The Donald has spoken. "When you win the World Series, like we did with The Apprentice, you don't make too many changes," Donald Trump says on the eve of the NBC series' fifth edition. "The big change is always the cast." True, but there are some other surprises this time around. Premiering tonight at 9 pm/ET in its new Monday time slot opposite 24 Trump has called in some reinforcements, as he reveals in this TV Guide Q&A.
TV Guide: I'm sure you're happy with the performance of last season's finale, because the ratings had been down a bit.
Donald Trump: There was a lot of confusion with Martha [Stewart's edition of The Apprentice]. A lot of confusion. People didn't know what was going on. Even through that, [the original] did well, and then it really went well towards the end. The ratings were very strong. [Reciting ratings from Variety, Dec. 21, page 6] "CSI, The Apprentice..." [Proudly] We killed The Amazing Race. Fifteen copies or relative copies [of The Apprentice] have failed. I'm starting to think I must be very good at this. We just finished shooting No. 5, and No. 6 is being shot in Los Angeles. NBC and [series creator] Mark [Burnett] and myself thought it would be really good to have a change of venue, and I have property in Los Angeles. I'm going to go out there pretty soon to pick the people.
TV Guide: Let's talk about The Apprentice, Season 5. Every year you shake things up a little. What can we expect this season?
Trump: I felt strongly about [not changing too much]. We started to get a little bit cute in No. 3, with the project managers' exempt and all that, and all it did was make things more complicated. On No. 4, we went back to the original concept and I really like it much better. There are certain things that have worked well like [pitting the] men versus the women but again, when you have a success like The Apprentice, you don't want to change it so much.
TV Guide: You once had "the street smart versus the book smart" college grads.
Trump: Right, but the concept of men versus women has been there a very long time and it's probably a natural thing. We have made certain changes [for Season 5] but I can't really tell you that it's still men versus women, because that's what the show is for.
TV Guide: OK, let's talk about the contestants. As usual, most are good-looking and have impressive resumes.
Trump: Incredible resumes. Rather than going over all of them, because I don't have all day, let's look down the list. Allie: She went to Harvard, got an MBA, graduated very high in her class. Brilliant, very energetic. A great television character. Charmaine: She made presentations to companies that were just unbelievable. Better than people who have been doing it for 20 years. She's a natural salesperson, but beyond that an unbelievable presenter. Lenny: Russian, as tough as they come. Made himself a millionaire by the strap of his boots. Total killer, but with a heart. Again, a great character.
TV Guide: Michael looks like a possible show hunk.
Trump: [Assessing hunks] has never been my thing, but he's a very handsome guy. Very successful. He's a management consultant, he's done great. Tarek is very interesting. He's a member of Mensa, a very tiny group of people get into that. That's when you have a genius IQ. He's very different, as you'll see.
TV Guide: There's always one woman who scares everyone, who's kind of a barracuda.
Trump: Roxanne is very, very smart. University of Michigan Law School. Top student. Brilliant. She is really something. Andrea amazing. She's made millions of dollars, probably the most successful cast member from a dollar standpoint. She skipped college, [yet is] possibly the most successful of all of them. She's a very, very tough and smart person.
TV Guide: Are there any Sam or Omarosa types?
Trump: You never know. Sam wasn't Sam until we went on the air. When we shot Apprentice [Season] 1, we never knew that Omarosa was Omarosa. We didn't know other people would be such stars and that was even after we shot and edited. I don't know who's going to become a star until the audience sees them. There are three or four of them in this group who I think could have "it," but it's bad for me to mention their names, because I'm usually wrong. There are some very beautiful [candidates], but that's been proven to not be [a critical factor].
TV Guide: What are some of the companies the candidates work with this season?
Trump: We'll be working with Microsoft, General Motors, Yahoo, Procter & Gamble.... Every company that's been on The Apprentice has had among their most successful launches. The Pontiac Solstice was a huge success, for example.
TV Guide: Can we expect any subs for Carolyn [Kepcher] or George [Ross]?
Trump: My daughter Ivanka, who went to the Wharton School of Finance the No. 1 business school, where she got all A's and who joined me less than a year ago, will substitute for Carolyn on occasion. And my son Donald Jr., who has been in my business for five years, will substitute for George on occasion.
TV Guide: Did you think of that or did Mark?
Trump: It was the most natural thing. Mark was in my office when Ivanka walked in and he said, "You know, she's 6 feet tall, she's a great beauty and she's had all A's in school.... We've got to have her on the show. "
TV Guide: Will she and Donald Jr. be tough in the boardroom?
Trump: They're tough and smart.
TV Guide: Who's going to scare the candidates more?
Trump: That's another thing I can't tell. I may think one, but the audience will think another. But they're really good. They're the ultimate Apprentices when you get right down to it.
TV Guide: This year, you're on Mondays, up against a very popular 24.
Trump: We always get great ratings. Don't forget, in Season 1, for many episodes we would beat CSI. We were the only ones ever to do that. [Competing against] 24 is a lot easier than CSI. The only thing that I would say is a risk is that we did really well on Thursday nights and people knew us in that slot and now we're in a different one a very good slot, but a different one. The only thing I would be concerned about is whether the audience will find us.
TV Guide: You got tons of publicity when you invited Season 4's champ, Randall, to bring the runner-up, Rebecca, with him. Would you ever do that again?
Trump: That was unbelievable. I've gotten thousands of letters on that. That was a spur-of-the-moment decision made on live television. I can't tell you I would or I wouldn't [do it again], although I thought it was a good thing to do at the time. Randall certainly came out looking strong when he said no.
TV Guide: Was that the right choice for an entrepreneur to make?
Trump: He's a very decisive guy and honestly, when he made the decision, I thought he was making a mistake. Now that time has gone by, I think he did the right thing.
TV Guide: Is he doing a good job for you?
Trump: He's doing great.
TV Guide: You'll just have to think of something equally surprising for the Season 5 finale.
Trump: I promise.
Are you addicted to shows like The Apprentice? Find out the real reason reality TV is a hit.