Since 2005, The Apprentice has been one of Britain’s most beloved reality shows, with millions tuning in every year to see which contestants Lord Sugar will fire and ultimately hire.
The premise is simple, with budding businessmen and women competing in a series of tasks to impress Lord Sugar.
Until season six the candidates would compete for a job at billionaire’s firm but in recent years the prize was changed to a £250,000 investment into their business.
Many of the show’s stars have gone on to become household names while others have found themselves embroiled in various scandals.
Now, with season 17 in full swing and already another scandal caused by Reece Donnelly’s mysterious show exit, MailOnline spoke with former Apprentice candidate Thomas Skinner who revealed exactly what fans don’t see on the show.
What you DIDN’T know about The Apprentice: Thomas Skinner has revealed the truth behind those early starts, which conversations are ‘banned’ and how stars are ‘set up’ by producers
Thomas soared to fame after appearing on series 15 back in 2019, making it through to week nine of the process despite being on the losing team nearly every week of the series.
His happy-go-lucky attitude, willingness to graft and pithy comments instantly made him a fan favourite and it was clear Lord Sugar also had a soft spot for the star.
The mattress salesman also stepped in to help winner Carina Lepore launch her bakery business during the finale.
Yet speaking exclusively to MailOnline, Thomas revealed that it wasn’t all fun and games behind the scenes, with the candidates living in isolation and banned from contacting their friends and loved ones.
The filming process for The Apprentice can take up to three months, with Thomas revealing that while the tasks are condensed into hour-long episodes, in reality each one would take three days to film.
He explained: ‘It looks easy when you watch it on TV but it’s really hard when you’re in there.
‘You haven’t got a phone, you haven’t got the internet. You can’t go and ring your family or your friends so you’re sort of stuck.
‘You can’t ask for any advice so everything you do is spur of the moment.’
Boss: Since 2005, The Apprentice has been one of Britain’s most beloved reality shows, with millions tuning in every year to see which contestants Lord Sugar will fire and ultimately hire
Thomas soared to fame after appearing on series 15 back in 2019, making it through to week nine of the process before the show was won by Carina Lepore (centre)
He also revealed that producers will often make suggestions to the contestants off-camera, explaining: ‘They set you up a bit to make you look a bit silly.’
‘They’ve got a TV show to make, it has to be entertaining’, he reasoned.
The contestants are also banned from discussing the task when they’re back at the house, ensuring that the juicy conversations are saved for when the cameras are rolling and that they won’t be able to predict which team has won the task.
‘You’ve just got to get on with it!’ Thomas explained, yet he insisted that the producers provided adequate aftercare.
‘It was fine,’ he revealed. ‘I’m used to grafting and getting on with it so I was all good but everyone was looked after.’
One way the producers ensure that contestants remain on good behaviour is by banning alcohol during the process.
Earlier this month, it emerged that candidate Reece Donnelly was axed from the show after drinking alcohol on a flight to Dubai, during a task, leaving Lord Sugar furious.
Thomas confirmed that producers enforced a strict booze ban during filming, explaining: ‘I can’t comment on what happened to Reece but we definitely weren’t allowed any alcohol when we filmed my series.’
Axed: Earlier this month, it emerged that Reece Donnelly was axed from the show after drinking alcohol and Thomas confirmed that producers enforced a strict booze ban
When it comes to tasks, the candidates are warned which days they’ll be needed for filming but a question often raised by viewers is how they manage to get ready so quickly.
In every episode the candidates are seen being woken up a phone call in the early hours when they’re told they’ll need to be ready to leave the house in 20 minutes time.
Yet Thomas revealed that they’re warned the day before what time the phone will ring, allowing the candidates a head start.
He explained: ‘Everyone gets up a little bit earlier to start getting ready then jumps back into bed and pretends to be asleep when the phone rings!
‘All the girls have a full face of makeup on under the covers!’
While only one person can walk away with Lord Sugar’s investment – apart from the shock double win in 2017 – Thomas said that he still keeps in touch with a few candidates after the show and is seen as a mentor to many of the show’s former stars.
‘He’s a nice bloke!’ Thomas said. ‘I’ve got his number that we have a chat every now and then.
‘I’ve asked him for a bit of advice and I’ve sold him kind of bits and pieces too!’
Bosh: Since appearing on the show, Thomas has appeared on shows such as 8 Out of 10 Cats and Celebrity MasterChef
Thomas, who owns Bosh Beds in Essex, credited the show with taking his business ‘nationwide’ and revealed his best advice to future contestants would to just ‘be yourself.’
He explained: ‘You just have to be confident and try to do things that you aren’t good at. Like I have dyslexia but you just have to try your hardest and learn to do what you can.
‘Just have fun because it’s an amazing opportunity. Even if you don’t win and you get sacked from the process you’re still going to do well so just be yourself and enjoy it.’
He’s been using his positive attitude while working on his business during a time of financial uncertainty and a cost of living crisis.
‘Everyone needs to remember that tough times don’t last and to keep on carrying on,’ he reasoned.
Since appearing on the show, Thomas has appeared on shows such as 8 Out of 10 Cats and Celebrity MasterChef and is being tipped to appear on the next series of I’m A Celebrity… Get Me Out Of Here!
The businessman has also garnered a large Twitter following who have been left by his large and unusual breakfasts at Dino’s Cafe in New Spitalfields Market.
Among his unusual early morning feasts have been a shepherds pie, carbonara, and a full Christmas dinner.
Yum: The businessman has garnered a large Twitter following who have been left by his large and unusual breakfasts at Dino’s Cafe in New Spitalfields Market
Discussing the sudden hype around his unusual morning snacks, he revealed it went viral by chance after a mate filmed him eating a steak and kidney pie at 5am and shared it online.
He explained: ‘I’m up really early in the morning and always want a decent breakfast but they made my mate laugh so he filmed it one day and I must have had about 100 messages from followers thanking me for sharing it.
‘They said it had helped them wake up in the morning and put them in a good mood and if they make just one person happy then I’m happy so I kept doing them.
‘Every day I’ll post them and if I don’t I get messages from people saying they’ve had a bad day because I didn’t put a video up!’