NBC’s “The Apprentice” and Donald Trump take a turn this season, as the show reflects the state of the union, which isn’t so hot or being run well, if you ask Trump.
Each of this season’s 16 contestants has been hit hard by the economy and they are fighting back.
Brooklyn Assistant district attorney Mahsa Saeidi-Azcuy is one of 16 contestants who will square off in Trump’s boardroom for a second chance. Filmed in the Big Apple, “The Apprentice” returns to NBC with a two-hour premiere on Sept. 16 at 9 p.m.
The show features contestants from all over, including two Texans, Gene, 46 (Wylie, Texas), has a Bachelor of Science degree in Business from Morris Brown College, and served in the U.S. Air Force. Gene previously worked at several high profile financial companies as a financial advisor who was laid off. Another Lone Star player is Clint, 40 (Austin, Texas), who received a Bachelor of Business Administration in Accounting from Texas Christian University, and a Juris Doctorate in Law from Southern Methodist University. Clint went on to be a successful certified public accountant, real estate attorney, and developer, to having an estate sale where he was forced to sell a large amount of his family’s possessions due to the economy.
The series features weekly challenges that test the contestants’ business savvy, leadership and creativity, as each member of the cast has been significantly affected by the economy.
Energy is as important as a CV replete with the right schools, as Trump responds positively to this trait regardless of someone’s educational pedigree.
In addition to the grand prize of employment with the Trump Organization, each project manager will have the opportunity to meet one-on-one with business leaders and CEOs.
Monsters and Critics spoke to the The Apprentice’s Donald Trump and Mark Burnett in a conference call.
The season kicks off next Thursday September 16 with a two-hour premiere at 9 pm.
All Headline News: 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, 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.
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 this is a couple of examples that people from top law firms, very top schools just the economy hit everybody and the point of The Apprentice this year, you know we thought long and hard about this, is fighting back.
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.
All Headline News: Yes, 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… 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.
All Headline News: And 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.
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.
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.
TheDeadbolt.com: Mr. Trump given what the average Americans have faced during the economic crisis, how will this season help to give viewers more faith in corporate America?
Donald Trump: Well I think that’s what we’re trying to show or portray, we’re looking at – you know I’m not a big fan of the way the country’s being run to be honest with you and I think that’s got to come through also.
I’m not a fan at all of what’s happening and we discuss that and we discuss politics and we discuss other countries ripping us off. And we go a long way and so when you say if the faith in the country, I think it’s the faith in the fact that we’re going to end up changing the country.
Because if we don’t this country’s in big trouble and I feel that – you know I feel that very strongly.
TheDeadbolt.com: And can you both talk about how the economy had an impact on the show itself and what changes that you felt were necessary in such a financially strapped time?
Donald Trump: Go ahead Mark.
Mark Burnett: Really, it’s the same Apprentice exactly with the difference is the reward as we mentioned rather than going out for lavish dinners for which it was a different time in the country, it really is the motivation of getting to meet with business leaders who can actually help you.
Additionally the people who get fired each week are also helped to find their way, to find a replacement or a better job which has you know been through The Apprentice and very, very helpful for them.
But the actual core of the show is the same show. It’s not a show where Donald Trump suddenly gives them a hug every five minutes, you know and a pat on the back.
It’s the same Donald Trump and it’s about fighting back and I think the through line you know as a naturalized American why I love and why I chose this country is the fighting spirit.
Nothing keeps America down. America keeps going, the American people are what the country is. And the American people are fighting people, that’s what built the country.
And that’s what you see in The Apprentice. People have had a really tough time, being really kicked in the ass because of the economy, but who are fighting back and are willing to go on television, vie for a job knowing that only one will get that job.
But the others are proving themselves.
TheDeadbolt.com: And Mr. Trump with this one last question, can you talk briefly about how you relate to being given a second chance and how that can make someone a better business person?
Donald Trump: Well in the early 90s I was – you know I owed billions of dollars in debt and you know many of my friends and people in the real estate industry were going bankrupt.
I never did but I had – I was in serious trouble and you know it came to a point there where now my company is bigger and stronger than it’s ever been by far.
It’s been an amazing period of time, in fact even now we’re big buyers of real estate as opposed to sellers, this isn’t a good time to be selling but it’s a great time to be buying because of our very strong position.
I talk about that, I relate to it because I can relate to it and Mark actually made the statement, he said you know if you had all clear sailing all through your life, he doesn’t think we would have had the huge success that we’ve had on The Apprentice or that so many people would show up for speeches and other things that I do.
