We had the pleasure of speaking with The Apprentice Executive Producer and Host Donald Trump and Executive Producer and creator Mark Burnett about the upcoming season which premieres on September 16, 2010.
So obviously economic times are so different than when we first saw The Apprentice and even since the last season we saw with non-celebrities in 2007 and it seems like the new season really reflects these different times. So how has the show changed and been updated since we last saw a regular season of The Apprentice?
Donald Trump: Well as you know what happened is that we had great success with the regular Apprentice. We then switched over to the celebrity format which was a similar show but with celebrities.
And now we have had so many requests from so many people because of the times, because of obviously the country is not doing well, the economic times are not good.
And if you remember when we started The Apprentice it was this big hit but it was also in a different world. It was you know times were booming and now times are just the opposite of booming.
So, so many people wanted to see this show reflective of the current times and that’s what we’ve done. I mean we have people that went to the best schools and they don’t have a job.
People that had really good jobs before and they have five kids in one case and doesn’t have a job, has zero income coming in.
And you know it’s both sad and hopefully educational but it’s very sad to see what’s happened to some of these kids. And some were really high flyers doing great and now they’re totally down and out.
Mark Burnett: I mean an example is we’ve got someone who got their Masters in Engineering, worked as a mechanical engineer, got downsized in the economy and now has now taken a job as a tow truck driver.
Another woman who went to Stanford for cancer research had a job as a cancer researcher. The funding fell through because of the economy and they’re taking care of her grandmother and living back in her parent’s house.
So you know this is a couple of examples that people from top law firms, very top schools just you know the economy hit everybody and the point of The Apprentice this year, you know we thought long and hard about this, is fighting back.
You know many, many people lost their jobs and we’ve got the people who just want to absolutely fight back, willing to go on television, prove themselves. One person will get the job working for Donald Trump and the rest of them will get to show they’re worthy.
They deserve to be working and they’re using the show to market themselves.
And we’ve seen so many interesting personalities in the past, but with now, how do you feel the dynamic of the show changed or even among the contestants with casting you know these desperate young college graduates who don’t see a lot of hope in the job market? And then also people in their 40s who have recently lost their jobs?
Mark Burnett: That’s the key, and I want to be really clear, we talked about this. Basically we weren’t looking for people who were feeling sorry for themselves. Everybody you know who applied had either lost a job or were taking a job they didn’t really want.
It was a job that they were over qualified for but the common factor in the casting of the show was people who wanted to fight back. You know one of Donald Trumps through lines in his first book that I read, having worked with him for the past 10 seasons, one of the strongest things Donald will say during The Apprentice is fight back.
And that’s what we were looking for, right Donald?
Donald Trump: That’s exactly right. And we really – I mean it’s very impressive, some of the – you know in some cases they’re pretty young I call them kids, but they had a tremendous energy and a tremendous spirit for fighting.
And not in all cases, a couple of them are you know as you know we shot much of the show and then the finale’s going to be live but we just finished shooting much of the show.
The energy and the almost the survival of some of these people is unbelievable. Unbelievable, where they have families where the families are just devastated by the fact that they have no money, they have nothing.
But they have great educations and they had a great past. So it’s both we would like to say it’s inspirational, at the same time it’s very sad.
The show also promised us some different rewards this time around, some more meaningful to improve their lives which before we would see things like extravagant dinners, you know vacations, celebrity interaction. So what kind of rewards are you going to offer the contestants this time around?
Donald Trump: Well two things we do this time that’s different, and this was Mark’s idea is we have great sponsors of the show, Macy’s and PVH, that’s Phillips Van Heusen, the biggest shirt company in the world and ties and lots of others.
And what we’re doing this time is we’re giving them interviews with the top people at the various big companies and you know in other words they’re going to meet with the top executives, like Terry Lundgren who’s the chairman of Macy’s and the head of PVH, you know we have some just absolutely amazing people.
So like as an example Allen Sirkin who is the chairman of PVH and others, so we’re doing that and the big thing is going to be they’re going to work for me for a period of a year at a very high salary, whoever wins.
Mark Burnett: And every week the project – the winning project manager’s reward every week is to meet with a major industry titan in various industries. I mean Donald already mentioned Terry Lundgren, also Steve Forbes.
Donald Trump: Steve Forbes is involved.
Mark Burnett: Russell Simmons, people in different areas who can really – you know it’s like a motivational speech from winners to give these people a chance and it’s amazing how they come out of these rewards energized.
You know some of the interesting things during the filming, was a couple of them, even though they were on a TV show and they’re doing a task, you know which is part of the job interview, the comments we were getting was it feels so great to be back at work.
You know and of course they’re not really at work, they’re competing for a job but the feeling and the energy of being back at work in the middle of a business task just gave them a real sense of uplift and it was really great to see you know.
Was there any contestant who’s story or situation particularly resonated with you more than any of the others?
Donald Trump: Well there’s one contestant who is a very difficult guy, very smart, a great character frankly which we didn’t know when we actually cast him. We didn’t know he was going to be this kind of a character.
But he’s got five kids, a wife who he loved but is seriously thinking about checking out because of his situation. He’s got five children and no income and prior to that he had a good income, he had a very good job.
And I was asking him, how do you make it with five children, no income and a troubled marriage? How do you do it? I’m asking him. And it’s almost become a little bit of a way of life and he wants to get out of it quickly.
And he turned out to be an amazing person on the show, an amazing character. And you know I think – what do you think Mark?
Mark Burnett: I think he’s – it’s one of those moments in casting where Donald, we looked at each other as did NBC and said wow, it feels great to have a job right now. I mean it’s when you meet people like this you realize you know there but for the grace of God go I.
You know it’s – you know hey, here’s a fact though Donald as you said. He chose to be on the show, he got up every morning and he brought it.
Way, way better than sitting on the couch crying. You know you’ve got to get up and fight back, that is the spirit of America.
I mean then another person who initially also Stanford grad, cancer researcher who you know lost the funding because of the economic problems and after all that education, you know that work as a cancer researcher, she’s now living back with her parents taking care of her grandmother as a day care worker.
I mean what an unfortunate turn for the incredible brain, and yet she’s out there looking to market herself and make a difference for herself. And these stories by the way we could list person after person, they’ve all got these stories.
But yes, there’s a couple in general that jump out, but you know again it’s all about fighting back.
Interview By: Emma Loggins