Despite flagging ratings, Donald Trump's entrepreneurial competition returns for a seventh season, this time as Celebrity Apprentice (tonight at 9 pm/ET, on NBC), its first "stars edition." Among the players: country singer Trace Adkins, Stephen Baldwin, Marilu Henner, boxing champ Lennox Lewis, KISS' Gene Simmons and former Apprentice diva Omarosa. The winner doesn't get a job, but $250,000 of Trump money will go to a favorite charity. We chatted up the mogul about his show's new turn.
TV Guide: Why a celebrity version?
Donald Trump: I wasn't going to do any more but when NBC mentioned the celebrity concept, I agreed to sign for two seasons. [They] like us so much, they put it back on Thursday nights, where we belong.
TV Guide: You weren't happy about how NBC handled the show, were you?
Trump: I wasn't. Martha Stewart was a total fiasco. They had her version, and two of mine, and it was confusing to people.
TV Guide: How is this different?
Trump: Instead of working for me, they're working for charities. They raised millions doing the tasks. In some challenges we went back to Season 1, where we did things like sell lemonade and hot dogs on the street. It's very humbling.
TV Guide: How many celebrities applied?
Trump: 100. We took 14, but a couple of them canceled because they couldn't stand the concept of being fired. That included a [controversial] former baseball player. The level of viciousness, hatred and competitiveness was unbelievable. They fought hard because they have their images to protect.
TV Guide: Who most surprised you with their skill?
Trump: Baldwin was much better than I expected and Lewis is a standout. He not only has physical strength but great mental strength.
TV Guide: Why did you sic [Season 1 "villain"] Omarosa on these people?
Trump: I wanted her back because she is a highly competitive, highly intelligent person who was brutal on the show.
TV Guide: If they were up for it, would you hire any of them?
Trump: Half of them in a heartbeat.
TV Guide: Ivanka and Don Jr are back in the boardroom. Any others?
Trump: George is back for a number of shows, and then we have CNBC's Jim Cramer and WWE head Vince McMahon. It's wild.
TV Guide: Are any previous winners still working for you?
Trump: [Season 1 Apprentice] Bill Rancic, and I hired Andy Litinsky, the young Harvard graduate. I got him for a better price because he didn't win.
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