I’ve never even thought of it until he mentioned it but maybe that’s true. So it really is – you know these people have to come back. They are in not a good position right now and it’s very different from the original Apprentice in that in those cases they were all high flyers and they wanted to fly even higher.
And in this case they were high flyers in many cases but they were – but they’re down and out, they’re really in trouble and it’s about coming back and how to come back.
Mark Burnett: I wanted to say, I remember being with Donald Trump one day and he was telling me that – you know how hard it was back in the 80s when things crumbled in real estate.
He was walking down the road with somebody and they pointed to a bum sitting on the side of the street and said oh I feel bad for that guy, and Donald said that guy’s worth about $900 million more than I am at this minute.
Donald Trump: There’s a little truth to that, yes.
Mark Burnett: But the fighting back thing, you know it really is what America stands for. Don’t sit down when this is happening, fight back.
Donald Trump: It’s about fighting back and never giving up and I think you know that comes through very loud and clear. And by the way, some do a much better job at it than others, like in life. Okay, thank you.
The Orlando Sentinel: How did you think the feel overall does marketing itself? What would you say about the whole group?
Donald Trump: Well I think it’s the best Apprentice that we’ve done since season one. I think the field is terrific, I think we were very careful in getting the field.
I also think it’s actually Hal a little bit more of a – it’s a good plot. I mean it’s a better plot. It’s a better plot in terms of bad times versus good times. When you’re in good times it’s less urgent, it’s less important.
And in a certain way maybe even less exciting. But I think the concept is almost better because of the times that we’re living in as opposed to you know five years ago when The Apprentice originally went on, where everybody was doing great.
So I think it’s actually more exciting. I think they market themselves really well.
Mark Burnett: I have to tell you during casting, Donald sat there with myself and the NBC executives and we honestly were listening to story after story of unbelievably educated people Hal.
I mean people, top universities, top law firms who are just on their ass, and I’ve got to tell you one minute we looked at each other, Donald and I and the NBC executives and said boy, it sure is great to have a job.
You know it’s just you could really see, and then you look and see well you know they’ve really got issues, you know they’ve got children to feed, they’ve got mortgages to try and pay, they’ve had to sell their possessions and here they are really trying to get themselves back and going.
And The Apprentice is one of those methods of trying to get themselves going. I really felt compassion for them, you know?
Donald Trump: I mean a beautiful young woman who went to Stanford Law, did a great job, great student, had a great job at a major law firm and now she’s selling cupcakes. You know it’s like pretty weird.
The Orlando Sentinel: Mr. Trump, I also wanted to ask about your – you’re not a fan of the way the country’s being run, I’m just – I wanted a little bit more detail on that. What are the targets of your scorn and will we understand what they are when we watch the program?
Donald Trump: I think you will to a certain extent, but OPEC ripping us off on the price of oil, 11 guys sitting around the table, we have an administration that does nothing about it, just lets them just rip us so oil is selling for $80 a barrel when it should be at $20 or $25.
And sucking the life blood, China we make all our products in China and yet if you want to go to China to do a deal you can’t. It’s just ridiculous.
And many other things, I mean but we discuss that at great length actually.
New York Times Syndicate: First question is how do you pull yourself out of something like this emotionally though? I’ve known so many people who have been laid off, a lot of us in newspapers.
How do you get out of that slump and pick yourself up and do it again? You’ve done it a lot of times I’m sure with business things that are up and down.
Donald Trump: Well business goes up and down and I think you just have to have a certain perspective on life. And certainly in your industry, I know a lot of great reporters who aren’t working today.
And your industry has changed probably as radically as any industry there is with what’s going on. But you know things happen and hopefully they happen for the better.
And that’s the way you have to sort of feel. You have to feel that it’s happening for the better. So you really have to just go out there and you have to acclimate and you have to acclimate to the times.
I the reason I originally wanted to do The Apprentice with Mark is I viewed it as you know potentially educational.
And when it first went on we were told that no business show has ever made it on prime time television. And there have been 15 copies of The Apprentice, you know all the names, I don’t have to go over and embarrass people.
But frankly there have been 15 copies of The Apprentice, every one of them have failed. And this one continues to do great and I think this show is maybe going to be one of the best of them all if not the best.
I mean I think it’s going to be just a really good show but I also think it addresses your question, how do you go about going forward when times are bad.
And that’s what we talk about and that’s almost the premise of the show.
New York Times Syndicate: And next do you find these people are even a little bit more competitive because they’ve had this set back and now they even have something more to prove, that they can come back?
Donald Trump: Some of them are unbelievable Cindy, and a couple of them were beaten up pretty badly. You understand that also. A couple of them were really beaten up pretty badly.
