“The Apprentice” is now in its sixth season, and while ratings have fallen every season, the show leaves viewers with many questions. We’ve answered some of those before, but we haven’t addressed some of the more basic and mystifying issues, and readers seem most fascinated with the minute details of how the show works.
For answers, Andy Dehnart turned to , one of the candidates on “The Apprentice 6,” who was fired by Donald Trump for calling himself “white trash” in the boardroom.
He agreed to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about “The Apprentice,” in part because he’s a reality TV fan himself. In fact, Derek said he tried out for “The Amazing Race” and “Big Brother” before being asked to audition for “The Apprentice.”
With thanks to Derek, here are some of your “Apprentice” questions answered.
Is the show real? Are those their real clothes?
“The Apprentice” is very real. Derek says the show and its producers are “hard-core on reality.” Among other things, all of their clothing is their own, and “there’s no make-up.”
“I have nothing but praise for Mark Burnett. Everyone is very professional. They treat it like a true game show,” he said. “Not once did they ever tell you not to do something. They don’t really manipulate.”
He added that, when introducing tasks, Donald Trump “never did a re-take”, as he “delivers it in one take” after reviewing notes from producers. There are also “no cue cards whatsoever.”
How does someone get cast for the show?
Having been recruited to do the program, Derek didn’t stand in line to like many others do, and thus can’t talk about that experience.
For him, it was a matter of being in the right profession. He said that he was recruited because, he’s since heard, “originally they were going to do lawyers versus non-lawyers this season.”
That obviously didn’t happen, because, he says, “Who’s going to root for lawyers? This is all rumor that I’ve heard. I think what happened is they just couldn’t find enough likeable lawyers. That’s why you’re seeing so many lawyers this season.”
How do people take time off to do the show, and how much are they paid?
How does one ? Derek says the answer is simple: “If you say no, there are 10,000 people behind you.” Those six weeks off have a price: “I basically gave up six weeks of pay. For a lot of people on the show, that’s a lot of money,” Derek said. But it was worth it, he said, because it was “the most fun and exciting thing I’ve ever done.”
Once selected, candidates can’t just tell the world that they’re going on the show. But some people do know. Derek says his “immediate boss knew,” and “because I got recruited, people put two and two together.” But other candidates made up cover stories, saying they were going to visit sick relatives, for example.
So are those who don’t win compensated? The candidates “have not [yet] been paid,” Derek said. “What we have heard from previous cast members is that ... [pay] is based on how long you last on the program.” That’s also true of .
The candidates also don’t even get in-kind compensation. “We don’t get any free stuff on the show; we don’t get free clothing,” he said.
How long do tasks last? Are the “weeks” really weeks?
Donald Trump frequently says the contestants are on “week x of their 13-week job interview.” But as any reality TV fan knows, the show did not take more than four months to film; instead, it’s more like six weeks.
Derek said the show follows the “ ‘Survivor’ timeline: everything is three days.” On day one, the cast learns of their task, and are actually woken up by phone calls from Trump’s staff members, as we see on TV.
Then “typically the task finishes up the following day around 3 or 4,” he said. “Everything you see being done is being done in the course of 30 hours.” As a result, Derek’s team, Kinetic, “never slept” during tasks.
Derek said that, when the task’s deadline hits “they sweep you away immediately, they round you up and take you away. You can’t say goodbye [to those they worked with]. Typically, you go back to the mansion, and Trump is there. If you won, it’s sort of bittersweet, as you go immediately to the reward.” It’s “bittersweet” because the team is exhausted by that point. “If you lose, you’re kicking it there in the back yard,” he said.
During that time, teams had “10 minutes to move” from the back yard to the mansion, or vice-versa, Derek said.
“The third day is nothing but interviews and, in the evening is the boardroom. If you won, you’re pretty much kicking back in the mansion.” Every candidate has “two or three hour-long interviews, including transportation. And that’s when you’re seeing the scheming going on,” he said, because while some contestants are away doing interviews with producers, others talk about them behind their backs. Footage of these conversations often ends up on the show, preceding the Boardroom segments.
What happens on a task? Can candidates tell people they’re filming a reality show?
Ever since the early days of “The Real World,” this has been an issue for production companies filming reality shows in cities.
As was the case with that MTV show, contestants aren’t allowed to reveal anything. “You can’t tell them you’re doing ‘The Apprentice,’ ” Derek said. “[Producers] really don’t give you a line. Sometimes you say you are doing a documentary.” Sometimes, he said, candidates would identify themselves and the camera crews as “outside consultants” who were “documenting it for our clients.”
During tasks, candidates are given a list of rules about what they can and can’t do. (These “dossiers” were posted on the show’s Yahoo Web site during previous seasons.) Those, Derek said, “would explain sometimes why the team does things that don’t make sense. ... Part of the strategy of the show is trying to figure out how you can work within those rules. Can you exploit a loophole? Usually, you can’t because the task department will jump in.”
The “task department” is “an entire department that does nothing but watch you,” he says. “Each group of people has an entire team of people that watches your every move.” That’s to ensure that teams don’t cheat or have an unfair advantage. For example, if someone they knew happened to stop by, the “task department would come in and separate that person from us immediately; take they don’t want you to have any advantage. ... They definitely will call you out if you do anything that’s questionable.”
As viewers can tell, teams stick together, breaking up into a maximum of two groups. In addition to the dossier, that limits what they can and cannot do.
What’s in the suitcases that candidates take to the boardroom?
Many viewers want to know what’s in the suitcases that candidates take to the boardroom, and if those really contain their clothes or all of their clothes. This season, with one team living in tents in the back yard, we’ve seen the teams move from the mansion to the yard and back again, taking with them multiple suitcases and many hanging garments. Thus, the one suitcase they take to the Boardroom doesn’t contain all of their stuff.
Derek says that “there really are clothes in” their suitcases. But “that’s not all of your clothes. ... It’s basically enough stuff for you to survive on for a few days until you get your clothes back.”
What happens in the boardroom?
Like Tribal Council on “Survivor,” the Boardroom segment on “The Apprentice” lasts a lot longer than the 10 or 15 minutes it takes during an edited episode, perhaps an hour or more.
The problems with the task discussed in the boardroom only include the candidate’s behavior. That’s because, as Derek said, “You can not bring up anything that’s production-related in the Boardroom. If they can’t show it on TV, they don’t want you to talk about it in the Boardroom.”
Perhaps more significantly, “the Boardroom ends up being easily digestible parts of the task. ... The reason why you lost gets boiled down to two or three easy things the public can understand,” Derek said. That’s apparent every Boardroom, when Trump picks up on one or two themes. As a result, “sometimes you’re being targeted in the Boardroom not because you’re at fault, but because it’s easy for Trump to ask you about [an issue],” he said. That’s because Trump “can only pick up on what the producers tell him and what his viceroys tell him.”
What happens after you’re fired?
After being fired, candidates . It starts with a ride in the confessional car, which has replaced the taxis this season. Once the fired Apprentice is in the car, it stops to “load in the camera crew,” Derek said. “You actually do the interview as they’re driving you to the production.”
He said the car “drops you off, and the psychologist is there to meet with you, and she takes you to dinner with some other casting people.” Then, it’s off to a , which this season was a corporate apartment complex in Los Angeles. The candidates aren’t allowed to leave until production ends for that season, and some return to help with the final task.
Gael Fashingbauer Cooper is MSNBC.com's Television Editor. is a writer and teacher who publishes , a daily summary of reality TV news.