The Apprentice returned to BBC One tonight (February 1), with a whole new batch of contestants battling it out for Lord Alan Sugar‘s affections.

Now in its 18th series, the business mogul takes absolutely no prisoners – as this year’s hopefuls will have already discovered.

It’s so intense that, according to series 15 star Thomas Skinner, candidates “don’t even realise the camera crew are there”.

Here, speaking exclusively to ED! on behalf of Sky Casino, Tom tells us what happens when the cameras stop rolling, from boardroom to bedroom and back again…

Alan Sugar and The Apprentice cast of 2024 (Credit: BBC)

The Apprentice stars given a very early wake-up call

Life as a contestant on BBC series The Apprentice starts very early in the day. Or, should we say, in the middle of the night.

“You wake up about three or four in the morning, you do a filming shot of getting into the minibuses, then you go and see Lord Sugar at the start of the tasks, and he tells you what you have to do,” Tom explained.

Viewers see Lord Sugar calling The Apprentice house, waking the contestants up. However, Tom revealed that’s not entirely the case.

“You get 20 minutes after the phone rings to get ready to do the task. But they do tell you the night before what time the phone will ring so you can set your alarm for half an hour earlier to start getting ready,” he said.

The tasks

Tom – who is a dad of three – told us: “One task takes three days on The Apprentice. Then, literally the next couple of days, you’re actually doing the task and everything that you do has got to be filmed on camera. If it’s not filmed on camera, it doesn’t count on the show.”

And, while the contestants do have phones to communicate with each other, that’s all they can use them for. When it comes to tasks, it’s all about brain power – and reading a map!

“You can’t use internet or phones – you can’t use nothing. They take your phones off you before you go in the house, so you’ve got to just use your head!”

Inside the boardroom on BBC One series The Apprentice

“A boardroom on The Apprentice takes a few hours, but on the show you’re only in there for 20 minutes,” said Tom.

“They have to re-film bits if they don’t get it right. I’d just sit there, be confident and talk when you have to talk,” he said, offering advice to this year’s contestants. “I was just being myself the whole way through.”

He added: “The Apprentice really doesn’t differ from what we see on TV. It really is what it is – it’s a business show, it’s a competition. It’s obviously set up for the cameras, but it is pretty much you just get your head down and do the best you can in each task.

“You don’t even realise the camera crew are there. You just crack on with the camera in the background, and you just want to do the best you can.”

Alan Sugar in the boardroom on The Apprentice
Lord Sugar’s boardroom takes a few hours to film (Credit: BBC)

And relax…

After a pretty full-on day of running around town, the contestants are given a bit of downtime. And then it’s time to hit the sack.

“When you’re back from doing the task, you have a bit of down time,” Tom told ED!. “Then you go to bed about 9 or 10pm, ready to be up again at about 3am.”

The Apprentice is on Thursday nights on BBC One at 9pm.

Read more: A very brutal rating of this year’s contestants on BBC One series The Apprentice

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