But some of these people are unbelievable, the spirit that they have and the fight that they have and they’re going to be very successful. You know I have really no doubt that a few of these people are going to be really successful.
New York Times Syndicate: And finally, do you have two or three things that would pull this country out of this mess? I mean just personal opinions on that?
Donald Trump: Well I have one thing. Great leadership. You know one thing, it’s called great leadership, right? You have to – well look. I deal with China a lot. I deal with you know people from China, big deals.
And they laugh at this country that was so stupid because we’re not using our best people to negotiate with them, we’re using diplomats and they’re using their smartest people.
And our people have no chance. If we would take our top ten deal makers in this country nobody could compete with us.
Because our guys are the best and I can tell you who they are, but unfortunately you know we don’t use people like that, we use nice political people or nice diplomatic people.
And the world is eating our lunch, so that’s the way it is, pretty sad.
Hearst Newspapers: Do you think that it’s accurate to say that this version of The Apprentice is more relevant and timelier than any season that you’ve done before or am I guilty of overstating that?
Donald Trump: Well I think it’s more important which maybe is a similar word but maybe it’s a stronger word. I think it’s more important because I think people can see – they can see where we are and maybe how to get out of the morass.
So I don’t know, perhaps relevant is a good term but I think it’s actually a – I think it’s more important because of what’s happening in the world.
TVGuide.com: I was just wondering you know how it felt to go into the season where the emotions are so high you know from the contestants that are coming in, just coming off of the season finale of Celebrity Apprentice last May which was obviously a great you know emotional finale with everything that Bret Michaels went through.
And I was wondering if you could kind of talk about you know these two seasons kind of being so close together and kind of the emotions of both of those seasons?
Mark Burnett: Yes, well Kate it was unbelievable with Bret you know getting ill and almost dying and having to – having made it to the finale and then winning it was a really great season of television with the unfortunate drama even raising the attention on it and the emotion.
Then we moved – we planned this current season of The Apprentice before we knew that and we talked for quite a while that how to redo the regular Apprentice and in a number of meetings with NBC this theme came up of probably – and I think it goes back to what Donald has said about importance and relevance.
It’s both, it’s that the original The Apprentice was in high flying times where it was about earning more, making more. You know now it’s about survival. It’s about people who really you know realize only one is getting that job with Trump.
But the rest of them want to survive. And so that’s really where the emotion comes from. I have to tell you, just to reiterate they fight harder than ever. That’s the one thing that really struck me.
From the minute go, you didn’t get people who were apologetic and hiding because the economy had lost them their jobs. They didn’t lose their jobs, it’s the economy.
Millions of people lost their jobs, it’s not their fault. It was out of their control and it didn’t – they didn’t take forced responsibility for what wasn’t their responsibility.
They knew it was the economy so they’re standing up and fighting back harder than ever. I would say in terms of fighting for the job and working at those tasks to win, it seems like stronger than ever.
Donald Trump: And Mark and I give NBC some good credit here because you know they came to us, we were as you know signed up to do another Celebrity Apprentice and the last one, all of them were very successful.
But we were signed up to do another Celebrity. And they came to us at the last moment and said you know we’re getting so many requests for a regular, so we actually put the celebrity one off until the spring, we’re going to be shooting that – actually we’ll be shooting it fairly soon.
It will air in the early spring but there were just so many people that wanted to see the regular Apprentice, it was very interesting actually.
And I think it’s going to be a very exciting show. I mean I know what’s happened and I think it’s going to be a very exciting show.
TVGuide.com: And I was also just wondering too because originally you know this version was supposed to come back a little bit later in the year but then it was bumped up to premiere you know next week.
And so did that scheduling change like affect the production of this season at all? Did – was there anything you had to rush a little bit more, or…?
Donald Trump: No, well you know what happened and I can say it maybe more so than Mark, it was supposed to come on in the early spring and when – and we started shooting it.
And when NBC saw what was happening with the shooting, it’s so good they couldn’t believe it and they actually bumped the show in order to put it on early.
So they are putting it on you know much earlier than they anticipated. This was going to be the spring and then celebrity was going to be a little bit later than that.
And when they saw what we had shot, they were reviewing what we had done they liked it so much that they put it on – they moved it way up by you know many months.
Mark Burnett: And yet the production you know actually fell easily into that because we shot early enough that it didn’t affect the post schedule at all. So we were on a very normal speed delivery that was always been on with the same team of people. So it actually worked out very well for everybody.
Wireless Magazine’s Digital Journal: How you chose these down and – the people who were down and out who were up and then down and who were basically looking for a second chance.
