On last week’s episode of The Celebrity Apprentice, Donald Trump shocked the world by choosing to obliterate Team Infinity (despite the fact that they had won five straight tasks prior to the loss). Especially alarming was Trump’s decision to dismiss Ian Ziering, despite the former 90210 star openly voicing his dissent at Johnny Damon’s jungle for Anheuser-Busch Bud Light Rita drinks. Ian’s firing was immediately followed by Trump sending both Johnny Damon and Brandi Glanville home as well. Ziering had raised over $300,000 for his charity, the Epidermolysis Bullosa Medical Research Foundation, and was considered by many to be one of the favorites to make it into the finale.
I was also personally rooting for Ziering, as I have a long history with the actor and director. When I was 12 years ago, Ian Ziering did a Q&A at Canada’s Wonderland at the apex of his 90210 fame. During the 1992 appearance, organizers announced that there would be a chance to meet Ian after the Q&A at a VIP meet and greet session. Despite my name not being drawn (and thanks to my dad who managed to hurl me over the guardrail), I snuck in to meet Ian and long considered it to be one of the most memorable experiences of my life.
Eighteen years later, I was living in LA while filming my own reality show. One day when I was at the grocery store, one of my producers told me that “the guy from 90210” was also at Ralph’s, and I immediately asked if it was Ian. When she confirmed that it was, I quickly ran over and (re)introduced myself.
Ian was quite friendly and couldn’t believe that I still had the photo from so many years ago. We recreated the same pose and it was another great moment.
I share this anecdote, because I was clearly rooting for Ziering all season and wasn’t happy when he was fired. His appearance on the show served as the intersection of my childhood and my career all and everything coming full circle (as I have been a reality television reporter for the past 15 years and have covered every Apprentice since its inception).
I caught up with Ian to discuss his firing and look forward to meeting him again at this season’s finale on February 16. You can either read the interview, or listen to it below.
Ian Ziering: Murtz, Ian Ziering on the line. How are you?
Murtz Jaffer: How are you? How are things?
IZ: Oh everything is great. Thank you.
MJ: Perfect, perfect. You remember me, right?
IZ: Right, I recall.
MJ: Let’s get right into it. I have to tell you that I think that Trump’s decision to fire you was even more shocking than the double firing that came right after it. How stunned were you, especially given that you lost because of a jingle that you were against from the beginning.
IZ: That was kind of a weird firing. To be fired for a jingle that I had nothing to do with and on a project where I was not the project manager. That was a bit out of the ordinary. Nonetheless, I left the boardroom feeling like a winner because I have raised a tremendous amount of awareness for EB and raised a fortune for ebkids.org (which is the Epidermolysis Bollusa Medical Research Foundation) and was my goal at the onset. I wanted to play smart, I wanted to be aggressive, and I wanted to finish strong and I think I accomplished what I set out to do.
MJ: Were you surprised that Mr. Trump chose to decimate Team Infinity after you had won five straight tasks and now Vivica and Geraldo are close to the finals (despite losing five straight tasks)? Does this frustrate you at all?
IZ: Again this was impersonal. I just went away. I left the boardroom thinking I did the best I could and the rest is out of my hands. So, no. I was not frustrated. You know losing is always bitter especially when you set out to win but I felt like I did win. So I slept very well last night, knowing that there are children with EB and that I helped ease some of the suffering for those kids.
MJ: Prior to last night’s episode, you made a very interesting post on social media where you told your followers that The Celebrity Apprentice is a game and that it wasn’t a friend-making endeavor. That ‘everyone was on your Must Go list.’ I read that to mean that you would go after Johnny and Brandi in the boardroom, but you didn’t. Can you elaborate on that and why you felt like last night’s episode might have been the best two hours of reality TV ever produced?
IZ: Right well that was my manifesto. It came to a point where I needed to change the strategy. As the show progresses you very quickly realize that the competitors aren’t only on the other team but they’re on your team as well. And if I was to be the last man standing. I needed to press buttons within my own team and pressing Brandi’s buttons and getting on her nerves was just an attempt to shake her off her game.
MJ: Both Mr. Trump and Brandi said that they thought your jingle sounded like La Cucaracha and ultimately this is why you were fired. During the episode last night, you tweeted that the song was public domain. Do you still think your jingle was better?
IZ: Yes. [Laughs]. My jingle was a jingle.
MJ: And Johnny’s wasn’t?
IZ: Johnny’s was more of a song and its incarnation was about a minute and a half that we had to wittle down to 30 seconds so it really… I walked to the boardroom not feeling as confident as I would have liked to but confident that I did the best that I could.
