Donald Trump's The Apprentice is more popular than ever with its change of format a few seasons ago into a celebrity version that boosted ratings. With the new all-star version debuting on NBC, past competitors now return to make even more money for their charities.
What started as The Apprentice where regular people competed for a chance to work for Trump has now morphed into a random group of stars who have their careers revitalized while raising money for a good cause on public television.
The cast this season consists of Team: Plan B with Trace Adkins, Stephen Baldwin, Gary Busey, Dee Snider, Marilu Henner, Penn Jilette and Lisa Rinna. Team: Power consists of Lil John, Bret Michaels, Claudia Jordan, La Toya Jackson, Dennis Rodman, Omarosa and Brande Roderick.
Windy City Times talked to the mogul Trump himself along with Jackson and Michaels before the big debut.
Windy City Times: Hello, everyone. Is this the most dramatic season yet of Apprentice?
Donald Trump: Well, I'll speak first. I think it's certainly one of the most dramatic seasons. We have brought back, including Bret and La Toya, some of the people that everybody really likes because it's an all-star season and amazing things happen. La Toya and Bret, go ahead.
La Toya Jackson: It's very dramatic and very exciting. There is so much going on. You will see a lot of confrontations. It's going to be a blast, you'll love it. You will simply love it, everyone will.
Bret Michaels: I have found that as being there the first time it was something I really wanted to do. I had an absolutely great time and coming back obviously it is extremely dramatic and you'll just have to watch because it will keep you riveted.
WCT: What is Joan Rivers' role on the show? She's a judge now?
Donald Trump: Yes, she will be a judge. Don and Ivanka and Eric are judges. What we'll do is put Piers on in a little bit and the conflict between Omarosa and Piers which is just a continuation of what happened previously on the show, the conflict is as good, as smart, as tough, as mean as anything that we've ever had on the show.
But Piers is a judge with me and he sits by my side, replacing Ivanka a couple of times and likewise with Joan. We have some amazing evenings. So, in other words, I have taken some of the past winners and made them judges to replace my children for a couple of shows.
WCT: Were there other people you wanted for the show? Lisa Lampanelli would have been a great choice.
Donald Trump: Well, Lisa would have been great and she [wouldn't have] because she just went, I mean, she was very recent so we didn't do that. But Lisa was great; she did a fantastic job andwhat is even more importantwas very nice to me afterwards. Even during her comedy where she destroys people, she has been very nice to me so that's great. Lisa was just up so we got everybody we wanted.
WCT: Were you surprised that Penn Jillette came back after not fitting in with Clay Aiken last season?
Donald Trump: Well, he actually does very well; we've shot much of it and he does very well. He did very well the first time. No I wasn't surprised. It has been extremely good for him and for his brand and for his show in Las Vegas and I wasn't surprised.
It was very easy to get everybody to come back. It's actually very easy to cast the show because everybody really wants to be on it.
Whether it's Piers Morgan or Joan Rivers or Trace Adkins or so many others, so many have done so well for themselves and their brand. They have made a lot of money and they have also made a lot of money on the show itself for charity. So I wasn't surprised to see him come back at all, no.
WCT: Do you feel like you had an advantage, Bret, after winning your original season?
Bret Michaels:Here is the absolute truth. I actually felt like I had probably a major disadvantage. I call it the Super Bowl Syndromewhen a team comes back that has won it everyone is gunning for them.
I loved everyone who was on it and, listen, as a lifelong diabetic; it's a great opportunity for charity. I wanted to do it. But no doubt when you're coming back they're going to firing for you and you've just got to be strong and do the best you can.
WCT: Was there any hesitation about doing the show again from you two?
La Toya Jackson: I wanted to do it in the very beginning but the second time around I was a bit hesitant because I knew what I was faced with the first time. You never give up. You always have to keep believing. You have to believe that you're going to be the winner. You're going to come through this really straightforward and strong.
I went for it because if I have learned anything I have learned what Trump has taught us all that we need to put our best foot forward and don't let anybody, anybody block us from anything that we wish to do or want to do.
And I felt it was very, very important to bring awareness as well to my charity, which was National Network to End Domestic Violence. Because this show is so big and so wonderful, he has given us this opportunity to bring this awareness to our charities where everybody sees it and that interest goes there and then they start giving to the charity, which is incredible.
Bret Michaels: No hesitation on my part at all. I was excited to do it, I wanted to do it the first time I did it. When I actually did it the first time I wasn't at the peak of my best health.
I went in with no hesitation and realizing that the competition was going to be fierce. We all know each other, we all know the way each other plays, and for me I just went in headstrong and had a great time going there, zero hesitation. I would do it again.
WCT: Were you tougher on the contestants this time since they had been on the show before, Mr. Trump?
Donald Trump: No; I think they became a lot smarter [and] they understand the system better. We have a couple that did very well that, frankly, I wasn't expecting as much from and I think they have learned the system a little bit. So it wasn't that I was expecting more, I think they have become much smarter.
I actually think that it made for a very exciting show. I think almost every one of them really have learned so much. It's really a strong show, amazing show.
WCT: What charities would you compete for if you were on the show?
Donald Trump: I support many, many charities and a lot of good ones. But I would do something probably with either AIDS research, cancer research or Police Athletic League in New York City. They do a fantastic job.
I have many, many charities so that would be very, very hard for me, I'd have to pick one. But, you know, any one of those would be good as far as I'm concerned.
WCT: Why do you think the time was right to make an all-star edition?
Donald Trump: It just seemed good. You know, we've had so many people that have done so well on the show. They didn't win but they did really well and they were really liked by the audience because ultimately it is about them being liked by the audience. We have so many people that did so well and just really were liked.
I have such respect for Bret going on the show and because he could have sat to my side and it wouldn't have been the same risk. I think you'll see that Bret comes out amazingly.
There was so much like and love for some of these contestants that we wanted to do an all-star version, and whether it's Gary Busey or Dennis Rodman we just had some great people coming back.
WCT: Will this be the final season of Celebrity Apprentice?
Donald Trump: It's the number-one show on Sundays. We'll see. You never know what's going to happen. Certainly it has been doing very well in the ratings as you know and so I would anticipate that it would continue onward.
We have had 15 copies of Celebrity Apprentice, or The Apprentice, as I say. I guess there was another one last week, it was called The Job and that was just terminated I understand. But 15 copies and this is our 10th year, it's our 13th season. So it has been a great success and it continues to do very well.
WCT: I am sure we will see you back in Chicago soon, with the Trump Hotel here and all.
Donald Trump: Absolutely.
La Toya Jackson: By the way, Mr. Trump. I always stay there when I go to Chicago.
Donald Trump: Well that's fantastic. We're very proud of it.
WCT: I heard from my friends at World of Wonder that La Toya has a new reality show.
La Toya Jackson:: Yes, it's called Life With La Toya and it airs in April on the Oprah Winfrey network.
Donald Trump: I'll be watching. That's good, La Toya, good.
La Toya Jackson:: It's wonderful. You guys are going to love it.
WCT: Thanks, all. I look forward to watching the new season.
Donald Trump: Okay, thank you very much, Jerry.
Celebrity Apprentice All-Stars debuts Sunday, March 3, at 8 p.m. on CT on NBC.