Donald Trump: Well we had thousands of people apply and that’s not unique because if you look at some of the bigger shows you have a lot of people wanting to get on. So we had literally thousands of people apply.
We went to about 11 different cities and took – because we like to have sort of a random sampling if we can throughout the country as opposed to one locale.
And chose you know numerous people form numerous locations and then we whittled it down from there between Mark and myself and a great staff of people that Mark has.
We whittled it down to the – essentially the small group of 15 or so people that we ended up using.
Wireless Magazine’s Digital Journal: Wow, that must have been – Mark you sound real hands on on everything you do.
Donald Trump: He is.
Mark Burnett: I am in that – I really like it. You know it’s easy to be hands on of things you like but also have you know Donald and I have the same team around us for years and years and years so it’s very short hand.
But in the end you know it’s just vision is the job you know and trying to understand what probably would work. And it was the tone. The most important thing of this season was choosing the tone.
It would have been very easy to slip one direction of casting people who felt sorry for themselves to make it almost a sad story.
It’s obviously sad however you look at it that someone lost their job and have trouble paying mortgages and feeding children and self respect.
But the people we chose were all willing to stand up, be counted and move forward. You know it reminds me, like the simplicity of some of Trump’s quotes like one thing I’ll never forget that Trump says is that you can always spot a loser.
A loser is the person with the For Sale sign on a dirty car — couldn’t even be bothered to wash the car. You know, it’s the opposite, what we want. You know we want the people – they’re going to get the car not just washed, they’re going to get the car detailed.
It’s going to cost them $25 to detail it and they’re going to charge an extra $200 for the car. You know it’s just common sense but it’s the way you dress up for the interview.
It’s the way you show up. It’s the way that you won’t be pushed around. It’s all the Trump things, to be honest with you, it’s fairly basic.
It’s just a lot of people don’t think of saying it and Donald does and it’s inspiring. And I’ve got to tell you, Donald get that through line that we kept hearing, people in a reality show for a job saying it feels great to be back at work.
And that’s really touching you know. They had the energy to bid on the couch, the phone’s not ringing, finally they’re in the momentum.
And you know when things really happen for you is when you’re busy. So people are staying on jobs and moved on even if they got fired on this because the momentum of the energy.
We had some people that were lined up literally for four or five days. I think five and a half days, I think there were three people and they waited for five and a half days outside in the heat and that time was very, very hot – in the heat trying to get on line.
And by the way we gave them credit for that. Those people really got credit because you know you talk about not giving up or fighting, but they waited for five days to do the interview. They knew the location and they just camped out. And it’s really I think hope is an interesting word actually, it’s a good word.
Mark Burnett: I think we’re very careful with – immediately if we hear someone has applied for the show and they’ve applied for a bunch of other reality shows to be on television, if their focus is to be on TV we didn’t want them.
We want people who want to get back to work. So the authenticity of why you applied is a key bet to us. If we got a list of like you’d applied for The Bachelor, and you applied for Big Brother and you know whatever else you’d applied for, some dancing and singing show, clearly you just want to be on TV.
That doesn’t really work for this because on The Apprentice you may be getting three or four hours’ sleep in every 24. It’s non-stop. It really is non-stop, I mean even less sleep than Survivor.
Survivor, at least it’s pitch dark in the jungle half the time so you’re sleeping, I don’t know, 10 hours a night. On The Apprentice you’re genuinely sleeping maybe three hours a night.
Because by the time you go to a copy shop to make copies of a major presentation and things are starting at 5:00 in the morning, you’ve finished up at 3:00 in the morning making copies, you know it’s a fast turnaround.
Wireless Magazine’s Digital Journal: Do you find yourself using Trumpisms on your other shows? Would Donald do this and with this show or this show? I mean sounds like you two are best buddies who kind of feed off of each other.
Mark Burnett: Well I feed off Trump a lot because honestly I came to this country, you know one of my first things was selling t-shirts on Venice Beach just trying to make a little money to afford somewhere to live in America.
I was reading The Art of the Deal sitting on the beach when it was a cloudy day, reading when there was no one coming by and reading these great stories about how to make it in America.
Little did I realize that I’d ever even physically set eyes on Donald Trump, certainly didn’t think I’d ever meet him and never imagined I’d have a chance to work with him.
So it’s very inspiring for me and what I like is Donald, yes he’s a billionaire in his big skyscraper business but he’s very street smart, plain spoken.
Donald speaks to everybody. It could be the elevator operator, he’ll ask for an opinion. The driver, the person cleaning the lobby in Trump Tower. He asks people all the time what they’re thinking.