MJ: I loved when you kept saying you had to be a leader, a follower, or to get out. You kept saying that to Brandi that she needed to be a leader and a doer. Did you feel that she wasn’t?
IZ: No. If I had a nickel for every time Brandi said ;let me think, let me think,’ I’d be a rich man. She operates on a foundation of insecurity and needs a tremendous amount of reassurance, so I just try to capitalize on that and make her even more unsure of her decisions. Again, this is a game. If you don’t pass go, if you’re in jail and you don’t pass go, you don’t collect $200. In this game, if you’re not the last man standing, you don’t collect that $250,000 check. Either way, either game… you still have to roll the dice.
MJ: You know the biggest question that I have for you, Ian, is when Kenya was on your team, it certainly seemed like you bonded with her while it looked like Leeza/Johnny/Brandi were aligned. Is that how it was? Two opposing factions on the same team and why?
IZ: Any alliances were purely… any perceived alliances were exactly that. Perceived. I never lost sight of the fact that everyone on the show was my competitor. So while someone may have looked at me and trusted, you know, I wasn’t there to make friends. I was there to win money for my charity. I had no personal issue with anyone and still don’t.
MJ: Geraldo seemed to be your primary adversary this season. Why did you clash with him so much and what is your relationship like with him now?
IZ: I didn’t clash with Geraldo, as much as he clashed… how can I put this? Geraldo made a big deal out of me plotting against him with Kevin Jonas and Lorenzo Lamas even before the show started (which is completely untrue). We never even spoke of Geraldo. I always looked at Geraldo as a top contender being that he has home court advantage (being in the New York area). A very bright man with a tremendous amount of resources. He was on the top of my must go list but he didn’t matter to me anymore than anyone else did because I looked at the competition as a whole and again this was never a personal thing but because of Geraldo’s “Geraldoness”, he makes everything about him.
MJ: And we’re almost done. What did you think about Kenya and Vivica’s fight and what’s your opinion on PhoneGate?
IZ: You know I try and stay away from the drama. Stay away from that. And if I was able to do that, I could stay above the firing line. I would let them cancel each other out. I really don’t have an opinion. I think at the end of the day again, I needed to win this.
MJ: In your opinion, is The Celebrity Apprentice about rewarding the player who raises the most money or about rewarding the player who creates the most entertainment?
IZ: To me, The Celebrity Apprentice is about raising money for charity and that’s how I always looked at it. I wasn’t looking for personal reward. I’ve been in this business for 38 years and I plan to continue doing what it is that I love so much. This was a financial vehicle for me. A financial vehicle that I was able to drive to help place awareness and money for EB at ebkids.org.
MJ: And finally, Ian, can you tell me more about your charity, the Epidermolysis Bullosa Medical Research Foundation and also what’s next for you?
IZ: Well the Epidermolysis Bullosa Medical Research Foundation is a fantastic organization that raises money to help families and children that are suffering from EB. EB is a skin disease that children are born with that ultimately causes the skin to break down and not heal. Quite often, in severe cases, the children need to be wrapped daily to cover their skin and in the most severe cases, the children live on morphine drips because the pain is unrelenting. And when I first heard about this, I couldn’t imagine anything more horrible. When I struggle to get my kids to brush their teeth at night or not to cry in their car seats, and I get frustrated with that, I can’t imagine the pain that these children are dealing with or the shockwave of pain that for me is not just through the families but through everyone’s who knows children with EB because there’s not even a treatment. There’s no cure. And money buys science and science buys life. And I looked at this, The Celebrity Apprentice, as an opportunity to help raise a tremendous amount of money. EB is overlooked and underfunded, and if I look at my own celebrity as capital, I felt that this was a great way to spend that capital.
MJ: What’s next for you?
IZ: Up next is Sharknado 3. On top of that, because of my experience on The Apprentice, it’s really ignited my entrepreneurial spirit and I’ve started three businesses since then. Two clothing lines. One called Chainsaw Brands that you can find on chainsawbrands.com and to also further my philanthropic efforts, I have a signature line where a large percentage of the proceeds go to do good things for other people. It’s also a fantastic line of sportswear and active wear that we’ve started with, that comes with a fantastic price point. Great fitting clothes for people who are working out and need to have clothes to help them to go from work out to to going out.
MJ: Amazing Ian. I am looking very forward to seeing you again at the finale in a couple of weeks. I cannot wait to add the final piece to our photo trio.
IZ: Okay. I’ll look forward to it.
MJ: Awesome. Take it easy. Good talking to you.
IZ: Thanks so much. Bye-bye.
MJ: Okay, bye-bye.
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Tags: Ian Ziering, murtz, Murtz Jaffer, The Celebrity Apprentice