Ex-squeeze us? Baking powder? In the event the multi-talented Hawaiian actress, model, and Grammy Award-winning vocalist didn't make nightly cameos in your dreams after her appearance in 1992's Wayne's World as Wayne Campbell's (Mike Myers) "magically babelicious" girlfriend Cassandra Wong, it's likely that renaissance woman Tia Carrere was just too busy showing off some of her range. Whether she was lending her voice to neoclassic Disney flicks and cartoons, chasing down lost artifacts as an ass-kicking professor on Relic Hunter, or dancing her way into the hearts of millions both in film and on ABC's Dancing With The Stars, Carrere has never left the game.
These days, however, there's a new role she'll be trying on for size: glorified intern. This Sunday, entrepreneur Donald Trump will be returning to NBC with his latest installment of the hit reality show Celebrity Apprentice, featuring a brand new collection of interestingly matched stars competing against one another for charity. Going head to head with Carrere will be Arsenio Hall, George Takei, Aubrey O'Day, Teresa Giudice, Adam Carolla, and Victoria Gotti, amongst others. So how did our girl fare? Read on to find out what the star had to say about reality TV, a possible Wayne's World resurrection, getting solicited in grocery stores, and more.
Interview by Lauren Otis (@LaurNado)
Did you go into Celebrity Apprentice having watched any reality shows religiously?
I think reality shows are honestly the furthest thing from reality. They’re so often skewed in different directions. While reality TV isn't exactly scripted, it’s certainly led by its nose and edited to present a certain view to the world. Dancing With The Stars was a little snippet of reality, but wow—Celebrity Apprentice was another level. You’re working so hard, with such long hours, and in such close quarters, that people’s real personalities come through. I think that’s what’s so interesting, seeing the psychology of people. It was really eye-opening. You see some wonderful things and some very disheartening things.
The show is interesting because you’ve got people that are real alpha dogs in their own world, with nobody ever really telling them what to do, but then they're put in a situation where they have to work outside of their comfort zone; it’s very interesting to see some of the diva behavior, breakdowns, and other stuff. I would say that Celebrity Apprentice is probably as close to reality as you can get.
You have a very eclectic cast this season. Speaking of real personalities coming out, how did everyone gel together?
The biggest revelation is that people's public personas are so different from their actual personalities once you wear them down. People you think are really tough turn out to be the complete opposite.
Was there anyone whose shows or projects you'd followed in the past?
Well, Penn and Teller, I loved their show Bullshit, so I knew that Penn was freakishly smart. And Arsenio [Hall], I had done his show years ago when I was touting Rising Sun, and had seen him socially here and there over the years, so it was nice to see him on the show and get to know him better! And George Takei, of course! George Takei was the first Asian on the scene that I can remember! I was so happy to see him.
Did you find yourself getting secretly starstruck?
Not quite. If Al Pacino had been there, then maybe!
Well, we're sure everyone knew who you were.
Oh, I don’t know about that.
Of course they did! You're a legend.
Oh no! I’ve slipped over into legendary status!
No, that's a good thing.
It's actually cool to have been around long enough to meet these young college girls during appearances who say, "I'm majoring in archeology because of your show." I'm like, "Wow!"
Speaking of people fanning out, your cover of "Ballroom Blitz" is admittedly in pretty frequent rotation over here.
Oh my god! That’s hilarious. Thank you! The other version was like [in weird warbling voice], “There’s a mannnn at the back as a matter of faaaact”. It felt a little random with that kind of Rocky Horror Picture Show kind of sound... I actually think that Wayne’s World is like the Rocky Horror Picture Show of our time.
It’s got that kind of cultish feel. They should start midnight showings of Wayne’s World somewhere!
That would be awesome.
That would be so awesome! And people could dress up like the characters. Girls could get up in red dresses and go, “Oh, Wayne! You learned to say I look pretty in Cantonese!”
And would it be super interactive the way Rocky Horror used to be? With people shouting at the screen?
Exactly! “Little. Yellow. Different.”
Instead of rice, people can throw Pepsi products and Twizzlers at the screen.
Yes! Red vines! We’ve gotta do it, man! Let’s start midnight showings of Wayne’s World.
“I’m not worthy!” Rise! Yes, you are worthy.
Does that happen pretty frequently?
It depends where I’m at. Usually the farther I am from Los Angeles; people in L.A. are a little jaded.
Yeah, probably not so much in New York and L.A.
Well, people in New York are pretty straight up. “Yo, you’re that girl from—yeah, I like you! Looking good, girl!”
It'll be some guy drumming on buckets in the Subway.
Or a construction worker!
Do you still keep in touch with your Wayne's World cast mates at all?
I’ll usually run into them at an events. We all get so busy and reflect, “God, it’s been so many years since that project!” It’s usually a matter of sticking around long enough and saying, "Hey, nice to see you!"
Are there any awesome tidbits from filming that not many people might know about?
I'm not sure if he ever performed it on SNL, but Mike Myers came up with this character called Nathan. He wore a helmet and was this hyperactive kid who gets walked around on a leash kind of thing. He came up with that character around three in the morning on set at Stan Mikita’s Donuts. Everyone was pretty loopy at that point.
It seems like Wayne's World would've been a blast to film.
It was so fast. It seems like fun, but most of the fun and games were really on screen. Comedy’s tough business, you know! There are writes, rewrites, and the script itself—with scripts there’ll usually be white revisions, green revisions, pink revisions, and so on. With this script there were double golden, double fuchsia, double chartreuse! They’re so brilliant and kept coming up with better and better gags. Like, “Hey! Let’s go just a little bit further with this.”
