Joined by a sub-set of his new boardroom proteges, Donald Trump appeared on The Today Show
this morning to officially announce the season 12 Celebrity Apprentice
candidates (though we've known their names for months now
), thereby officially ringing the opening bell for his celebs to start dishing about the season, and each other.
's Matt Lauer asked the in-studio group -- including contestants Marco Andretti, Teresa Giudice, Victoria Gotti and Dee Snider -- which of their co-stars most surprised them, many yelled out "Clay Aiken," a singer better known for his uplifting music than his ruthless business sense.
"I was surprised that Clay Aiken was as gritty as he was," Aiken's co-star Adam Carolla told Deadbolt
. "I knew the guy had the competitive spirit, because he did another show that we won't mention that involved a competition. But I didn't know the guy other than his huge candy consumption. [He] had a lot of that roll-up-his-sleeves grit."
With that grit and the element of surprise on his side, it sounds like Clay could be a definite frontrunner this season.
Aiken jokingly said on Today
that the star who most surprised him was "Lisa Lampanelli, because Lisa's got this reputation of being nasty ... and she's actually really
Magician, author and performer Penn Jillette is also in the cast, and told Deadbolt
that his most surprising encounter happened with Paul Teutul, Sr. of the series American Chopper.
"Paul Sr. was the guy on a stupid show that just yells a lot and meant nothing to me," said Jillette, "And he turned out to be a very good friend, really smart and savvy, and really kind and measured. I appreciated all of those things. That was kind of a shock."
Two other contestants, supermodel Cheryl Teigs and comedian/actor Arsenio Hall, weren't with Trump on Today
-- no comment on what that might mean for their chances on the show -- but visited Access Hollywood
this morning to give their take on the competition.
"Clay Aiken made me laugh," said Cheryl, while Arsenio joined the chorus of Aiken fans among his co-stars: "The sweetest guy, a good friend too ... He's charming, he's bright and he's one of my best friends ... Something about me and Clay bonded."
Surprisingly, Cheryl said of hot-tempered Real Housewives of New Jersey
star Teresa Giudice, "Out of all of them, I liked her most -- of the women." Teresa playing nice? This, I gotta see.
And it should come as no surprise that venerable actor George Takei got rave reviews from Arsenio: "He's the greatest guy to work with. There are times when everything goes to hell and he says (puts on George voice), 'Ohhhhh, my!'"
For more from the cast, including how competitive things got and which charities they're playing for, watch their appearance with The Donald on Today
, and check out their official cast photos below. The Celebrity Apprentice
premieres Sunday, February 12 on NBC.
Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy(Images courtesy of WENN)