Since its inception 18 years ago, The Apprentice has captivated the nation, with millions of viewers eagerly tuning in to see which contestants Lord Sugar will fire and ultimately hire.
The reality TV show follows aspiring entrepreneurs as they compete in a series of tasks to impress Lord Sugar. However, there are many behind-the-scenes secrets that viewers may not be aware of. Here we’ll delve into 10 revelations shared by Thomas Skinner, a contestant from Series 15 of The Apprentice, shedding light on what really happens when the cameras stop rolling and what Lord Sugar is truly like.
1. Lengthy Filming Process
While viewers see a condensed version of the tasks in the hour-long episodes, the reality is that each 45-minute task takes three full days to film. Despite the series spanning 12 weeks, the actual filming is completed in less than two months. This means the candidates have little downtime or days off, as tasks are filmed back-to-back.
2. Producer Involvement in Negotiations
During selling tasks that involve interacting with the public, producers play a significant role in overseeing the negotiations. Contrary to what may appear, where contestants seem to enter random shops and approach potential customers independently, Thomas revealed that producers have already provided guidance. They instruct the candidates to make it challenging for customers to buy or to purposefully adopt an unpleasant attitude.
“They tell them to make it really hard to buy or to be a p***k on purpose!” – Thomas Skinner
3. Filming Matters: If It’s Not on Camera, It Doesn’t Count
Any sales or interactions that are not captured on film do not count towards the tasks. This means that all sales must wait until the cameras are rolling. To preserve the element of surprise and maintain the suspense, contestants are also prohibited from discussing the task when they return to the house. This ensures that the exciting conversations and outcomes are reserved for the viewers.
4. Hypothetical Products and Charitable Profits
Although contestants spend hours brainstorming and creating products to pitch to clients, the finished products are never actually made. Any items sold to big businesses during pitches are purely hypothetical, designed to demonstrate the potential success of the idea in real life. However, when real items are sold to the public, such as food and experiences, any profit made is not given to the contestants or Lord Sugar. Instead, it is donated to charity.
5. Filming the “Fired” Scene
When a contestant is “fired” from the show, the scene where they are seen wheeling their case out of the office and stepping into a black cab to share their parting words is actually filmed before the firing process even begins. This means that the walking-out scenes are shot in advance, and contestants only film their final words afterwards. Additionally, they are bundled up in coats and scarves during these scenes because they will be wearing a different outfit on the week they are eliminated.
“When you’re fired, you’re put in a green room for a bit and then you get in a car and film your last words on the way back to a hotel.” – Thomas Skinner
6. Lord Sugar’s Genuine Interest
On some occasions, Lord Sugar may ask a fired contestant to “keep in touch” and update him with their business achievements. While this may seem like a polite but empty gesture, Thomas revealed that Lord Sugar genuinely follows through on his request. He even shared that he has Lord Sugar’s phone number and occasionally engages in conversations with him, seeking advice and even selling him various items.
“He’s a nice bloke! I’ve got his number, and we have a chat every now and then. I’ve asked him for a bit of advice, and I’ve sold him kind of bits and pieces too!” – Thomas Skinner
7. The Secretive Double-Filming of the Final
To prevent the winner from being leaked, the final episode of The Apprentice is filmed twice, with two different endings. Not even the contestants themselves know who has been selected as the winner. Lord Sugar deliberates the decision with his aides, Karren Brady and Tim Campbell, and keeps the outcome to himself until they are ready to film “You’re Hired,” the episode where the contestants discuss their time on the show. Although all the finalists are aware of who is in the final because they are brought in to assist, they are instructed to keep the winner’s identity under wraps.
8. The Girls’ Preparation Time
In every episode, the candidates are shown receiving a wake-up call in the early hours and are informed that they have 20 minutes to get ready and leave the house. However, Thomas revealed that they are actually informed of the wake-up time the day before, giving them a head start. As a result, the candidates wake up a little earlier, start preparing, and then return to bed, pretending to be asleep when the phone rings. It turns out that all the female candidates already have a full face of makeup on under the covers!
9. Isolation from the Outside World
During the filming process, contestants are required to surrender their phones to the producers, ensuring that they cannot use the internet or contact their loved ones. This isolation from the outside world can be challenging for the contestants, as they cannot seek advice, connect with family or friends, or rely on external resources. It forces them to make decisions on the spot, without any external input.
“It looks easy when you watch it on TV, but it’s really hard when you’re in there. You haven’t got a phone, you haven’t got the internet. You can’t go and ring your family or your friends, so you’re sort of stuck. You can’t ask for any advice, so everything you do is spur of the moment.” – Thomas Skinner
10. Strict Alcohol Ban
During filming, contestants are not allowed to consume alcohol. This rule was emphasized when candidate Reece Donnelly was axed from the show after being found to have drunk alcohol on a flight to Dubai. Thomas confirmed that alcohol was prohibited during the filming of his series as well. While previous candidates have revealed that they were occasionally allowed to enjoy a glass of bubbly as a treat after winning tasks, this was closely monitored by producers.