How producers cast Celebrity Apprentice

Singers, actors, sports stars, social media faces in the board room mix -but they can play hard or with grace, says Warner Bros. Head of Entertainment.

Lord Alan Sugar returns to Nine soon for his second season of Celebrity Apprentice in Australia.

Once again actors, presenters, singers, sports stars and social media faces will compete for glory and the $100,000 prize for their chosen charity.

Filmed in late 2021 in Sydney, the show was challenged by COVID restrictions, but the talent pool was wide given so many artists had lost work during the pandemic.

Warner Bros. International, Head of Entertainment, Caroline Swift explained the casting process to TV Tonight as the show negotiates between agents and Nine network.

“With Celeb Apprentice we put together a big wish list of people usually in ‘pools.’ We know we want an actor, someone good on social media, we always need singers and dancers because they’re the ones who will give us the colour and movement and performance-based things. Sport are always super competitive. So we tend to bucket them like that,” she said.

“We have an initial meeting with the Nine execs, where they’ll throw in their own thoughts. It’s a lengthy process and a difficult process.”

“You can play this game whichever way you want”

But Swift also points to the success of the previous season in bringing new names into the mix.

“It was slightly easier this series for two reasons. One is because we raised so much money, so the charity aspect became a really good motivator for the celebs to come on board. And secondly, because Shaynna (Blaze) won last year, and got through the process with grace and elegance. It was really good for me to be able to say, ‘Hey, look, you can play this game whichever way you want,'” she reveals.

“If you want to come in and be a game player, and really be crunchy and noisy -great, do that. Or you can do a Shaynna and just basically be graceful, elegant, not cause havoc and do lots of stuff. I’m equally happy with that too.”

Amongst the cast this year are Amy Shark, Jean Kittson, Darren McMullen, Bronte Campbell, Jodi Gordon and Gamble Breaux.

Swift reflects on others likely to impress viewers.

“I thought he was a real coup for us”

“Vince Colosimo was fantastic. I thought he was a real coup for us, in as much as that he’d never done a reality show before. He’s a bonafide actor.

“Carla from Bankstown, who’s an Instagramer and drag queen, who kind of became famous in Sydney as ‘Gladys Berejiklia’s PA’ is amazing. She gives us obviously what you get with a six foot five drag queen, which is like colour and movement. But also real heart because Ben (James) is a beautiful, gentle, quite amazing, man.

“Samantha Jade is kind of Australia’s sweetheart pop princess. I thought ‘Great, lovely booking’ but I didn’t really know anything about her apart from she’d won X Factor. But she’s a really nice girl, like, and as part of this ensemble cast has really given it a softness.

“And Turia Pitt is brilliant. I’m really hoping she will resonate with the audience. She’s inspiring but also a really no-nonsense character.”

“It’s quite relentless. We were really up front that we would be filming for 12 hours a day”

Yet in previous seasons cast members have spoken out against some of the tactics used, largely through previous producers, to frazzle the cast, including early morning starts, ‘sabotaging’ challenges, long filming sessions, minimal food and drink -all before cameras start rolling.

“I was very frank with all of them,” Swift remarks.

“This is a tough show because of the schedule. The reason for that was a combination of things: availability of the location, Lord Sugar’s availability, how much money we have to make the show… so it’s quite relentless. We were really up front that we would be filming for 12 hours a day.

“Sometimes, depending on the task, we would sometimes give the celebrities the option to continue doing the task for as long as they wanted to into the night. But it was always an option.

“There’s always going to be problems and issues, and we had it on this series as well. A few of the celebrities were like, ‘We have gone hours sometimes without being offered water’ and all that sort of stuff.

“They’ll be logistical problems. They’re not out of spite.”

“I encourage them to always come to me with those issues, because I need to know about them, because they’ll be logistical problems. They’re not out of spite. They’re not out of us going, ‘We’re not going to feed them, because that’ll make them angry or anything.’ It’s usually logistical cock-ups.

“It’s just all the variables of trying to move 150 people all in the same direction, at the same time.

“Sometimes there’s stuff-ups, and that’s usually what it is. So it’s not anything vindictive. Humans make mistakes.”

“I reckon we had a couple of the celebs alerting some of the paps.”

COVID also meant some challenges could not proceed quite as planned. But the upside of lockdown meant fewer paparazzo snapping photos of public challenges.

“We were so lucky this year, I can’t tell you!” says Swift.

“In Series One, I reckon we had a couple of the celebs alerting some of the paps. Some of the places they turned up to …how would they know we’re out in this random place in the western suburbs? With this season our celebrities were really well behaved. I just don’t think they told anyone.

“I kind of wish they had! Any publicity is good publicity!”

Celebrity Apprentice returns 7pm Sunday May 22 on Nine.

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