After being off the air in 2014, “The Celebrity Apprentice” returns to NBC in January 2015 for the seventh installment of “The Celebrity Apprentice” and the 14th season of “The Apprentice” series. (The Season 7 premiere is on Jan. 4, 2015, and the show moves to its new Monday time slot as of Jan. 5, 2015.) In “The Celebrity Apprentice,” the contestants raise money and awareness for their charity of choice. The last person standing will be chosen as this season’s Celebrity Apprentice and have the honor of delivering a $250,000 bonus check to their designated charity. The 16 contestants chosen for Season 7 of “The Celebrity Apprentice” are Olympic snowboarding champ Jamie Anderson, baseball star Johnny Damon, actress Vivica A. Fox, TV personality Leeza Gibbons, reality star Brandi Glanville, reality star Kate Gosselin, comedian Gilbert Gottfried, Olympic gymnastics champ Shawn Johnson, musician/reality star Kevin Jonas (formerly of the Jonas Brothers), actor Loreno Lamas, reality star Kenya Moore, football player/reality star Terrell Owens, actress Keisha Knight Pulliam, TV personality Geraldo Rivera and actor Ian Ziering.
Every week, the celebrity contestants will work in two teams — each under the guidance of a designated project manager — to compete in business-driven tasks around New York City by using their fame, along with their proven business acumen, to win challenges. Contestants are subjected to long hours, grueling deadlines, intellectual challenges, personality clashes and intense scrutiny under the careful watch of Donald Trump and his advisors. Certain challenges encourage contestants to reach out to their network of celebrity contacts for assistance or donations, leading to surprise visits by some of the world’s biggest stars and pop culture icons. Each task will end in the boardroom, where contestants must account for their actions and be judged by Trump and his advisors. Returning this season as advisors are Trump’s eldest children/colleagues Ivanka, Donald Jr. and Eric, as well as surprise guests along the way. Joan Rivers (who won “The Celebrity Apprentice” in 2009) and Piers Morgan (who won “The Celebrity Apprentice” in 2008) were among those who made guest appearances. Before they began filming Season 7, Trump and the 16 contestants gathered in New York City for a press conference. Here is what was said during the Q&A.
Kevin, you’re a new father. What does your wife think about you being away filming “The Celebrity Apprentice”?
Jonas: We live 25 minutes away [from where “The Celebrity Apprentice” films], so I’m coming back and forth as much as I can. I’m going to try and do my best.
So you’re not being sequestered? You get to go home?
Some of you have been on “Dancing With the Stars,” and many former “Celebrity Apprentice” contestants have said how they weren’t prepared for the fatigue level that they experienced on “The Celebrity Apprentice.” Did you get any advice from former “Celebrity Apprentice” contestants, and do you think being on “Dancing With the Stars” was good preparation for you?
Fox: On “Dancing With the Stars” we used to rehearse six hours a day, six days a week. I did talk to Mark McGrath, who has been on “The Celebrity Apprentice” before. He said, “Vivica, just be prepared to work.”
Gosselin: I think personally, having done “Dancing With the Stars,” we all know I cannot dance. I was very nervous because it was outside my comfort zone. I’m very comfortable here, so I’m very excited to be involved in something where I can be a fighter and do well at it.
I know that the exhaustion level [on “The Celebrity Apprentice”] may rival that [on “Dancing With the Stars”], as well as what we go through mentally, but I feel that with everything I do at home, this will equal that and could be great. I’m ready for the challenge.
Trump: Some people actually handle it very well. Joan Rivers was 76 when she won [“The Celebrity Apprentice” in 2009]. She was unbelievable. We had great athletes — fighters, football players, baseball players — and they were exhausted after three weeks. Some people handle it well, and some people find it exhausting. It’s very interesting.
Is “The Celebrity Apprentice” going to be on for two hours a week or one hour?
Trump: I really requested an hour. We started off at one hour. Then, it went on for two hours. Them, it did so well that it went on for three hours. Three hours is like watching “Gone With the Wind.” It’s too long.
People love seeing the boardroom. They love the cast. I requested one hour. Two hours is very long. I think the [season] finale, which will be live, will be two hours. [NOTE: Months after this press conference happened, NBC announced that “The Celebrity Apprentice” Season 7 would actually be two hours a week.]
Why has “The Celebrity Apprentice” been on hiatus?
Trump: We couldn’t shoot because I’ve been so busy. I do have to run a big business. I love doing this, but I have to run a big business.
Will you be splitting the teams into males and females again?
