“Why Did I Fall Asleep? I’m Greek!” ..We Talk To The Apprentice’s Maria

One fateful day, many months ago, a bright-eyed young Maria O’Connor, who started her own restaurant business at the age of 16, was watching The Apprentice and suddenly said to herself… well, shouted, if we’re aiming for accuracy, “I can do that! That sort of stuff is easy! Sod it, what have I got to lose?â€? Err the second task, maybe?

So she smothered those bright, entrepreneurial eyes with purple eye-shadow, and headed off to Lord Sugar’s boardroom of disappointment, which “isn’t in the City – it’s about 10 minutes away from the Bridge Caféâ€? she reveals, shattering the glamorous veneer of slick urban life still held as true by approximately six viewers.

Yet poor, sweet Maria did not find the said “stuffâ€? so easy when plunged into the second task – another brutal introduction into the challenging world of trade: sticking a plastic windscreen to a bath. For our self-made heroine fell straight to sleep at a crucial junction in strategic planning: screeching about taps. Why, Maria, why? Why didn’t you give consciousness 110% just like your illustrious fellow contestants?

“I fell asleep, obviouslyâ€?, she tells me straight up. No ear-splitting defence, no disingenuous grovelling apology. Come on, Maria, I was at least expecting claims of chronic narcolepsy or that you were in a deep meditative reverie, conjuring images of breathtaking splash-resistant prototypes.

“I’m Greek, I need siestas and that.â€? Right. So if anyone was in doubt – Angela Merkel, George Osborne, those armies of serious political commentators who read online interviews with obscure Apprentice losers – here is the explanation behind Greece’s financial meltdown.

And in similar spirit to her homeland, she refuses to defer to any superiors, or more successful candidates, as she proceeds to dig her nails (were they purple too?) into all involved in the failed farce, sorry, task.

Cagily calling Karen Brady “quite quietâ€?, Jane the project manager “irrationalâ€? and bridal shop owner Laura “quite dry – dry personalityâ€?, she then turns her attention to the hirer, firer and never-retirer himself: “Lord Sugar is just another man, I didn’t really find him intimidating. He’s a really wealthy man and he’s done really well for himself, but he’s just a person sitting in front of you. Take away the money and what is he?

And indeed he has taken away the money – the money he would have invested in Maria’s plan to expand her business to one new restaurant for each of the next four years. She already owns one restaurant in Kent, which is Greek (so solely serves Horlicks, camomile tea and warm milk then, if we are to take her view of the Greek race). Yet Maria believes she can achieve this goal without Lord Sugar’s assistance: “It’s fine, it might take a bit longer but I’ll get there one way or another. I will get want I want in four years, I’ll just have to work that bit harder.â€?

Despite her irritation at the show encouraging participants to come out with “the stupidest one-linersâ€?, she does reserve some affection for her fleeting on-screen experience, citing the laissez-faire Katie as a good friend, and holding no hard feelings against Nick, who called her ‘shouty’: “He told me that off camera, as well as on camera, so I was kind of waiting for that one to come outâ€?, she shouts. I decide to end it here, as I am anxious about my dictaphone’s health, which has never known such an onslaught of decibels.

The Apprentice continues on Wednesday 4th April on BBC1

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