Celebrity Apprentice Trace Adkins

You don’t expect much honesty or self-awareness at a Celebrity Apprentice All-Stars press junket. But thanks to Trace Adkins, critics at Sunday’s NBC’s panel for the reality franchise got both.

The gravel-voiced country singer and returning contestant on the Donald Trump series (the Donald, by and by, was absent from the event) was refreshingly blunt about his reason for being on the show and his opinion of hanging with the C-listers competing on the franchise (this round includes Stephen Baldwin, Gary Busey and Omarosa).

Adkins said he’s returning to Apprentice because his house burned down last year and his family was assisted by the Red Cross. Since participants on the show raise money and awareness for a charity organization ($3 million this season, according to a producer), Adkins said he wanted to give something back. “The only reason that I would do a reality television show is because this one at least has a shred of nobility because of the charitable aspect of it,” Akins said. “That’s the only reason that I even considered coming and doing something like this.”

The singer explained: “I was ashamed of myself that I didn’t know that the Red Cross responded to house fires. I thought they were like grand-scale natural disasters, and that was about it. The fact that they were there and took care of my family when I couldn’t be there, I just felt like I owed them … I held [producers] off for a month or so, kept telling them, ‘No, I’m not ever going [back].’ The first time I was on The Celebrity Apprentice was one of the most stressful periods of my adult life, and I didn’t want to come back and do it again. So it took my house burning down to get me to come back.”

Asked why Apprentice was so difficult the first time around, Adkins said — and this is in front of the entire panel of his fellow contestants, mind you — “It puts me in a position where I’m forced to tolerate individuals that I normally wouldn’t tolerate. And just I don’t live my life like that. I don’t have to spend time around people that I abhor.”

Adkins then softened, adding, “This year wasn’t that way … it was a great experience.”

Omarosa noted: “Trace is a game changer. I can’t give it away, but he changes The Apprentice as we know it.”

The other panelists were more kind to the franchise. Magician and part-time debunker of b.s. Penn Jillette called Apprentice “the most honest show I have ever heard about in reality … Celebrity Apprentice is run with more integrity and is more straightforward than any show I’ve seen.”

But as for all those alleged skill-building professional challenges that competitors face on the show, Adkins drawled, “I don’t think I’ve ever learned anything doing this show that I’ve used anywhere else.”

The critics laughed.

“Thanks, Trace,” Omarosa said.

Adkins shot back: “No sh-t.”