Rod Blagoevich poses with fellow "Celebrity" cast members… (Paul Drinkwater / NBC )
Rod Blagojevich still wants you to watch "I'm a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here!" -- with or without him.
The embattled ex-Illinois governor, who has pleaded not guilty to 17 charges, including racketeering and extortion, turned up at NBC's summer press day Friday to support the reality show in which he very nearly got to costar. His dreams had been dashed Tuesday when a federal judge ruled he would not be permitted to go to Costa Rica to film.
"I had sold myself on this being a way for me to be a modern-day Teddy Roosevelt," he told a room full of reporters at the Langham Huntington Hotel & Spa in Pasadena. "I basically deluded myself into being that, and then the judge made his decision."
"I'm a Celebrity . . . Get Me Out of Here!" drops 10 celebrities into the heart of the jungle to face challenges testing their survival skills. Viewers vote on who leaves and who stays, and the last celebrity standing wins money for a favorite charity.
Asked why he was interested in becoming a reality star at all, Blagojevich said he's a fan of California's governator: "When I was the governor of Illinois, my second favorite governor was Arnold Schwarzenegger. Now he's my favorite. Doing something like this is sort of the reverse [career path] as Arnold's."
After that, reporters had eyes only for Blagojevich, who obliged over and over and over.
Why this reality show? "Originally, I was skeptical," he said. "But then I got to know some of these interesting celebrities, and I just got very excited about this program."
Those celebrities include "The Hills" stars Heidi Montag and Spencer Pratt, "Best Damn Sports Show Period" commentator John Salley, TV host and model Janice Dickinson, former "American Idol" contestant Sanjaya Malakar, actor Stephen Baldwin and professional wrestler Torrie Wilson.
Having worked in politics, Blagojevich said, would also have given him "an unfair advantage."
Baldwin, seated next to him, interjected: "Excuse me, I'm the youngest Baldwin brother." Blagojevich added that with two young children he was in the market "for a new line of work" and "an opportunity to get away from it all."
When asked whether he was being compensated for his time during this session, Blagojevich said it "hadn't been discussed."
One reporter questioned why he was on stage at all if he wasn't going to be on the show. "Even if I can't participate, I can promote it and talk about it," he said. Blagojevich and producers say they are actively trying to figure out some role for him on the show.
When asked whether his attempt to break into showbiz while awaiting trial indicates that he's not taking the multiple charges against him seriously, Blagojevich said: "I'm not dismissing them at all. But let me assert my complete innocence against these allegations.
"I'm looking forward to my day in court. The truth will come out and I'll be vindicated."
"I'm a Celebrity" will premiere June 1 on NBC.