Blue Bloods' Donnie Wahlberg on career, cougars and why he's the only one who can
call his brother "Marky Mark"
If it weren't true, you might not believe it: blue-collar kid to New Kid on the Block to Blue Bloods star. And those are just three of the things in Donnie Wahlberg's long career, which has also spanned film (The Sixth Sense), fandom (NKOTB is still selling out arenas) and family (he has two sons, ages 11 and 20). Oh, and the 43-year-old Dorchester, Mass., native also finds the time to executive-produce Boston's Finest, a reality show about the cops he used to run from. Giving him a well-deserved break from his hyper-hyphenated life, Watch! brought the Boston boy back to Beantown, where he opened up about brotherhood, fatherhood and what Bridget Moynahan is really doing under the table during those famous Blue Bloods dinner scenes.
Watch!:So how is it to be back?
Donnie Wahlberg: I love being here. This is a great little corner of the city, and it's so historic and quiet. Not a lot of foot traffic, not a lot of car traffic and you can just come and hang out and shoot pictures outside.
Watch!:As the eighth of nine children growing up here, how did you hold your own?
Donnie:Everyone was so messed up and crazy in my family—and I'm a caretaker by nature—so when my parents split up, I was the one who organized the holidays. I became sort of like the parent of the disenfranchised children. I made a pact when I first started to make money that when anyone in my family gets married, I'm going to help them get their first home. Fortunately for Mark, they were all married by the time he became famous. He didn't have to buy any houses, that bastard!
Watch!: How close are you and Mark these days?
Donnie:Super close, because we're producing a TV show together. We own Wahlburgers [a family restaurant outside of Boston] with our brother Paul and we're producing a reality show based on the restaurant for the History Channel. Mark and I are both in the first episode.
Watch!:Is that the first time you guys have been onscreen together?
Donnie: It's the first time we've ever shared a film or TV project of any kind. We've been in music videos—he was in a New Kids video and I was in a Marky Mark video.
Watch!:What happens if you call him "Marky Mark" today?
Donnie: He's not too happy, but it's because I own the name and he doesn't. [Laughs.] I trademarked the name "Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch." Mark's a wheeler-dealer, but I got a few on him from the old days. I'm entitled to a piece of everything forever, but I don't call him on that. My mother will kill me. He'll kill me!
Watch!: Will you guys ever do a nonreality project together?
Donnie: We're discussing a TV pilot—a script a friend and I wrote—about our family. Our early childhood days. Sort of like an Everybody Hates Chris. Mark and I may team up and produce that together.
Watch!:Truth time: Why do you play so many cops?
Donnie: [Laughs.] We have to put some perspective on how many times I've played a cop. Yes, it has been at least a dozen—or even a baker's dozen! But here's the thing: How many TV shows are about cops? What's the ratio?
Watch!:I don't know, but per capita I think you're still above average.
Donnie: Let's say 35 percent of TV shows are about cops. Fifty percent of my roles have been cops. So I'm slightly above the average, right?
Watch!:So you're not just atoning for a misspent youth?
Donnie: I'm actually the one Wahlberg who didn't get in much trouble. Which is ironic, because I just never got caught. Those other Wahlbergs, it's not that they were tough. It's that they were stupid! [Laughs.] Anyway, the good thing about playing so many cops, in all seriousness, is they all prepared me for Blue Bloods. I think I needed to have done all those roles so when Blue Bloods came along, no one was going to play a cop better than me.
Donnie: Actors see a part come along and we're like, "I'm the perfect guy for that!" And we're not always the perfect guy for it. When Blue Bloods came my way, I knew in my heart there was nobody better for the job. Save for the fact that I don't look anything like Tom Selleck and no one would believe I'm his son. I had even told my agents before Blue Bloods, "I'm tired of playing cops! I'm not playing any more!" And I read it and I said, "I'm doin' it." And now I love the show, I love doing the show, I love my castmates.
Watch!: What would Selleck do if you grew a mustache?
Donnie: I grew one! I came back from hiatus for Season 2 with a mustache and I called [executive producer] Leonard Goldberg and said, "Hey, I grew a mustache; I'd like to wear it for the first episode. Maybe we can add a line, ‘Like father, like son.' " Leonard had three words: Lose the ‘stache. I didn't even discuss it with Tom, but he would probably give me hell about it for being so thin and skimpy, like, "That's not a mustache."
Watch!: So what really goes on at those family dinners in every episode?
