Arnold Schwarzenegger on Firing Celebs, Drama, Reps and “The New Celebrity Apprentice”

New Celebrity Apprentice Credit: NBCUniversal

Arnold Schwarzenegger epitomizes the American dream. The Austrian bodybuilder turned movie star turned California governor continues to define that dream, now stepping into Donald Trump’s former shoes as boss of The New Celebrity Apprentice (Mondays on NBC beginning Jan. 2)

“I love to challenge myself and step out of my comfort zone, so when I heard Donald was running for president and NBC was looking for a new host, I was interested right away,” Arnold tells us. “I’ve never been one to rest on my laurels — I have always loved climbing the next mountain, taking the next risk, confronting the next challenge. Hosting a reality show was a great challenge for me. I learned every day, and I loved it.”

Competing in The New Celebrity Apprentice are ….
Laila Ali — Four-time boxing world champion, TV host, author and wellness expert. Daughter of Muhammad Ali.
Brooke Burke-Charvet — Actress, former DWTS host and winner, and co-CEO of
Eric Dickerson — Pro Football Hall of Fame running back who played for the Rams, Colts, Raiders and Falcons.
Boy George — Lead vocalist for the pop ’80s band Culture Club, international DJ and fashion designer.
Matt IsemanAmerican Ninja Warrior host, comedian, actor and licensed physician.
Carrie Keagan — Actress, producer, writer, entrepreneur and former host of VH1’s Big Morning Buzz Live.
Carson Kressley — TV star (How to Look Good Naked, DWTS)celebrity stylist, author, fashion designer.
Lisa Leslie — Four-time Olympic gold medalist and WNBA champion who earned an MBA.
Jon Lovitz — Comedian, film and television star. Former Saturday Night Live cast member (1985-1990).
Vince Neil — Lead vocalist for the heavy metal band Mötley Crüe as well as eclectic businessman.
Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi — Reality TV star (Jersey Shore) and New York Times best-selling author.
Kyle Richards — Actress and star of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills.
Chael Sonnen — Former UFC standout and mixed martial artist.
Porsha Williams — Model, entrepreneur, singer and star of The Real Housewives of Atlanta.
Ricky Williams — ESPN sports analyst and former NFL running back for the Dolphins, Saints and Ravens.
Carnie Wilson — Singer, television host and member of the pop music group Wilson Phillips.

When it comes time to determine who from the above to fire, it’s no easy task ….
“I’d never done reality TV before, so everything was new to me. Luckily, I’m always a fanatic about preparation and reps, reps, reps, so I wanted to be sure that before every episode I had studied every aspect of the teams, their individual responsibilities, and the challenge,” Arnold shares. “But firing some of the cast was very difficult. You spend so much time with these people, you have to remind yourself that no matter what, you’re sending one home at the end of each show. And after a close challenge, it can take a lot of time and thought to figure out who to send home.”

New Celebrity Apprentice
Pictured: Tyra Banks, Arnold Schwarzenegger, and Patrick Knapp Schwarzenegger -- (Photo Credit: Paul Drinkwater/NBC)

Advising Arnold in the boardroom are …
Advising him in the show’s new Silicon Beach boardroom are Warren Buffett, Tyra Banks, Jessica Alba, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and attorney Patrick Knapp Schwarzenegger (Arnold’s godson and nephew, and his most trusted confidant).

“I have a great cast of advisers whether it’s Tyra Banks, who is a great model and entrepreneur, or Warren Buffett, who is obviously a great businessman and gave me a lot of advice when I was governor, but it was important to me to also have someone from my inner circle. Patrick isn’t just my nephew — he’s a powerful entertainment lawyer here in LA. And he and I talk every day, so he understands me incredibly well,” Arnold shares. Patrick was thrilled — and honored — for the opportunity to support his uncle.

“Who wouldn’t want to be an adviser and sit next to Gov. Schwarzenegger and Jessica Alba and watch Laila Ali and Chael Sonnen fight it out in the boardroom?” Patrick adds. “Very few people know him [Arnold] the way I do, in private and in business. I know what he is looking for and he knows he can trust me to give him an honest opinion. For me personally, it also presented a fun new challenge as I for the first time share the stage with one of my clients rather than being the behind-the-scenes powerbroker.”

Who surprised them most and was responsible for most of the drama?
“Every single one of them found a way to surprise me. I could go on all day but I don’t want to spoil the show,” Arnold says. “Nicole ‘Snooki’ Polizzi wants to be taken more seriously, and I got to know her and believe she should. I got to watch Eric Dickerson, Ricky Williams and Chael Sonnen teach a crowd about makeup, and I couldn’t be more surprised at how great these burly athletes were at the task. The nature of the show forces everyone out of their comfort zone to rise to each challenge, and that means someone surprises you every week.”

“There is plenty of conflict again this season,” Patrick adds. “Contestants are there to win and not to make friends. Everyone has different ways to navigate these challenges and some contestants play harder than others. I think if you look at the contestant lineup you can spot a few potential hot spots right away. … Gather a group of personalities with egos, some with a certain crazy factor, force them to work together in confined spaces and under extreme time pressures while they’re at risk of getting fired, and you can expect drama. Plus, everyone is competing for their favorite charity with some causes personal to the contestants, and no one wants to let their charity down.”

The New Celebrity Apprentice airs on NBC Mondays at 8pm ET (beginning Jan. 2).