Marlee Matlin, David Cassidy among stars fired up for 'Celebrity Apprentice'


No one likes to be fired ... but tell that to the latest lineup of famous faces awaiting Donald Trump's judgment.

Actors, singers and athletes again vie for the real estate tycoon's (and potential presidential candidate's) approval in a new round of "The Celebrity Apprentice," the 11th edition of Trump's NBC competition franchise also encompassing the regular "Apprentice."

The latest contest -- taped last fall and premiering Sunday, March 6 -- involves rivals from singers David Cassidy and Dionne Warwick to actors Marlee Matlin and Gary Busey, baseball veteran Jose Canseco, and original "Survivor" winner Richard Hatch.

"I think it's the greatest assembly of people we've ever had," Trump says. "That's really because of the great success of the show. If you look at what's happened to the people we've had before, like Trace Adkins and Joan Rivers and Bret Michaels and Piers Morgan, it's really amazing."

Other new "Celebrity Apprentice" contenders include model Niki Taylor, former "The View" co-host Star Jones, "Real Housewife of Atlanta" NeNe Leakes, and music stars La Toya Jackson, Meat Loaf, Mark McGrath and John Rich.

For every slot, we probably had five or six people," Trump claims. "You don't realize how many celebrities there are. Everybody wanted to be on."

Deaf Oscar winner Matlin ("Children of a Lesser God") says through her longtime interpreter, Jack Jason, that "the entire experience was something I didn't anticipate. I never had seen the show before, though I'd heard a lot about it. You sort of work outside your comfort zone, so it made me very curious. I learned a lot in a very short time. You get a taste of the business world you would never know as an actor.

"It was like being thrown into a fire feet first," Matlin adds. "Dealing with people was the easy part; it was the time factor that really proved to be challenging, getting everybody on the same page. Most people were terrified of the boardroom (where Trump decides weekly whom he'll tell, 'You're fired!'), but I always looked forward to it. I loved the debate, and I loved to watch how everyone interacted."

So did Cassidy, the singing-acting "Partridge Family" icon. He says, "Being a guy who -- as an actor or a musician -- works well with others, the first thing I do is to try to put the best individuals around me from the standpoints of chemistry and talent, so that everybody ultimately works together for the same result. And that is to make something as good as it can be.

"I felt that a lot of people on my ('Celebrity Apprentice') team were very enthusiastic," Cassidy reflects. "I had never done any reality TV, and the only caveat was that I am not a competitive person by nature. I just don't enjoy having to beat someone. I feel that's counterproductive to what I do."

While "The Celebrity Apprentice" is Cassidy's introduction to the genre, Matlin is no stranger to televised contests, having also competed in season six of ABC's "Dancing With the Stars." However, she maintains she's now had enough.

"I'm over it," she says. "These are two very different kinds of shows. My reason for doing 'Dancing' was that I wanted to show I could do something other than acting. It was fun, I got in good shape, and I wanted to prove to my kids that Mom could do something they would never expect. Meanwhile, this was all about business, branding and budgeting and those kinds of things. It was really interesting."

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