Donnie:Bridget and I play footsies under the table! [Laughs.] When she started dating a new guy I had to tone it down, but we used to play footsies all the time. People watching the dinner scenes are like, "They're such a great family," and meanwhile my and Bridget's toes are all intertwined.
Watch!:Do you play footsies with Selleck?
Donnie: If I played footsies with Tom Selleck, my toes would get crushed.
Watch!:OK, new topic. You recently went on tour with Boyz II Men and 98 Degrees. Discuss.
Donnie: When New Kids tour with the Spice Girls, we will have jumped the shark as a band. We're not there yet.
Watch!:I'm curious—who comes at you with more intensity in these arenas: the cougars who have liked you all along, or the new tweenage fans?
Donnie:I've had my shirt ripped off by crazy tweens and by crazy cougars, but not by normal tweens or normal cougars. The crowds are pretty respectful. They scream as loud as when we were kids, but they don't rip our clothes off as much as they used to.
Watch!:Do they rip their own clothes off?
Watch!:How much toplessness are you seeing from the stage?
Donnie: It's kind of the same: One a week then, one a week now. And it got the same reaction then and now. It's sort of like, "Awwww, c'mon. You can't do that at a New Kids concert!" Because 20,000 women, they all turn to the girl whose boobs just popped out and they're like, "What are you doing? Would you tell her to put her shirt on, Donnie? Please?" So we can't even enjoy it! At Mötley Crüe, half the crowd has no shirt on and they're encouraging the rest of the crowd to take theirs off. At our show, one person takes it off and it's like, "Cover yourself, woman!"
Watch!:I'm guessing you also haven't been trashing your hotel rooms.
Donnie:I don't trash hotel rooms anymore. I don't get accused of setting hotels on fire anymore. Modern-day rock-star life is about being a professional, but still enjoying the hell out of it. I finish 16-hour days on Blue Bloods and go right to my apartment and work with musicians on the music for the tour.
Watch!:Probably pretty different from when you were a teenager.
Donnie: We were kids and we were so famous, it was like we were trapped, you know? All these adult people who were our handlers didn't want us to leave the damn hotel and the truth is, most times we couldn't or we'd get mobbed. I would do things like sneak out, hop in a car and take off. Of course I'd get a speeding ticket. It was always sort of, "Just my luck." The one day I finally got to go outside, some guy picked a fight with me at a movie theater. I'm from Boston, so he calls me a bad name, I'm going to punch him in the face. I didn't know I'd end up on the front page of newspapers all around the world for punching him in the face.
Watch!:I didn't know that happened.
Donnie: It happened a lot!
Watch!:When was the last time you punched someone in the face?
Donnie:A long time ago. I only TV-punch people in the face now. It was somewhere around the age of 20, at a concert. There was a bouncer who showed up with a "New Kids on the Block Suck" T-shirt. Like, really, dude? So I confronted him and it got out of control.
Watch!:Did he punch you back?
Donnie: He didn't get a chance. The other security guys jumped him, thank God. He was big. [Laughs.] He would have killed me.
Watch!: Do you feel like you learned from your mistakes and are now imparting that wisdom to your sons?
Donnie: Absolutely. No one ever asked me that question before, so I'm glad you did. It's all made me better now, you know? I also know not to take myself too seriously. It's fun. This stuff is all fun.
Watch!: Are you relieved you never had daughters?
Donnie: I thought I was done having kids, and for all intents and purposes I am, but I think I need a daughter. Yeah.
Donnie:Because of that thing that happens when guys have a daughter: that last level of maturity. I think I need that last stage of enlightenment. Maybe it's not a girl, maybe it's a religious thing, maybe it's something else out there I don't know about. Maybe I'll join a cult. [Laughs.]
Watch!:So other than exploring cults, what do you do when you're not working?
Donnie: I'm in New York eight months a year, then I'm touring the other four. Where do I live? Nowhere. What do I do in my free time? I don't have any. I met Lionel Richie and I said to him, "I'm not a big fan of flying, but suddenly I find myself sleeping on planes." And he said, "That's it, man! In this business, that's when you sleep!" And you know, for the last few years, I fly home to L.A. pretty much every weekend to see my kids, and I turn that phone off and for six hours I have peace and tranquility.
Donnie: Ambien or Bloody Marys. Listen, when I walk on Virgin America, that Bloody Mary is waiting for me on the armrest. They don't even ask anymore.