will be another season?
Derrick Levasseur: Oh Absolutely! I thought that it was a great success. I really enjoyed it. I liked the fast pace of the game and liked the fact that every week, we saw two to three people go home. It was not just the people, but it was also the game format that made it enjoyable. It was a nice change-up compared to a long season.
Celebrity Big Brother was a sprint that involved people who are known to the vast majority of the public and that is why it was doable. Being such a fast-paced season, there was not any time for character development. Since everyone knew all of the celebrity houseguests' backgrounds, it made the transition to gameplay so much easier. The cast that was selected was perfect. I absolutely think that there is an opportunity for another season and I think with the success of the first season, you will have a lot more celebrities wanting to play the game. All the celebrities stated that they valued the experience and did not have any bad words to say about being on the show.
Enstars: The Big Brother community has been buzzing about the show's upcoming 20th season. Fans have been screaming for another All-Stars season. If CBS would approach you with the opportunity to participate in the All-Stars season, what would you tell them?
Derrick Levasseur: Big Brother was a great opportunity and I went in there with an objective mind. It was an approach I have been using throughout my whole life that could work personally and professionally in the social experiment and I proved it. There is only one way to prove it and that is through your first attempt. People know who I am, and they know my background. It is the basis of my book, The Undercover Edge. They can go out and read through what I am going to do and how I am going to do it. I am very grateful to have that opportunity and take that experience and grow from it. It includes the book and my new show, Breaking Homicide, and also the OJ series. I have taken my passion, which is investigation and turned it into an opportunity to help out people throughout the country and that is all due to Big Brother.
To go back in the house, it would basically force me to put all of those things on hold and I am not willing to do that at this point. I love coming back every season and talking with the houseguests, being on the show seeing Julie and all of the production people. However, to go in there and put aside my life for three months professionally, it would be very inconvenient. More importantly, my kids are a little older now and I was gone for five days, they would be wondering where I am, but I would have FaceTime. However, I cannot imagine being away for another two to three months again. It just would not be right to them and for me to go back in the house would be completely selfish.
Enstars: Let's move away from Big Brother and talk about "The Undercover Edge." When did you first get the idea to write the book?
Derrick Levasseur: Again. It goes back to Big Brother. I had no intention on writing the book. However, after I won the show, everyone kept asking me, "What was your approach?" "What was your Big Brother strategy?" and "How did you win?" The truth was that I did not have a Big Brother strategy. I went in there with a pre-planned approach that I have developed since I started being a police officer and what I realized was that approach could be applied both personally and professionally, not only in law enforcement but in business and in life.
Two years later, I realized that I could write a book about winning Big Brother. But, I did not see any substance in that and I did not believe that people in the outside world could benefit from that. But, taking an undercover approach by using police techniques and strategies in your everyday life in business and at home, I saw something in that. When I did my research, I really did not see any books out there that were taking this approach. Yes, there are people in different fields who write books like successful entrepreneurs, but this sounded very unconventional to me. That's why I thought that the book would resonate with people because it was so different, and it was something that I could prove to myself that I could do it.
I wrote the book and I put it out to publishers. I did not want to self-publish, I wanted to have some backing. I had three offers, but I ended up with the offer that was the best fit, which was Sourcebooks. The book has had a lot of success, more than any of us expected due to not only the Big Brother following, but also people outside of that realm who took a chance on this book.
Enstars: What were some of the challenges that you faced writing the book? How did you overcome those obstacles?
Derrick Levasseur: (Laughs) First and foremost, I am not a writer by nature. I am not someone who is used to sitting down and writing a 300-page book. I did not go to school for that, I have written narratives for police reports and yet I have my graduate degree in business. Besides my thesis that I wrote at the end of my graduate degree, there was not a lot of writing involved. It forced me to find my voice as a writer.
I am so critical of my own work that I would write a chapter, read it, and realize that it was not as punchy and impactful as I wanted it to be. I had to delete that whole chapter and start again. I did not want to submit anything that I did not feel had any real value to the reader, because I would not want to read that. It was a little bit of a hurdle, but in the end, it made the book more than I could have ever expected.
I reread the book a couple of weeks ago. I am always checking it out to see if I could incorporate it in different ways for my speaking engagements. Every chapter has a purpose and I am so proud of the final result that came from it.
Enstars: In addition to your book, you also worked on Is O.J. Innocent? The Missing Evidence. How did you get involved with that project?
Derrick Levasseur: Again, here we go...Big Brother. The moment you get off Big Brother, you have agents reach out to you. I was very skeptical of it, I had one agent by the name of Harry Gold. He reached out to me and told me he was a fan of Big Brother, but he told me: 'I don't want to do anything with you and reality TV. What I want to focus on is your passion and your profession which is law enforcement. I think there is an opportunity there.'
We were out feeling a lot of opportunities. There was one opportunity that I had with a television network that was cool but really did not fit what I wanted to do. We turned it down, which was a risk, but this O.J. opportunity came up. It was a chance for me as an investigator to research one of the most prolific cases in our judicial system history and I could not pass up that one opportunity. When I did it, I met Dr. Kris Mohandie and it was a very controversial topic, but it led to other experiences, so I would not change it again. I was glad about the outcome and our findings and the ratings that came along with it supported the fact that people enjoyed the show.
Enstars: Starting April 15, you will be starring in your latest television series, Breaking Homicide, on the Discovery Channel. Could you please describe the show to our readers?
