The Apprentice has been captivating us for ten years now, so I think it’s about time an ex-candidate lifted the lid on what really goes on behind the scenes…
1. Do you really have twenty minutes to get ready?
Technically, yes. You have 20 minutes to get yourself shipshape, but you don’t actually leave the house until an hour afterwards.
In that time you have to get your microphone put on and film walking out the house and into the black cars about 17 times.
I suppose some of the girls could use the microphone time to put extra make-up on, but it genuinely is quite an efficient process. Most shower the night before and plan their outfits, so you really are quite prepared.
2. Is the boardroom really Lord Sugar’s?
No. It’s a TV studio on the outskirts of London. There is no ceiling, just bright lights.
The table also isn’t as grand as it looks on TV. It’s lined by plastic and underneath is a fabric that feels like a stage curtain.
3. How long is it filmed for?
Typically, six weeks. You will do two tasks in a week, which comprise of two days of task and one day of boardroom.
4. Is the boardroom receptionist real?
No, she’s a hired actress who just sits and plays Solitaire until the phone rings.
5. What are Nick and Karren like?
It’s a tricky one because they do both genuinely care about the candidates and The Apprentice’s business integrity. They are also both fantastic people, with Karren being much warmer than she comes across on screen.
In my experience, Karren was the one I always wanted to follow my team. Her note-taking is extensive and she doesn’t miss a trick.
6. Is the show scripted or set-up?
It’s not scripted at all. It’s not like The X Factor where people are scouted, everyone on the show applied online and turned up to an audition.
Equally, everything said comes from the candidates. They can’t show things you didn’t say, although it can be manipulated.
The only way things can get a little scripted is in the many one-on-one camera interviews you do during tasks, the overwhelmingly vast majority of which don’t make the edit.
In these instances, producers may ask you a questions, listen to your answer then condense it into a succinct sentence and ask you to repeat it.
Similarly, before the final three go back into the boardroom, producers take each individual outside the TV studio and into a black car to talk through and develop their arguments.
7. Is the losing team’s cafe real?
Yes! And they do a very decent sausage sandwich. Although the toilet is outside and really gross, if you need it.
8. What’s it like in the house?
You live there for the duration of filming and it’s very controlled. You are not allowed a phone, and get one ten minute (supervised) call home a week.
You also aren’t allowed a computer or Internet access or to read the news. If you want to watch TV, you have to have the programme approved by production, and you also can’t go to the toilet by yourself.
If you need the loo, you have to check with production who will wait outside until you finish to ensure there is no cheating going on.
You’re also not allowed to talk about the task when the cameras aren’t on.
9. Do you pack everything in your boardroom suitcase?
No, it’s an overnight bag. If you’re fired you’re taken to a 4* hotel where you are met the next day by a producer and the show’s PR representative to be given your bigger suitcase (which the other candidates pack).
10. How long are you in the boardroom waiting area?
It depends how late Lord Sugar, Nick and / or Karren are running. Once, I was in there for ten minutes, another time, two hours.
Before you go into the boardroom, you are in this grotty venue next door for an hour or so where you are forced to sit in silence while seeing the make-up artist and eating lunch. It’s very boring.
11. Why don’t the nice guys win?
Because they come across much better than they actually are. On tasks, these people are horrendous to work
with. You have so much to do and they just sit back and frustrate you with their lack of ideas or contributions.
But over the intense 48 hours, they will produce one good sale, presentation, etc, and that is all that makes the edit.
So the viewers don’t see the length of time when they do nothing, and welcome them into their hearts thinking “oh, they’re good, they produce a deliverable and don’t get involved in drama”… When actually, they’re a nightmare to work with.