And he’s like the pied piper, wherever you go out with Trump you’re going to some music venue or sports venue, seems like 20,000 stand up and start clapping Trump.
Donald Trump: Well just remember we’re all going to the same place I guess, right? It’s all the same, anyway thank you very much.
Trenton Times: Atlantic City is a good example of what’s happening in this country. It was a place where people went to spend money, to make money and it’s a different story now. I know that you still have your name on casinos there, have you filmed anything in Atlantic City for this show and…?
Donald Trump: We actually have. We have some Atlantic City involvement and we do use it as an example of what happens in the country between the bad economy and competition and life and changes and everything else.
Atlantic City’s been ravaged by the economy and ravaged by an inordinate amount of competition brought on because of the economy, because other people legalized other states and areas legalized gambling in order to come up with revenues which they would have never thought they would have done.
So Atlantic City is talked about and shown a little bit and we actually are planning to use it even more so on the next Celebrity Apprentice.
Trenton Times: What do you think Atlantic City needs in order to – do you think it’s just a question of the overall economy becoming better or does Atlantic City need an infusion of something?
Donald Trump: Well we as you know I did a pretty good job of you know working out that situation in Atlantic City because everybody’s revenues were cut way, way down.
And we have a wonderful company with very little debt on it now and it worked out really great. And I think frankly people in Atlantic City have to cut the debt.
And they have to clean up Atlantic City and the economy has to come back. Those three things, not necessarily in that order.
Trenton Times: Mr. Trump – have you ever been a quitter, is it in your nature to quit anything?
Donald Trump: No, I don’t quit. Well though sometimes you have to go and you know you have to go with the punches as the boxers would say.
Mark would tell you from the great job he did on The Contender you know there’s an expression you have to go with the punches and so sometimes you know when I say never, ever quit, never ever give up sometimes you do have to change direction.
Otherwise you’re going to be running up against a wall.
Trenton Times: That makes a lot of sense. You’ve talked a lot about the administration, have you – you’re asked all the time, will you ever run for office? Is that still an option for you?
Donald Trump: So many people want me to run for office because they know I have the right take on what’s happening to this country in terms of our competitive – you know we’re not going to be the number one economic force in ten years if we keep going the way we’re going.
And so many people have asked me, you know you have a very good man in New Jersey, Chris Christie, he’s done an amazing job. He’s cut the budget by $11 billion.
He has done an amazing job, he’s a great guy who’s going to be a great governor. He’ll go down as one of the great governors.
Trenton Times: I know he cut some taxes.
Donald Trump: Well that – hopefully that will be next. I think that will be next, you watch.
Trenton Times: You had also spoke at some point maybe of having an interest in building a film studio in New Jersey or getting involved in it in some way. Is that an option?
Donald Trump: Well they asked me to do it but you know there’s so many of them, Mark would know that better than me. I think you have pretty good competition in that world Mark, right? They did ask me if I’d be interested but it wasn’t for me.
Trenton Times: You’re going to be opposite the Real Housewives franchise on Bravo. Is that a threat in any way? Is it the same audience?
Donald Trump: No, I don’t think anything’s a threat. I think it’s all good for television. If something else is good that’s good for us.
Don’t forget in season one we were opposite CSI and what was the other one Mark, we were opposite another big show and many weeks of the season we were the number one show on television. And we were opposite CSI.
And for our finale we had 29 million people and we blew away everything. I mean you know so – and we continue to do phenomenal numbers in the ratings.
So I view that as a positive and one other thing I think that’s important is NBC likes it so much they put us on Thursday night. Now television isn’t my primary business but I know Thursday night is called Fifth Avenue and 57th street, that’s called prime time.
So we’re on 10:00 on Thursday night and they think it’s so good that they gave us their main slot which is Thursday night, a slot on Thursday night.
Trenton Times: Is this the reason Survivor has moved to Wednesday from Thursday night?
Mark Burnett: I think Survivor – but just on the competition first, something, I’ve obviously had enough competition, Survivor was against Friends if you remember you know Apprentice gets CSI. Each thing, if it’s all good shows, if they’re all good shows the viewers will come and then all get good ratings.
I mean it’s not mutually exclusive that only one gets good ratings, the other one gets crap ratings. They can all get good ratings.
And so that’s the first answer and then the second thing about Wednesdays, you know I have no control over that and I’m sure the real reason Survivor moves to Wednesdays is for CBS to build a Wednesday night.
Survivor has a very good audience even when it gets pre-empted due to the NCAA and moves to a Wednesday it still does phenomenal numbers.
