By Neha Gandhi And Catherine Larkin
Updated June 20, 2003 11:00 AM
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Thousands of tycoon hopefuls lined up outside Trump Tower in Manhattan Friday, all waiting for their chance to audition for the man himself — Donald Trump — for his new NBC reality series “The Apprentice.”

The casting call kicked off a 15-city tour in search of 16 contestants, who will battle each other for a shot at a yearlong apprenticeship with the billionaire businessman.

Produced by “Survivor”‘s Mark Burnett and set to air in early 2004, the show will follow the finalists as they live together in front of the cameras and complete specific job assignments. Trump will then “fire” one cast member each week — and the last person standing will win a job with him, and a six-figure salary to go with it.

“The show will be tough and nasty, but it will also be nice and kind,” Trump tells PEOPLE. “Above all it will be educational. That’s what will set it apart.”

As for his ideal apprentice, Trump says he’s looking for someone who is “blessed with a great brain.”

John Eddey, 22, of Morristown, N.J., believes he has the brain for the job — not only because he “can offer a fun, young, fresh look at business,” but also because he has nothing to lose. Having just graduated from Syracuse University, Eddey said, “I have yet to be scarred and brainwashed by the present corporate world.”

On the other hand, Tina Reine, 37, who has an MBA and worked on Wall Street, thinks her experience will set her apart from the large applicant pool. “I really feel that my background is my strong point,” she said, also referring to a brief teaching position in Japan, and her former career as a professional dancer.

Standing behind hundreds of applicants on Friday, T.J. Younge, 42, had already waited in line for more than two hours, but still considered the wait worthwhile. “This is a walk in the park,” she said.

Reine however, had a different plan: She hired someone to stand in line for her at 8 a.m. while she slept in.

Resolve like Reine’s could be what ultimately distinguishes Trump’s reality show from the rest.

When asked what he hopes to teach his apprentice, Trump said, “It is not so much about teaching. I hope to learn something from them.”