Derrick Levasseur: This show is one of my proudest accomplishments. I am co-starring on the show with Dr. Kris Mohandie again and we are also producing this show. The concept of the show is essentially like the O.J. series. We reevaluate the evidence, re-interview key witnesses, find persons of interest, and redo the entire investigation. There is a difference between Breaking Homicide and the O.J. series that has never been done before, to be honest with you. O.J. was a six-episode arc series, which was all about the same case. This series is going to be six 2-hour episodes, where each episode is going to feature a different case.
After O.J., a lot of people reached out to me and Kris about working on their cases the way we handled the O.J. case. These people are not known or famous people or people with a lot of money. They are people like you and me who have lost a loved one in a case that has not been completely researched and feel like they have unanswered questions to this day, even if the case is 20 to 30 years old. I saw that as an opportunity to take what I learned as a police officer and team up with Discovery to help these people who are fans of O.J. and people who are fans of true crime shows who have actual personal stories that they have been affected by.
I could not pass on this opportunity and I said that this was a great idea. Each episode is a 2-hour movie featuring each case where we travel to their hometowns, reinvestigate the entire case, revisit the crime scene, and re-interview multiple persons of interest. If we find the person of interest, we are not going to turn them over to the police. We will confront that person ourselves. It's risky and it's controversial, but that is what people want to see. They want to see results and they are done waiting!
At the end of the show, we give the family members and friends our findings and we are so proud of what we were able to accomplish over the six episodes. It was a very impactful thing for me to meet these people and investigate these cases not only in my home state of Rhode Island, but all around the country all the way to Hawaii.
Enstars: Why do you think Millennials are so fascinated with true crime?
Derrick Levasseur: Millennials always ask the questions "Why?" "Why did this happen?" "Why is this occurring?" It is a great quality to have. When you have these cases that are 10 to 20 years old and the person was brutally murdered and there is no answer as to who did it or why did it happen, they ask the questions: "Why has this case not been solved yet?" "Why didn't these police officers look at this thing?" "Why didn't the prosecution go after this person?"
As a millennial myself, it is something I ask. I never take anything for granted, it is something that I always want to answer. Why did this happen this way? Could we have changed the outcome if something was done differently? Some people may be annoyed by that, but at the same time, if we are not asking those questions, we will never get the answers.
Enstars: As a part of the millennial generation, what do you think are some of the most significant challenges our generation faces?
Derrick Levasseur: I think that there are some preconceived notions out there about millennials, that we are lazy, and maybe we do not want to do much. But, I think we are innovators because we ask questions like why or how or what. We try to create better solutions to the problems that already exist. Even when there are already solutions out there, we are looking for more effective ways of handling it. That is a great thing to have because although you may have something that works, the question is: Can we improve it? Can we make it better? Can we make it more conducive to what we need it to do?
Millennials are people that have initiative and who are active and to want to constantly experience and explore things, and having that type of creativity and having that willingness to push yourself beyond your boundaries to find answers is how we create innovation, and that is what I think is a really promising thing for millennials as a whole.
Enstars: Social media is one of the greatest tools that millennials have at their disposal. Earlier in our conversation, you mentioned that social media is a key tool that you use. What are some of your favorite platforms? Also, we noticed that you have been off and on YouTube. In some of your videos, you stated you experienced challenges with the platform. In your humble opinion, what are some of social media's greatest advantages and disadvantages?
Derrick Levasseur: For me, I am a big fan of Twitter. I feel like it is my digital newspaper. I really like Twitter, but I am not opposed to Instagram. I'd rather hear people thoughts and see pictures because a lot of times on Instagram, you will see only people's best angles and they are all filtered. It's premeditative, but I like seeing people's thoughts and I like following certain people and seeing where people are up to in life and also reading the news on there.
YouTube is a great tool to speak to people and what I found with YouTube is that I was really into it at first. You said that I have been on and off of YouTube. When you are filming a TV show, and it is confidential as our cases are, there is no way to film that show and also film a vlog without exposing things that you are contractually not able to expose.
I was literally on set every day for 12 hours a day. There was no time to film in between scenes that is going to create good content, edit it, and post it. Yes, you can post a video, but it has to be something that is interesting. I did not want to post just to post. I wanted to post because every post that I put up or every video that I put up has something to contribute to the person who is watching it, which is the subscriber.
I may come back to YouTube. I have been doing a lot of public speaking at different colleges and universities and I have some corporate events lined up. It is a great tool, but I like I said the issue is not only filming it and busting out your camera, which is intrusive, but also finding the time to go back home and edit all that footage. I am not going to put out crap, I am going to put up something that I am proud of because ultimately it has my name on it. That is where the trouble comes in; people want consistency. They do not want a video once a month, so if you are going to do YouTube, you are going to have to devote a certain amount of hours per day to it.
For me, it is all about priority. I have a family, this book tour, speaking engagements, and on top of all that, I have Breaking Homicide, which is a constant thing. When the show ends, we are still researching stuff and promoting things. It is a full-time job so there was not enough time for YouTube, but I may come back to it. I had a couple thousand people that were following it and they were supportive. It is a great opportunity to branch out to different avenues.
I just love social media because it does give you the instant connection to people who are interested in what you have to say. With a click of a button on a phone, you reach hundreds of thousands of people, and that is an invaluable tool that if you have access to, you could do great things with, and I think that is the goal for me to inspire people to do more with their own lives, but also to keep people connected to me in the way that I want them to be connected. I can filter it out and expose whatever I want to about my life, but also keep stuff personal that I want to keep personal.