It’s a pretty solid franchise and I’m sure how in the way that Survivor helped CBS build a real Thursday night when it used to be all NBC all the time is what’s happening now on Wednesdays.
Trenton Times: Mr. Trump Do you still not use a computer?
Donald Trump: No, I use a computer but I’ve never been – you have to understand, I have thousands of computers in my organization. If you would see my computer bills for all of my employees, all of which use.
So I do but I also see tremendous distractions. I mean I have people that I’m dealing with and they can’t look up from a screen. And sometimes I look at people that can’t walk across the street with out looking at their computer or playing with their Blackberry.
I find it somewhat disconcerting to see what’s going on. The world is changing in that respect too but people, they’re in offices and they’re talking to each other and they’re all looking down at their screen.
So I’m not sure that’s a good thing for the country. I mean I use a computer but it’s not something – I mean I really like personal touch much more. Now that might be the old school, but I do like personal touch.
Monsters and Critics: You said something very interesting a few clicks back. You made a mention of a girl who went to Stanford, she got her law degree and now she’s doing cupcakes. Do you think a college degree matters any more, and if we’ve been hoodwinked by higher education to get ourselves into debt for degrees that don’t net anything? We have a dearth of people who can’t make or create and the trades have been so denigrated over the last 30 years and I’m just wondering if you can talk about that.
Donald Trump: Well it’s a very interesting question, I mean I’ve known many people over the years that are highly educated that are huge failures in life and I’ve known some that have very poor educations that are tremendously successful and also happy.
But I would never denigrate education, I’m a big huge believer in education. I went to the Wharton School of Finance, it’s the best business school. It’s a great school, but I know people there that graduated, they were great students and they didn’t do well.
And I’ve known people that went to much lesser schools and no schools that did much better. So you know more than anything else I think it gives you confidence.
You know you go through a school, you do well at a certain school and it gives you a certain confidence but it also teaches you to go by a certain little track.
And sometimes you can’t go by that track and people that don’t have the education maybe have that slight advantage. But overall I’m a big believer in education.
Monsters and Critics: Do you think that trades and skilled labor, I mean that’s an education in itself, do you agree with Mike Rowe from Discovery Channel for example, he’s a big believer in promoting more skilled labor, more people with trade skills…
Donald Trump: No, I agree with that.
Monsters and Critics: I think we could use more cupcakes and less lawyers is kind of what I’m saying.
Donald Trump: Well I think you’re right, I think general education sometimes is too general. I mean you get out of college and you know you have this – they call it the well rounded education. But the problem is you don’t know enough about one subject.
And it is to a certain extent a world of specialization and you know – and I fully understand what you’re saying. Yes, I think trade education is very important, absolutely important.
Mark Burnett: In the end it’s something that you know Donald Trump, not that he told me for the first time ever but something he confirmed for me, it is this word energy.
Trump sometimes says you know well I’ve got this person who went to Harvard, has no energy, another person who didn’t go anywhere has great energy.
What you really want is the person with the Harvard education and tons of energy but if you had to choose between the two you would take great energy every time.
Because it creates momentum and a spark and you rely on the point of energy and it’s something Trump always says.
Monsters and Critics: If one of your children Mr. Burnett said to you dad, I know you really want me to go to a great school but I really want to be a master carpenter or I want to fix engines on jet planes or something like that, how would you approach it?
Mark Burnett: I would just let them do what they want. I mean I’ve got the problem that I didn’t go to college and I’ve also done very well so my kid can throw that in my face every time, you know?
But in the end I can only advise them to get the best education possible and in the end they’re going to do what they want to do. So you know as a parent you can’t make them do anything except for try to look people in the eye and have some energy and have some drive.
And that is what it is, and it comes back to the show in that the people saying even though they’re on a TV show wow, it feels great being back at work.
What they’re really saying is it feels great having my energy back. Haven’t you ever noticed that on a day where you have nothing to do or a few days with not much to do, nothing happens.
The day that you have too much to do you get more done than you even should be getting done. It’s weird, it’s just momentum.
Examiner: Is there anything you guys can say about what sort of challenges the contestants are going to be facing the first few weeks?
Mark Burnett: Sure, you know one thing you also should know, clearly we’ve been used to the Celebrity Apprentice and we do have some great celebrities in it.
We have a great task where they have to form and run a doggie daycare service and Caesar Milan is a judge of that one which is great.
We have another one where they have to form a – make an audition for backers of a Broadway show, to raise money for a Broadway show, Kristin Chenoweth is a special guest on that show.
We also have…
Donald Trump: Kim Kardashian, we have Kim Kardashian. We have a lot of great celebrities on the show throughout the show.
