Anand Vasudev had no idea a layoff from St. Petersburg real estate company Echelon LLC could lead to a starring role on one of NBC's biggest reality shows.
But his tale of ejection from a job last year managing a $500 million real estate portfolio made Vasudev a perfect contestant for Donald Trump's revamped Apprentice — the first version of the business-oriented competition to feature noncelebrities in two years, centered on 16 players aversely affected by the tanking economy.
"I thought I was indispensable … until I got laid off," said Vasudev, 31. "When you're cast out to sea, it's very humbling. (But) I knew this show was the opportunity of a lifetime, and I had to take full advantage." Officials from Echelon declined to comment on his departure.
Born in Gainesville, Vasudev moved to New Port Richey as a child when his father, Dr. U.B. Vasudev, started his dentistry practice. After graduating from Tampa's Berkeley Preparatory School in 1997, he got a degree from Emory University in Atlanta and eventually returned to the Tampa Bay area and joined Echelon.
Vasudev thought he might spend his entire professional life in the area, but the real estate downturn that hobbled the state's economy eventually claimed his job in St. Petersburg, prompting a move to New York City. There, the longtime Apprentice fan saw ads for the show about a new edition of the show featuring noncelebrities.
Now's he's anticipating the show's Sept. 16 debut, a month after filming the show with 15 others hit by harsh economic times.
Longtime Berkeley teacher Kathy Graw, who taught Vasudev in a drama class, remembered a smart, sweet kid who might not stick out on a show known for producing legendary villains such as Omarosa and Piers Morgan.
"As soon as I saw he was cast I thought, 'He's no Omarosa,' " Graw said. "The really nice guys don't seem to do as well. So I keep wondering, 'What's their angle with him?' "
Vasudev's answer? Stay tuned.
"It's been a while since school … if I have to, the claws will come out," he added.