Fired are you both. So declared Donald Trump (in so many words) on last week's The Apprentice, as the Excel team delivered a Star Wars Episode III — Revenge of the Sith in-store display that fell light-years short of impressing either the Lucasfilm or Best Buys execs. TVGuide.com invited project manager Brian Mandelbaum and fellow castoff Marshawn Evans to — you guessed it — strike back.
TVGuide.com: Am I just old or was it a little bizarre that Randall was the only Star Wars-savvy person on your team?
Brian Mandelbaum: He was our resident Star Wars "geek," if you will. I think all of us were familiar with the franchise, but none of us were as fanatical or comfortable being able to dissect it as Randall was.
Marshawn Evans: I actually knew quite a bit about Star Wars, but Randall was the most passionate about it by far.
TVGuide.com: It's just that it seemed like he had to convince you to use recognizable characters on your display.
Marshawn: Not necessarily. I understood who the popular characters were but for me, it was more a matter of trying to think outside the box. If you're trying to market to the masses, it might help to bring out these new characters and try something different that might catch a person's eye if they're not familiar with the movie.
Brian: We knew Darth Vader was a major character, but what you didn't see was that we did feature Darth Vader as a main character on our display — he was a rotating head on the top.
TVGuide.com: Brian, Excel got off to a bad start when you budgeted all of 15 minutes for a cab ride from Trump Towers to Chelsea. Dude, I can barely get to a movie junket six blocks away in that time.
Brian: [Laughs] It's funny because when I left my apartment today for NBC, it took me about six minutes to get from 31st and Second to 49th and Sixth. I was like, "Isn't that ironic?"
TVGuide.com: That's how it always is: When you have six minutes it takes 45 — and vice versa.
Brian: Exactly. I always say it takes 15 minutes to get anywhere in New York City. Distance-wise, nothing is really that far away; it's just the traffic that is always the problem. But 15 minutes was not enough time, and having [Apprentice camera crews] to drag around doesn't help any.
TVGuide.com: Marshawn, you own a public-speaking company and obviously have stage-presence experience as a onetime Miss America contestant. So why did you bail at the 11th hour on the presentation?
Marshawn: I felt completely confident in doing the presentation. Something to keep in mind is that I was the presentation go-to girl on all the prior tasks, and probably my biggest mistake on this Star Wars task was having too much of a team-player attitude. Earlier in the competition, I would have taken the presentation and just done it, but since I had always done that, I wasn't as passionate about making sure I did that again.
TVGuide.com: Ironically, that's what did you in, since it appeared that you dumped the project on Rebecca.
Marshawn: It is quite ironic. But it wasn't dumped on Rebecca. I wasn't even talking to her at the time; it was a conversation between me and Brian and she jumped in. Rebecca hadn't done any presentations, and throughout the past week she had emphasized that she wanted to do [this one].
TVGuide.com: Trump is thinking about taking away the exemption option for winning project managers next season. What do you think about that?
Brian: I think that's a great idea, especially since Trump really judges you [on the criteria] that you're only as good as your last task, so what does is really matter to be exempt or not? All it does it buy you another week before you may wind up on the chopping block. When we didn't exempt Markus on the first task, that was spot-on. But when Randall worked so hard on the third task, we thought, "OK, you know what? We're going to give people a break. When you bust your ass, you deserve something."
Marshawn: I don't think anyone should be exempt. Last week, Randall [was exempt] but the display was his baby, pretty much, so it would have been a completely different boardroom if he didn't have [immunity]. But he did — and that completely messed me over. [Laughs]
Brian: Randall really spearheaded the creativity, and what you didn't see in the boardroom was that Trump was like, "Randall, I'm very disappointed. This is the first I've really felt you let your team down a bit."
TVGuide.com: Was there as much tension during the farewell cab ride as it appeared?
Brian: No, there wasn't. Marshawn actually kind of gave me some credit and laughed and looked over at me and smiled, and I smiled back. They were like, "Marshawn, you talk, and then Brian, you talk" — but they only showed her portion because I looked so stunned. I knew I was probably going to get fired, I just didn't think it'd be two people. I felt bad for Marshawn because I went down and took her down with me. But that's business.
Marshawn: I thought I was an easy scapegoat, that it was [wrong] for Brian to say the presentation had anything to do with why we lost, because at the end of the day it was about the design of the display. But when he couldn't point a finger at Randall, I was the only person left. I think integrity is important — you've got to say what you mean and mean what you say, and that was never brought up to me beforehand.
TVGuide.com: What's next for both of you?
Marshawn: A lot! I have since passed the Georgia bar and am an official lawyer; I have two books coming out in the fall of next year; I have a clothing line coming out that will be affordable and inspirational; and lastly, back into the public-speaking arena, my company Communication Counts will be working with athletic teams on both the professional and collegiate levels.
Brian: First of all, I'm still working for True Type, my family's third-generation printing company in New York City. On a side note, about four or five of the guys from The Apprentice have come together and are now advisors and spokespeople for an innovative men's-grooming line called Amenity, which you can find out more about at GetAmenity.com. It's Chris [Valetta], Josh [Shaw], Mark Lampkin and myself — those are the only names I can tell you right now.