Mark Burnett: Isaac Mizrahi, we also have Liza Minnelli, Kathy Griffin, so you know we have some really good tasks with some great people…things like selling ice cream on the streets of New York City, they’re designing a modern workspace, you know putting on a fashion show, pedicab service in New York City where they have to get their license.
Because driving a pedicab around Manhattan is a liability and they have to take to get the actual license and in fact some of them fail to even get the license which doesn’t make Trump very happy to begin with.
And then they’ve got to choose where they’re going to run their pedicab service, which part of Manhattan makes the most sense, how to market it. So it’s stuff that – you know what, Apprentice is basically a three month job interview.
Except for you’re not relying on the BS of a made up resume and hoping no one checks references. You’ve actually got to do tasks every week. You can’t hide. You either can deliver or you can’t deliver.
Soap Opera Weekly: Did you notice more drive or more cynicism in any particular group among the college grads and the unemployed workers and the business owners?
Donald Trump: Well it’s an interesting question. There was a lot of drive among all of them, and you know a little bit of that is because they are going to be in front of millions of people watching them on television.
But there was tremendous drive, I’ve seen tremendous – you know Mark used the word energy, I’ve seen tremendous energy from everybody on the show including Mark and his people to be honest with you.
There’s great energy on the show.
Mark Burnett: And I don’t think – I was just trying to think of your question about was it more one type of person or another type of person. You know what’s interesting on these kind of shows and The Apprentice in particular, let’s face it.
If you weren’t pretty A type you wouldn’t apply right? Because you know you’ve got to be pretty out there to be willing to risk it all on television when you’re trying to get a job and get back in the workforce in this season.
And then suddenly you show up, you’re A type in your normal life but you’ve sort of been kicked in the ass by losing your job so your confidence is down.
Now you’ve signed up for The Apprentice, everybody who’s put on the show are A type. So now if you can rise above that and have the most energy, you really, really have a lot of energy.
And some people get a little scared, it’s probably like some great you know high school football player who’s the big star in the town suddenly goes to a top college and it’s not as easy any more.
But some rise to the top and that’s where you find more or less energy. How you deal with being a bunch – a lot of people that have the same desire and same drive as you just do you have that bit more?
Can you impress Donald Trump? Are you scared to death of Donald Trump? Of course they are for the board room. How do you deal with that?
EDU Review: What you think is most important for college students to be doing right now to include on their resumes?
Donald Trump: Well I think to get into a college you need great marks and you need great SATs and you know PSATs even but SATs, you need the scores.
And you know that comes with a lot of work and to a large extent some innate talent and if you don’t have the innate talent ideally you can recognize that and you’ll be very happy doing something else.
But you need to get in – phase one is you have to get into the college and for that you need the boards and you need the great marks. It’s not easy to get into the great colleges.
TV Grapevine: How did Bret Michaels inspire you with being so sick and then still arriving to work like that?
Donald Trump: Well his courage was unbelievable because you know he was told by the doctors don’t do it. And Mark and I said this can only happen to us, here we have a live finale coming up and we have Bret, who really was not expected – number one he wasn’t expected to live three weeks before in all fairness.
When you say Mark I mean we heard it was not looking good which is the big picture. And then after it looked like he was probably going to make it …we have a live finale coming up and we’re saying to ourselves we have a two hour live finale and we don’t have a contestant, our primary contestant along with Holly.
But half of our contestants is now gone or won’t be here. And a couple of days before we started hearing that he’s going to make it, he’s going to make it, he wasn’t supposed to fly in an airplane because of the pressures and everything. But – and he was in – he was actually in California and he got on a plane and he made it. And frankly it would have been very hard, and Holly was fantastic, but it would have been very hard for me to have picked somebody else beyond the task because of what he did.
I mean he really did show a lot of courage and a lot of bravery and to this day he’s doing fantastically well. You know they have all sorts of big plans for Bret.
In fact he just hosted the Miss Universe pageant which was – and he did a fantastic job. So Bret was very inspirational I think to both Mark and myself, it was amazing.
Because we really thought two, three days before that he wasn’t going to make it. We were trying to figure out what to do Mark, right?
Mark Burnett: Yes, he’s a tough guy you know and he kept saying you know we would call him, he would be actually in hospital but – and we’re very careful not to ask him if he was going to make it to the show or not, we just wanted to say hey, how are you doing, you know? Because we had plenty of options…
Donald Trump: Mark didn’t ask him but I did actually, I would ask – Mark was too nice but I wasn’t. I said Bret are you going to make it and he’d say I think so, I’m going to make it. And he sounded like he was dying.
