'Celebrity Apprentice': Lisa Rinna on Getting 'Redemption'

Lisa Rinna
Adam Olszewski/NBC

Like some other returning competitors, the actress/host/author had a tough time in her first attempt at winning Celebrity Apprentice. In season four -- won by John Rich -- she was fired in only the second episode after losing control of her team as project manager and being openly ridiculed by Star Jones. She is playing for St. Jude’s Children’s Hospital.

Lisa Rinna didn't make it to the final two on All Star Celebrity Apprentice, but she isn't holding any grudges.

The actress was fired by Donald Trump in Sunday night's episode alongside Lil Jon. Both had been strong performers all season but were sent packing as Trump whittled the final four down to two, with Trace Adkins and Penn Jillette left to vie for the win. (The winner will be revealed in Sunday's live finale, airing at 9 p.m. on NBC.)

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On Monday, Rinna talked to The Hollywood Reporter about getting some "redemption," whether she'd return for a third shot at the win and Trump's obsession with her lips.

The Hollywood Reporter: Was it hard to get fired right before the finals?

Rinna: I didn't find it sad or hard at all because I didn't even expect to make the final four. Really on paper, I should be in the final two. If you look at it, I was the second-highest money raiser with $505,000. I won both challenges as project manager. My team won seven out of 10 tasks, and I was never brought back into the boardroom.

THR: Why didn't the final four have to go through the interview process as in seasons past?

Rinna: I don't know that. We were all expecting it. We were all sitting there after I had just won [the challenge as project manager]. Lil Jon, through his experience in the final four, said, "Hey, we're done for the night. What they'll do is call in the morning and do the interviews with past winners, and they along with Mr. Trump will decide who wins." So we were ready to have cocktails and celebrate, and then we got the phone call. We had no idea it was coming. It was a shock where all of a sudden we had 20 minutes to go and plead our case as to why we should be in the finals. But I was pretty composed. They cut out a lot of stuff that was said in the boardroom, which of course they do, but I think for me, I was so thrilled and so proud to have raised the amount of money for St. Jude that I feel like a winner. … I was the last woman standing, and as we all know in this world, business is truly a man's world, and the only [female] winner of Celebrity Apprentice has been Joan Rivers. So what can I say? I think we still have work to do to get women to an equal place as men in the business world today. You can't dispute that. Men make more money and tend to have a leg up. I'm not saying that's an excuse; I'm just saying that's kind of the way it is, and so it didn't surprise me [that I was fired]. Afterward, Penn looked at me and said, "Don't take it personally. Ass and t--s weren’t going to make it into the finals." I said, "You mean, t--s and ass and lips."

THR: Trump did talk a lot about your lips this season. What do you make of that?

Rinna: Isn't that just the darndest thing? That's all I'll say.

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THR: You don't sound bitter at all. Was it hard coming back to help Penn after having just been fired?

Rinna: I wasn't bitter one second. They had already asked all of us if we would stay to help the winner [in the event they were fired first], so I already knew I was going to stay whether I was one of the finalists or not. And of course, if you look back, Penn helped me so much. I would not have won the challenges if it had not been for Penn. The first challenge, he brought in 85,000 of his own dollars, which nobody does unless it's their own challenge and they are project manager. Nobody brings that to the table ever for another person. The second challenge [for which I was PM], he brought in all his big guns from Foxwoods. He could have played the other way, like Jon and Trace. I believe they sat back and let Marilu [Henner] basically just hang herself, and that's the nature of the game. They decided to step back. Jon easily could have said to Marilu, "I'm the king of crunk, I can bring it and we can win." But he chose to play a different way. Penn went the opposite way and played hard and we ended up winning because of that. I think [Trump] also got to see the big guns he could bring in, and instead of holding back he brought everything.

THR: You had a rough time your first season. How did this experience compare?

Rinna: There is no comparison. I got redemption for myself in the sense that the first season I really didn't get to play at all. This season I got to come and play and win. I really won in so many ways and it changed me as a person. I learned so much about myself. … I think overall, it was a teachable moment -- it was really great for my girls [she has two daughters, 11 and 14, with husband Harry Hamlin] to see me do something that I failed at and I went back in and was able to do it and succeed. It was a really great thing for them to see.

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THR: Would you go back and play a third time if asked?

Rinna: I think I'm done. I did have a really good time. If I could go back and do it with this group of people, I'd do it again. I never laughed harder. Gary Busey was on my team, and with him, I never laughed harder in my life. Penn and I laughed until I cried. Marilu turned out to be one of my dearest best friends. Who doesn't want to do that and play with really great people who are at the top of their games and professions and are lovely human beings? So if I got to play with them again, then I would.