Q&A: Donald Trump

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It's hard to imagine the success of NBC's "The Apprentice" without the galvanizing presence of real estate mogul Donald Trump, and chances are the show's inimitable host
and executive producer would be the first to agree.

Since first capturing the imagination of business school grads and armchair entrepreneurs back in 2004, the series has more  than gotten the job done in the ratings department, while its current celebrity version has given it a bankable new vitality. Giving himself a 100th episode job review, Trump tells Michael Rechtshaffen for The Hollywood Reporter that there's still plenty about "The Apprentice" that gets him all fired up.

The Hollywood Reporter: If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then over the past seven seasons of the show you've certainly been flattered by a succession of "Apprentice" wannabes.
Donald Trump: There have been 15 copies of "The Apprentice," from Mark Cuban to Richard Branson to Tommy Hilfiger to Martha Stewart. Every one of them failed immediately. It's been an amazing thing, and here we are in Season 7, and NBC just renewed for two more. It's been a hell of a time.

THR: Before the celebrity version came along, isn't it true that you had some frustrations regarding the show?
Trump: We had a situation where "The Apprentice" was doing very well, and then they moved it to late Sunday evening because they thought it was indestructible. And it still did fine, but we lost a big chunk of audience. It was a crazy move because Sunday night's a bad night for a business-oriented show, and it's too late for kids to stay up until 11 the night before a school day. We have a very young audience -- kids that are going to high school and college -- and they watch the show because they want to learn from it and be successful. I was frustrated, but then Ben Silverman (co-chairman, NBC Entertainment and Universal Media Studios) -- who is totally brilliant and totally great at what he does -- came in, and he called me and told me NBC was going to bring it back on its original night. So they moved it back to Thursday, and it became a major hit again.

THR: The new edition has considerably livened up the boardroom. Were you initially concerned that celebrities might not be willing to work as hard as their predecessors?
Trump: I thought they would take it a lot easier. I never knew they were going to be as competitive as they are. I didn't know that they'd fight so much, but in retrospect, now that I've seen what took place, it was obvious that they wanted to protect their brand, to protect their reputation. They're fighting harder than kids out of Harvard that nobody's ever heard of before.

THR: Are they lining up to get on the next one?
Trump: Everybody wants to be on it now. We actually have some people that want to be on who were afraid to do it the first time. Stephen Baldwin told me he's been doing
television for 20 years, and he's never had anything like this in his life in terms of recognition. He said, "I walk down the street -- people are going crazy." So many celebrities are calling, wanting to be on next season, so I think it will continue to do well.

THR: So there are still plenty more people to be fired by Donald Trump?
Trump: I guess. For a while, anyway. It certainly is doing well; it's just a question of how much longer do I do it. But it's been a great honor to be associated with "The Apprentice." I have a lot of fun with the celebrities because I don't know these people, but I know of them, and it's sort of fun to see how they react under pressure.

THR: Now that you've mastered the art of primetime television, word has it that you might be starting up a half-hour syndicated financial mediation show. Will that happen?
Trump: I've got a number of TV things going, but it's not my main business by any stretch. I'm building a lot of buildings all over the world, so I guess that's my No. 1 thing. It's big stuff.   
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