The new season of The Apprentice: Recession Edition premieres tomorrow night on NBC, and if you weren’t planning on watching it because it’s the 87th season and nobody cares, you just might want to reverse course. No fewer than five unemployed lawyers — cupcake-wielding Brandy, ex-beauty queen Nicole, fashion-obsessed Mahsa, old person Clint, and Prince Harry-lookalike James — are competing to be Donald Trump’s main minion this season. Above the Law scored an advance interview with one of them.
James Weir, 31, was a second-year litigator in Clifford Chance’s New York office before getting laid off because of the economy back in October 2008. Unable to find work, this Duke undergrad and ’06 Georgetown Law grad became a “couch surfer” (according to his Apprentice bio), brazenly unafraid of bedbugs (I asked), who spent his time applying for jobs, watching a lot of Netflix Instantly Viewable, and learning to stain furniture (presumably on purpose).
In our brief interview, James reveals ATL’s role in his casting (!!), shares the two things he wishes he said on air, and tells us what his mom really thinks about all of this…
ATL: Congratulations on getting on The Apprentice!
James: Thank you. It’s kind of weird.
ATL: How did you find out about the casting and why did you decide to apply?
James: I actually read about it on ATL in March, but I didn’t give it a minute’s thought. At some point in April, my mother called me early one morning and said, “I have a great idea, I know exactly what you should do, you should apply to be on The Apprentice,” which I thought was the most ridiculous idea I’d ever heard. Why would I want to be on a reality television show? I’m a lawyer; I take myself seriously. I didn’t exactly think it was a good career move. But in order to show my parents that I was pursuing every possible avenue, I decided to apply just to get her off my back. And a couple days later they called me, and one thing led to another.
In all honesty, there are a lot of people that are desperate to be on television, and it was the television aspect of this competition that gave me pause. Even when I was face to face with cameras, I still don’t think I had consciously made a decision to do the show. And considering that I don’t have a Facebook profile and I’ve tried to maintain a fairly low internet profile, this whole thing has screwed that up.
ATL: Well, you have a Facebook fan page, and you’ve got five fans. Not sure if they’re your family or not.
James: Yeah, all the cast members have fan pages, they just put those up. I figure if anybody needs to contact me after this thing or wants to give me a job offer, I should at least be accessible. I’m surprised I have five. Come Friday morning they’ll all de-fan me, I’m sure.
ATL: Out of the thousands of people that applied for the show, why do you think they cast you? Is it because you were playing hard to get and not really sold on it?
James: I went through the process giving a sincere effort, and I wanted them to see who I am. I’m not really sure why I was cast. My sense is that I performed well in some of the casting situations and hopefully I was a smart guy who was going to bring a different perspective to the show. And yeah, maybe not your typical self-promoting fame whore. My showbiz career is short-lived. Right now I’m announcing my retirement following the conclusion of this season of The Apprentice.
ATL: If you had to typecast yourself based on your performance on the show, like villain, mole, backstabber, etc., what role do you think you played?
James: Straight man. I am to The Apprentice what Vinny might be to Jersey Shore, the sort of entry point for the audience. While there’s a lot of crazy s**t going around and people are freaking out and getting carried away, I think I maintained a pretty level head and a sense of humor about things and have no problems mocking the things going on around me. My hope is that I’m not one of the people losing perspective and running around like an idiot.
ATL: So do you think your skills as an attorney came in handy?
James: No, not at all [laughing]. What I didn’t realize until I was doing the show was that it’s first and foremost a television show. And a close second, it’s a competition. And a distant third, it’s a measure of business acumen and intelligence. Say what you want about lawyers having to be salesmen, but the sort of aggressive salesmanship and the hard-sell mentality is what really dominates the show — and that’s just a skill that I think lawyers, especially people coming from big firms, shy away from.
ATL: What are your job plans for after the show? Do you want to get back into Biglaw?
James: Absolutely. Now that the show’s done and having gone through a prolonged period of unemployment, I’m no longer married to the idea of always being a lawyer. That being said, I love being a lawyer and I love practicing. I’m open to going back to a firm, I’m open to going in-house or going to the government side. Since the show finished taping, I’ve started volunteering at the NY Attorney General’s office as an assistant attorney general. I’ve been happy to be back practicing and work is really great.
ATL: Do you think being the show will help or hurt your candidacy when you apply for jobs?
James: I think it’s too early to say. I think it’ll all come down to how the show’s received and what they think of me personally.
ATL: What reality shows do you watch?
James: Right now, nothing. Oh, but I was a big fan of Bachelor Pad. As much as I disliked The Bachelor and Bachelorette, I LOVED Bachelor Pad.
James: So you watched it as well?
James: I thought it was a little weird because it became clear that when they started that they really had no plan. It seemed like they changed the rules a lot as they went along. My one regret for being on The Apprentice is that I never got to say “I’m here for the right reasons” or “I’m ready to find love.”
ATL: [laughing] You didn’t need to say it, I’m sure it will come through in your portrayal.
James: Hopefully you can see it my eyes, by looking deeply in my eyes, that I’m there for the right reasons. I’m here for Ali and I’m going to protect her heart. I was just able to speak with her for five minutes at the cocktail party but I feel like I’m starting to fall in love. Those are two of my pet peeves, the whole falling in love at the cocktail party and the egregious misuse of “I” as opposed to “me” by the contestants. Grammatical errors are one of my bigger pet peeves.
ATL: Then you must love Above the Law.
James: You guys do an alright job.
ATL: Last question. Donald Trump’s hair: toupee, teased and backcombed, lint or sparrow’s nest?
James: I’m contractually precluded from commenting on Donald Trump’s hair.
Thanks very much to James for the interview, and best of luck to him on the show. Stay tuned for ATL’s liveblog of the The Apprentice premiere this Thursday, 9 PM Eastern.
James Weir [The Apprentice]