Tonight, NBC’s The Apprentice franchise, which has been focused on celebrities for the past three seasons, returns to its roots and begins the search to crown the 10th — yes, 10th! — Apprentice in its history. (Who else feels old?) To celebrate such a monumental event, EW rang up the show’s don himself, Donald Trump, to chat a little about the new season. Always a delight, Donald talked about this season’s recession-focused twist, why he decided to revive The Apprentice during such weighty times, and how this season has already produced the best boardrooms ever. “I think you’ll just love it,” he says. Well, that’s for you viewers to decide, but until 10 p.m. tonight, when you can make that judgment, enjoy a quick chat with The Donald here.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: I know that you are doing something different this season with finding recession-plagued people. What’s the deal with that?
DONALD TRUMP: Well, we’re doing the celebrity version for the spring, but this one very much looks at what’s gone on with the world of recession, with the world of problems. We’ve taken people that have tremendous educations, tremendous potential, and — in many cases — have had tremendous success in jobs but don’t have that now, and we’re putting them into a very tough situation where they have to prove that they can do it. It’s as good as season 1. It’s been unbelievable. I really like it.
Do you feel like this different tact has raised the stakes?
I think it raises the stakes. It puts more pressure on them to succeed. We have one young man who has five children and a wife and no job. They have a lot at stake. We have people from Stanford, people from great schools that had great jobs, and now they don’t have jobs. They have families to take care of. Don’t forget, this is our 10th season. When I started The Apprentice, the world was booming and it was different. Omarosa emerged and other people emerged, and it was different. Today, the economy — you have a 17 percent unemployment, real unemployment of 17 percent. We almost went through Great Depression number two, and in a lot of cases, you could say we did go through it. So the world is a different place, and we want to show the current world as opposed to a fantasy.
Don’t you think people want a fantasy?
I think this is the escape! This is going to be escape into something that can be very successful. We’re doing one other thing. We’re setting these people up with great executives at great companies, beyond The Apprentice. That, we’ve never done before. We’re going to show it on screen in some cases, but in all cases, do it. In other words, we’re not always going to show it, but we’re hooking them up with great job opportunities, like at Phillips-Van Heusen and Macy’s and some of our great sponsors on the show.
What are some the challenges like?
There are some tremendous advertising campaigns for some of the sponsors, [but] I’m not allowed to tell you who they are yet. But some tremendous advertising campaigns, some tremendous campaigns generally, some unbelievable sales ideas that we’ve had and worked into the show. There’s a really creative process going on with respect to food, with respect to clothing, with respect to advertising. So, you know, we have some really amazing things, also done in conjunction with our sponsors. We have some great sponsors.
Are you going to go as far as saying this is the best season of The Apprentice ever?
I think it’s as good as season 1. That’s a big statement because season 1 was the biggest show on television. Season 1 went to being the biggest show on television many weeks. I think this is as good as season 1. It’s very rough, but there’s a great compassion there because we understand where everyone is coming from.
Are there good personalities?
Unbelievable! You’ll see as it evolves. Some unbelievable personalities and conflict.
And is there lots of boardroom drama?
I think they’re the best boardrooms we’ve ever done. I just think you’ll love it. After you see it, I want you call me.