How has the show changed since we've last seen it?
Donald: "When we started The Apprentice it was a big hit but also in a different world. Times were booming and now times are just the opposite of booming, so many people wanted to see the show reflective of the current times. We have people who went to the best schools and don't have a job, people who had really good jobs before and have five kids - in one case - and don't have a job and zero income coming in. It's both sad and hopefully educational. It's very sad to see what's happened to some of these kids. Some were really high flyers and doing great and now they are totally down and out."
Mark: "An example is we have someone who has a Masters in engineering and worked as a mechanical engineer but now has to take a job at a tow truck company. Another woman who went to Stanford had a job as a cancer researcher and now is taking care of her grandmother and living back in her parents' house. People from top law firms, top schools – the economy hit everybody and the point of The Apprentice this year is fighting back. Many people lost their jobs and we want people who want to fight back, go on television and prove themselves. One person will get the job working for Donald Trump and the rest will get to show that they are worthy and deserve to be working and they are using the show to market themselves."
What changes did you have to make to the show because of the economy?
Mark: "Really, it's the same Apprentice exactly. The difference is the rewards, rather than going out for lavish dinners - which was a different time in the country - is the motivation of meeting business leaders who can actually help you. Additionally, the people who get fired each week are also helped to find their way and a replacement or better job. The actual core of the show is the same show. It's not a show where Donald Trump suddenly gives them a hug every five minutes and a pat on the back. It's the same Donald Trump. It's about fighting back."
What do you think of the candidates this season?
Donald: "I think it's the best Apprentice we've done since season one. The field is terrific... It's a better plot in terms of bad times versus good times. When you are in good times it's less urgent and important and maybe been less exciting, but I think the concept is almost better because of the times we're living in. I think it's more exciting and they market themselves very well."
Mark: "During casting Donald sat with myself and the NBC executives and we were honestly listening to story after story of unbelievably educated people. At one people we all looked at each other and thought, 'It feels great to have a job', and then you look and see they really have issues - children to feed, mortgages to try to pay - and here they are really trying to get themselves back and going and The Apprentice is one method to do that. I really felt compassion for them."
Donald: "There was a beautiful young woman who went to Stanford Law, had a great job at a major law firm and now she's selling cupcakes. It's pretty weird."
Are these people more competitive because they had the setback?
Donald: "Some of them are unbelievable and a couple were beaten up pretty badly. Some are unbelievable with their spirit and fight and will be successful. I have no doubt that a few of these people will be successful."
What will the rewards be like this time around?
Donald: "One of the things that we do this time that is different is that we have great sponsors of the show, like Macys, PVH and lots of others. We're giving them interviews with the top people at the various big companies, they will meet with the top executives. The big thing is that they will be working for me for a period of a year at a very high salary, whoever wins."
Mark: "Every week the winning project manager's reward is to meet with a major industry titan in various industries and areas. It's like a motivational speech to give these people a chance and it's amazing how they come out energized. A couple of them during the filming, even though they are on a TV show and they are doing a task which is part of the job interview, the comments we were getting were, 'It feels so great to be back at work'. Of course they're not really at work, they're competing for a job, but the feeling and energy of being back at work in the middle of a business task just gave them a real sense of uplift and it was really great to see."
What tasks can we expect?
Mark: "We do have some great celebrities in it. We have a great task where they have to form and run a doggie day-care service and Cesar Millan is a judge. Another one they have to make an audition for backers of a Broadway show to raise money and Kristin Chenoweth is a special guest."
Donald: "We have Kim Kardashian, too. A lot of great celebrities throughout the show."
Mark: "Isaac Mizrahi, Liza Minnelli, Kathy Griffin. We have some really good tasks with great people. Things like selling ice cream on the streets of New York City, designing a modern workplace, putting on a fashion show, Pedicab tours of New York City where they have to get a license, and some of them failed to even get the license which doesn't make Trump very happy to begin with! And then where do they run tours? Which part of Manhattan makes the most sense? How do they market it? This is like a three-month job interview except for you don't rely on the BS of a made-up resume and hope no-one checks references. You have to do tasks each week and you can't hide. You either deliver or don't deliver."
Donald, how do you relate to being given a second chance and how can that make someone a better business person?
"In the early '90s I was billions of dollars in debt and many of my friends and people in the real estate industry were going bankrupt. I never did but I was in serious trouble. Now my company is bigger and stronger than it's ever been by far, it's been an amazing period of time. Even now we're big buyers of real estate as opposed to sellers. This isn't a good time to be selling but it's a good time to be buying because of our strong position. I talk about that and relate to it because I can. Mark actually said, 'You know if you had all clear sailing all through your life, we wouldn't have had the huge success we've had on The Apprentice or so many people would show up for speeches or other things'. I never thought of it until he mentioned it but maybe it's true. These people have to come back. They aren't in a good position now. It's very different from the original Apprentice in that they were high flyers who wanted to fly even higher, but here they were high flyers in many cases but they’re down and out and really in trouble and it’s about coming back and how to come back."
Mark: "I remember being with Donald Trump one day and he was telling me how hard it was back in the '80s when things crumbled in real estate. He was walking down the road with somebody and they pointed to a bum on the street and said, 'I feel bad for that guy', and Donald Trump said, 'That guy is worth about $900 million more than I am at this minute'. It's about fighting back. It's what Trump stands for and America stands for."
Donald: "It's about fighting back and never giving up and I think that comes through loud and clear. Some do a much better job than others at it, like in life."
The Apprentice returns to NBC tomorrow night at 10pm ET