And yet he made it, so he was amazing.
Mark Burnett: But you know in the end we had plenty of options. You know and it was more important that he was okay, but I have to tell you what you didn’t really see was back stage before the finale he could just about walk.
I’m not kidding, he sat down, but he’s been a performer so many years on stage and able night after night to bring his best in front of thousands of people, I think there’s an element in people’s minds when they’re a performer and a front person in a band that no matter how bad you’re feeling, you better get up and deliver.
And that’s how Bret is. He just kept his energy, he sat down backstage and then when he knew it was five minutes to go, he got up, he psyched himself up, he went out there and did it.
And by the way if you noticed, he didn’t look for any sympathy, didn’t play the sympathy card, he just went out there and gave his best.
Donald Trump: And if you notice when he walked on the stage it almost looked like he was going down. He had a hard time walking on to the stage and he was amazing. And so he was very inspirational in that sense.
Starpulse.com: 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: 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.
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, 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.
insidepulse.com: With so much riding on the show for the contestants because of the economic downturn, was it harder or more emotional to fire some contestants knowing how much it meant to them?
Donald Trump: I think it was harder. You know it’s one thing to fire a celebrity that did a lousy job or was lazy or you know who cares and you know they still make plenty of money in the outside world.
To me it’s harder to fire somebody like this where you know they’re going back to nothing, they had nothing when they came. They put up a good fight in some cases, in some cases less of a good fight, in some cases an unbelievable fight.
I find it harder to fire – there’s such a down side for these people. You know when I let Scott Hamilton go or any one of the many, many celebrities, they go immediately back to their world.
And they do very well, almost all of them. When you let somebody like this go, it’s – it could almost be a negative because it’s always really hard to fire the first one or two or three.
Because that means you take these people that are not doing well and of the people that are not doing well these people are doing the worst. You know the firing the first one is really devastating. It’s very tough you know to be the first.
Think of the people, you know they say I was the first one fired out of this group of 15 people, I was the first one fired. And it’s – you know so I find it to be – I think it’s very, very much harder to fire somebody like this.
At the same time they know it’s not going to be pretty and they sign on to that.
Mark Burnett: And they want to market themselves and they just got themselves better known than had they been sitting at home with the phone not ringing.
Hollywood Life.com: How do you find the time to juggle your job and a family and what’s the best piece of parenting advice that you have?
Donald Trump: Now that is a good question. That is a very, very good question. But you know Mark and I have developed a really – I think an incredible system because we have the board room in Trump Tower and I am very, very busy.
And outside of The Apprentice but we’ve built an incredible board room in Trump Tower and the tasks take place in and around Trump Tower on 57th and 5th and the -I go down, I’ll sometimes visit the task which usually isn’t too far away.
I go down, we have some incredible tasks coming up by the way on the next one, but I go down, I’ll visit the task and then I’ll go down and I’ll do the boardroom scene.
And I’ll rant and rave and sometimes not necessarily rant and rave but do a lot of thinking but it’s a process that takes two and a half, three hours.
And I will fire somebody and I’ll go back up to my office and get back into the world of – the wonderful world of real estate and the other things I do.
So we have it down to a pretty good system of time. Otherwise it wouldn’t be possible for me to do it honestly.
Reality TV World: You’ve talked about the benefit the contestants will be getting from the show as far as a chance of talking to business leaders and the other things that will hopefully help the losing contestants and jobs elsewhere.
Have you actually heard of that happening with any of the contestants so far and if so are the episodes going to include any kind of updates about how a fired contestant is doing now or anything like that?
Donald Trump: Well we’re not going to be necessarily showing all of these interviews because we don’t know that it would be great to show and maybe it’s very personal.
Maybe they’ll do better without having televisions all over these big executives frankly. But we have heard back that some of them have really resulted in a very positive situation for the contestant.
Mark Burnett: And we are planning an update of what happened after The Apprentice for a lot of these people so we can get a sense of you know those who didn’t succeed in winning The Apprentice and therefore working for Donald Trump.
How they went on and how they got themselves back in the workforce so there will be updates.
TV America: Is there some point where if these people want to get to the top they just have to dial that down, it just doesn’t work.
Donald Trump: Yes, absolutely a great question, the answer is yes. Some of them are too strong, too – it’s too much and they are really detrimental to themselves and that’s a great question.
And it’s actually a great statement. Yes, there are some of them that are too tough, too much and it doesn’t work in life.
Mark Burnett: And that’s not just on The Apprentice.
Donald Trump: It turns people off.
Mark Burnett: It’s like every day with lots of people you meet.
Donald Trump: Right, exactly.
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