Turning the conversation back to Celebrity Apprentice, Donald Trump has declared in interviews that your cast had the biggest tasks of any, and also have “taken an amazing amount of abuse.” What light can you shed on that?
Personally, I didn’t feel abused by "The Donald," but other members of the cast, perhaps! I found it to be very educational. They have us doing things that we don’t usually do in our lives. You’re learning skills and I found it a lot of fun. I liked stretching my brain in that way. It was definitely the best thing about the show.
Was there anything you learned in your years of acting, modeling, and singing that you feel you were really able to bring to the table with everyone utilizing skills from their various backgrounds?
I think the biggest skill that I utilized was being tactful and political because you have to deal with a lot of different personalities and ways of approaching things. If you’re all going to get along as a team, it definitely takes a lot of that skill set to make things work.
Especially considering some of the people on your team.
Yes. It all becomes apparent once you watch the show.
What preconceived notions did you have about "The Donald?"
You think you’re going to be intimidated by him because he’s such a big shot, but I met him and his kids and they just couldn’t have been nicer and more welcoming. Donald’s a big fan of a lot of people on the show and will let them know that he likes their work. Much more pleasant than a lot of people think. He looks way more stern and serious on the show.
Does he usually make that trademark, borderline-constipated face in real life? Or is that just for photos?
No, he doesn’t even dress like that in real life, with the suits and slicked back hair. I’m not sure if I’m giving away his persona here, but he’s much more of a plaid shirt, jeans, and baseball cap kind of guy.
Plaid shirts? We didn't see that coming.
Very awesome, yeah!
It’d be great to hear that he dresses like a b-boy in real life.
Nothing that dramatic! But this is actually Donald Jr. I mean, not Donald.
Oh, too bad! Well, Donald Senior definitely isn’t afraid to speak his mind to contestants when he isn’t happy. Is there anyone who's ever just caved and given it back to him during filming?
Definitely! Once people’s heads are on the chopping block, the gloves come off. They have to defend themselves and get as strident and tough with Mr. Trump as he does with them.
You mention in one of the promos that you didn’t feel one had to be manipulative or underhanded to succeed in the game. Did you come to find yourself reevaluating that statement as things went on?
I think as exhausted and in over your head as you are with these tasks, your real personality comes through and I just can’t be that way. It would take more energy for me to be conniving and manipulative than to just do the hard work and be clear because I can’t keep lies straight. To me, it’s wasted energy. But there are other people it comes more easily to. I’ve always believed that cream rises to the top, and if you’re going to be nasty, it’s going to come back and bite you in the bum.
You also mentioned that you were looking forward to hanging out with the girls and coming together to vanquish the male team. We’re not sure if this was said before you knew who else was going to be on your team…
Yeah, I had a really rosy view of things back then!
Your squad happens to consist of a few of the most notoriously difficult personalities on TV. You’ve got Teresa Giudice the table-flipper and Aubrey from Making The Band—what was that dynamic like?
I always wanted to believe in the best of people. I was pleasantly surprised with some and horribly disappointed in others. But you’ll see, it’s like, “Wow, they really are like that!” or “Wow, they’re much nicer than I thought they were!” I’m a girl’s girl and I like to hang out and get along, so unfortunately the hard thing was the set-up.
You’re part of a team and work together as a team, but the bottom line is everyone wants to win for themselves so it creates a really weird dynamic. Where does a team end and the self-interest start? So that’s the part that makes it very, very dicey. It brings out bad behavior.
What were some other especially challenging parts of competing?
I was waking up at like 4am because hair and makeup started at 5. It was pretty harsh.
So you’re additionally battling against sleep lack.
Exactly. So that strips away another layer, but it makes for good TV!
Was there anything that ended up being harder than everyone having to tap into those Rolodexes of celebrity associates?
Harder than that? Dealing with some of these broads.
If we aren’t mistaken, the cause you’re competing for is After-School All-Stars, which Arnold Schwarzenegger introduced you to. What made you choose that cause in particular?
We just started the program in Hawaii two years ago. The program’s been around for almost 20 in Los Angeles and they just started the national fundraiser two years ago. I met the people that started it in Honolulu, where I’m from, and one of the schools in the neighborhood where I grew up is kicking off the program. I went to go and speak there and thought it’d be a great thing to raise money for. It’d make a big difference in their budget.
The idea is to keep kids busy between 3 and 6pm, which are apparently the most dangerous hours for children and the ones in which they're the most likely to get into trouble. What kind of behavior might we have witnessed you engaging in during those hours back in the day?
Goodness. Shenanigans. Shenanigans! Truthfully, I went to a catholic all-girls school and actually had to catch two buses, so it took forty-five minutes to get there. I was mostly busy on the bus.
So you were pretty much in transit during those hours. No time for hanging out in some back alleys.
Yeah, smoking cigarettes and stuff.
Lastly, going back to Arnold Schwarzenegger, people really can’t seem to get enough of your True Lies tango scene. There are countless videos on YouTube. Even the ones that look like they’ve blatantly been taped off someone’s TV have scored thousands and thousands of hits.
I love the tango. I’m actually starting a recurring role on this USA show where I’m a tango instructor!
Was Arnold as smooth as he seems?
He has excellent posture and that looks really good when you tango. It’s better if you’re stiff in your shoulder blades than kind of floppy, so that’s what I had to learn. I’m kind of like, “Dum dee dum” and slouching, but the best thing you can do is stand straight and tall and keep stiff between the shoulders.
Good to know.