Contestants on The Apprentice are ‘cut off from reality’, according to a former hopeful on the show, who has revealed that they’re stripped of their mobile phones and get a 10-minute call home once a week.
Sanjay Sood-Smith, who appeared on the 2014 series, also says that sometimes contestants have to manage on four hours sleep if the previous day’s filming has overrun, and describes taking part in the BBC show as ‘mentally and physically exhausting’.
“You have no access to your phone and get a 10-minute phone call once a week to speak to your family and friends,” he told Cosmopolitan.
“It’s probably on a par with Big Brother – you’re in the outside world doing stuff but the process has to be protected, you’re literally cut off from reality.
“You weren’t allowed to talk to family and friends about the tasks or anything related to the process. It’s tough. You’re only allowed to tell a couple of people [you’re on the show] in the first place.
“You’re in this really confined bubble where you’re under huge amounts of pressure from the tasks, but you’re equally shut off from any normality. When you finish filming, you’re [still] not allowed to talk about it.”
Ex-banker Sanjay, who was 27 at the time, managed an impressive 10 tasks on the show before being fired, with marketing sales manager Mark Wright going on to win his series.
“[We woke up] before 4 and 5am everyday. It really is that early. Some days you wouldn’t get in until 12am, and you’d be up again at the crack of dawn ready to do everything again,” he went on.
“It was physically exhausting but [also] it was mentally exhausting, because a lot of the time you just couldn’t sleep. You’re going over what happened in that day, you’re going over how you’re going to justify that cock up you made [in the boardroom].
“[In the house] you’re not supposed to be alone together because you’re not allowed to talk about the tasks. It’s a no-task-talking-zone, and that’s really difficult again because that’s what you’ve been doing.
“You’re allowed to talk generally, but [you can’t] give information to the other teams because it might help people out. We watched a lot of Britain’s Got Talent, played board games, did some fitness stuff.
“On the odd day off we got taken shopping or got taken to the cinema, but you weren’t allowed to speak to anyone [in the outside world].”
And while tasks often look like they’re completed in a single day, they can take as many as five days to film, with the boardroom sessions also taking a whole day to shoot.
Living in the contestant’s plush house is also a struggle.
“The first few weeks it was really hard [because], yes it’s an amazing house if there’s a family of five living there. But if there’s 20 of you, three or four to a room, on top of each other, then it’s tough,” he went on.
“There were a couple of times when you come back from the boardroom where you’ve been ripping each other to shreds, or you’ve had a hard time with someone on the task, and you’ve then got to go back and live with them.”
Sanjay is now director of empowerment programmes at Stonewall UK.
The show’s 14th series is currently airing on BBC One, with Rick Monk being the most recent apprentice to be shown the door by Lord Sugar.