Teresa Giudice poses for a portrait in New York, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)
Teresa Giudice poses for a portrait in New York, Wednesday, Jan. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)
Posted: Sunday February 19, 2012, 2:25 PM
'Celebrity Apprentice': 'Housewife' Teresa Giudice discusses friends, rivals on the show
By Virginia Rohan of The Record

What does Teresa Giudice think about her fellow cast mates on "The Celebrity Apprentice?"

Lou Ferrigno gets a thumbs up.

"I remember growing up watching the 'Hulk' and he was delightful," says Giudice, who also "bonded" with a supermodel from an earlier era. "Cheryl Tiegs was awesome."

Mention Victoria Gotti, though, and the notoriously outspoken member of "The Real Housewives of New Jersey" clams up.

"Well, you're going to have to watch and see," the Montville reality star says. "There was definitely a lot of friction."

Between Gotti and Giudice, Gotti and everyone else, or among the cast in general?

"Watch and see," Giudice says again. "A lot of us were very strong-minded. Even Mr. Trump said that this is like the best cast ever. He kept saying how impressed he was with all of us."

In tonight's two-hour premiere, Donald Trump divides the 18 celebs into competing teams of men versus women, who name themselves "Unanimous" and "Forte," respectively. Gotti seems to generate friction from the get-go, by conducting personal business on the phone instead of devoting herself to the first assignment: selling "celebrity sandwiches" to raise money for the charities chosen by project managers Paul Teutul Sr. ("American Chopper") and Venezuelan actress-model Patricia Velasquez.

A food-related challenge helmed by a model rather than Giudice? If the best-selling cookbook author had known in advance what the first challenge was going to be, she says she "would have definitely wanted to be project manager."

Her approach to playing the boardroom game was simple: "Some people had a strategy. I went in being myself and being real, with an open mind and happy to meet everyone and not trying to take anyone down – unless they came towards me, then I would do it," says Giudice (whose name is pronounced "Judy-Shay" in this show, the way she has said she wants it to be pronounced; Bravo's Andy Cohen, who makes a cameo tonight, pronounced it "Joo-dice.")

When Giudice was first asked to do "Celebrity Apprentice," she says she was "skeptical" about it.

"And then after meeting with Mr. Trump, I decided to do it," she says. "He's very business-smart, and I have to say, after doing it, I am so happy I did. I learned so much. I feel like now I can do anything in business."

Her initial hesitancy had nothing to do with fears that her past financial problems would come up, because, she says, Trump's show has "nothing to do with that." (The opening credits, however, do show her on a cover of In Touch magazine that screams, "How I Blew $11 Million.")

What concerned her were the "insane hours" of filming, which would take her away from her four young daughters. "That's one of the biggest reasons why I didn't want to do it, but then, I kept telling my daughters, 'As soon as Mommy gets fired, she'll come home,' '' Giudice says. "My second daughter, Gabriella said, 'Mommy, I hope you to get fired right away.'

"They ended up staying with me [at Trump Tower] on Friday nights. It was like a treat for them."

Giudice, who had Sundays off, also tried to go home to Montville once a week if she could. "Thank God it was so close – 45 minutes from me," she says. "I would go home on Saturday night."

When we asked about a couple of other teammates, she was more forthcoming than about Gotti. She hadn't been familiar with comedian Lisa Lampanelli, but says, "I Googled her and I saw her act. I'm like, 'Wow.' She has a mouth on her."

Told that Debbie Gibson says to the camera that despite how strong Giudice appears to be, "she strikes me as being incredibly vulnerable and insecure," Giudice snaps, "Insecure is one thing I'm so not. And anybody that really knows me knows I'm not insecure."

She promises some "jaw-dropping" moments.

In one promo for an upcoming episode, Giudice is dressed in Renaissance-fair maiden garb, in a setting that looks like Medieval Times, and overturns a table. (Perhaps for charity?) And in tonight's episode, Twisted Sister frontman Dee Snider makes a joke about her infamous table-flipping on "Housewives."

Does Giudice feel like she'll never live that down?

"Kinda, 'cause I mean, I did it once, I don't regret it, I own it. But I'll never do it again," she says. "Hopefully everyone will see a different side of me on 'The Celebrity Apprentice,' the businesswoman that I am and entrepreneur, and how I've branded myself."

9 tonight, NBC