Trump: Probably so. When you have a successful formula, you don’t want to change it. There’s nothing like men versus women. We’ll probably start off with men versus women, and then we start switching teams up.
Who stands out as this season’s Omarosa-type of villain?
Trump: I really like Omarosa. Someone asked me if she’s really nice in person. I’m not sure, but I happen to like her. You don’t know who is going to be a great player and who is now. I know some of the folks up here are really smart and really good, and they may not do well. And others whom I think may think won’t do well [surprise me]. You never really know …
You’ll see people get dropped. I think Geraldo [Rivera] is going to be a great player. You never know. Don’t forget, there’s a lot of pressure. You don’t know how people are going to react under pressure.
I’ve actually known Geraldo for a long time, and I think he handles pressure really well. But it’s tough. It’s not an easy grind. It’s very prestigious. Winning on the show is very prestigious. And being on the show is prestigious. You just can’t predict.
A huge part of winning challenges on “The Celebrity Apprentice” is being able to bring in large sums money from donations. Can any of the contestants talk about why they think they’ll be a strong competitor in this area? And do you think it’s fair to say that contestants who have a lot of rich friends have an advantage?
Rivera: I have the home field advantage in that regard. My charity is Life’s WORC for the Willowbrook children. The institution that we shut down through the exposé, now they’re all community residences. Through the people have been donating, we’ve seen through their own eyes their community-based presence all through the New York metropolitan area.
Knight-Pulliam: I would say that it’s such a global community now that you can have resources through social media that I feel ultimately, it’s not about having a rich friend, because you can have a tremendous amount of rich friends who never want to [donate]. So ultimately, you have to be a very good spokesperson. It has to be more than just who you know.
Trump: I do have to say that raising money is not the sole criteria. As you know, many people have raised a lot of money and they didn’t win. I can’t let somebody win because they happen to know Warren Buffett and a few other people. I just can’t do that. There have been many cases where someone raised more money but they didn’t necessarily win. I just can’t have it be solely about the money.
Did any of the contestants know each other as friends or enemies before joining “The Celebrity Apprentice”?
Lamas: I’m really good friends with Ian. We attended a lot of sports invitationals to raise money for charity. The people who organized that always put Ian and me together in competitions. We really enjoyed that, so it’s going to be really tough calling him out. Good luck.
Moore: I’ve been friendly with T.O. [Terrell Owens] for a while. I’ve seen Vivica around town.
Gottfried: I’m not friendly with any of them. I genuinely don’t like them.
Ziering: I worked with Vivica on “Sharknado 2” recently, so I have a lot of respect for her. Leeza Gibbons, who I love and adore, I worked with her on “Dancing With the Stars.”
Gibbons: That means he danced circles around me. That’s basically what he meant. I did watch him do incredibly well on the show.
Ziering: Thank you. And of course, I’ve known Lorenzo for quite a few years. It’s nice to be in an environment to have a few friends.
Gosselin: I kind of know Shawn Johnson. My kids were huge fans of her on “Dancing With the Stars,” so when they find that she’s here too, they may change their allegiance.
Owens: I think everybody in the cast has had some kind of connection. Leeza and I, we share an Alzheimer’s connection, so it’s been a blessing to see each other again.
Gibbons: T.O. has been supportive and wonderfully involved and I most appreciate that about him. We’re all competing and giving our best and go after each other as competitors. We’re going to be team mates but individuals within a team, but I think we go into it appreciating that we support each other as a community — and that’s really nice.
To the athletes, what do you think your athletic experience brings to “The Celebrity Apprentice”?
Owens: I don’t know, unless there’s running for a task. I think, for me, you try to take the selfish element out of it. Obviously, I come from a team sport. It’s kind of hard to say since you have to be a team player, but there are personal goals that you have to achieve during a challenge. In that regard, I’m very competitive. You have to set aside and sacrifice your selfishness for what you achieve.
Johnson: I’m from the team aspect of gymnastics. We have a team, but we have to compete individually, so that translates [to “The Celebrity Apprentice”]. Athletes are used to being difficult and not talking to much. Now is our chance to show what we think and what we can learn and take our competitive experience to [the show].
Damon: I think it’s going to be different. Playing together … I feel like I’ve been a big part of that throughout my career. I’m a hard worker and a competitor. This is very important for me and my family to see where I stack up. I’ve been off doing some .business ventures since I’ve been done playing [baseball]. I’d like to get better. I feel like the show is going to give me a great platform to improve not only as a person but as a businessman.
Trump: All of them are amazing competitors.
For more info: “The Celebrity Apprentice” website
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