'Blue Bloods' star Donnie Wahlberg talks new series and New Kids on the Block
Known around the world for both his music and his acting career, Donnie Wahlberg stays grounded by thinking of his fans.
During a Q&A with CTV.ca, Wahlberg talks about this new series “Blue Bloods,” a cop drama that follows a tight-knit family of police officers in New York City. Wahlberg stars alongside Tom Selleck and Bridget Moynahan.
The series airs Friday nights on CTV, with full episodes available online in the CTV Video Player at Watch.CTV.ca.
CTV.ca: Thanks for taking time to chat today! I’m calling you from up here in Toronto.
Yeah, it’s my home away from home. I’ve worked up there, but it’s been a while though. We almost shot this show in Toronto. We shot parts of the pilot there, and we almost shot the series there.
CTV.ca: But you ended up going to New York instead.
I think New York is too much of a character in this show to try to duplicate it somewhere else. For authenticity purposes it’s important. I tend to be the one who’s out in the streets the most, shooting around New York. Most of the other cast is in the studio somewhere. It helps. You get a different type of personality. I was shooting a scene last week, I was playing the reality of it, and an old woman walked by, and I said “Ma’am, Ma’am, you can’t be there.” And she said “You shut up I’ll walk wherever I want to walk, it’s a free country!” Those New York moments are not going to happen everywhere. I say this with no insult to Toronto, but if I said “Ma’am you can’t walk there” she would have probably said “Oh, sorry.” And the gig would be up and they’d know it wasn’t New York.
CTV.ca: Is there a certain pressure from New Yorkers then to get it right? Especially the police?
There’s pressure to get it right, but that’s also timbered by an appreciation that we’re here. We’re shooting and we’re presenting the city. By this time, most people understand that if you do a TV show or a movie, not everything can be fully authentic. You’re always going to have to fudge some things. We’re putting a lot New Yorkers to work.
CTV.ca: Especially now that the original “Law & Order” has packed it in.
There’s a big gap. A whole cluster of New York shows went away very quickly. It’s bad for New York, but it’s good for us, because now we’re the guys.
CTV.ca: So tell me a little about “Blue Bloods” and how this police procedural is different from all the other cop shows out there.
The family part of it makes it different. The procedural cop shows that are on the air now, you know… they are what they are. Nobody is going to compete with “CSI.” It is what it is. They have their formula down to a science, so much so that they have three of them on the air. People respond to the “Whodunit,” but our goal is to not compete with that. Our goal is to tell a different side of a police drama. There are real people involved. Most policemen come from a family of police officers. In the states or in Canada. A lot of traditions surround police officers, where my dad is a cop, and his dad is a cop. I think the show really explores that, and makes it somewhat relatable. When I read the pilot, and the dinner scene, I thought it could have really been a scene with me and my sister. It felt so much like my childhood or my life now, when I argue with my sister. It’s really fun.
CTV.ca: People have also been responding to this classic, “old-school” style of the series.
Hopefully we stay that way. It’s a new show, so we’ll have to find our way. There’s different demands and the audience will want to see more of some things and less of other things. It’s an ongoing process in TV. You go 10 episodes and hope you find your way to some consistency and finding a formula the audience likes.
CTV.ca: With your character Danny, how are you able to keep up the burning intensity over the course of an episode?
I think each episode is different. I don’t think I can carry that energy through the course of every episode, it would be a lot. I think with different cases, there are going to be cases that require more energy than others. In the pilot, it was a race against the clock. In reality, that’s how I work. I have fun, I goof around a lot, I work really hard, and I kind of stay intense most of the time when I work. I think this character, he’s driven, so I draw on my experience. It’s tough when you’re playing on a TV series, because you’re doing episode after episode. I’ve worked 8 days per episode for the last three episodes, so it will become a grind eventually. It’s important to find that energy and drive and not let it become mundane. With me, I always look for excitement in my job, and I try to bring a little bit of that to Danny.
CTV.ca: If the show continues on, do you see it being a conflict with any upcoming “New Kids on the Block” tours?
I see everything fitting together. When I got back with New Kids in the first place, it was with the understanding that I wasn’t going to stop being an actor. I would fit in movie and TV around the touring, and eventually I would start fitting New Kids in around my TV and movies. And that’s where it’s at right now. I don’t plan on having too many days off for the next year or two, let’s put it that way. I do want to tour again, so I have to fit it in where I can.
CTV.ca: My co-workers would like me to ask if there’s any progress on the rumoured New Kids/Backstreet Boys tour?
No updates. No secret wraps, New Kids are looking to tour soon, and we’ll see how it all shakes out, if we’re going to have any company or not.
CTV.ca: As an actor, do you feel like your music fans follow you to your on-screen performances, or do you feel like you carry around two separate kinds of fans?
I think there are separate people. It makes it easier for a 35-year-old guy to like me as an actor than a musician! But I know the New Kids fans have definitely followed along, and they’re definitely dialed in and paying attention to the show. They’re supporting “Blue Bloods” all the way. At the same time, I think I’ve done enough acting roles that there are people out there who know me as an actor, and they may not say “I’m going to watch this show strictly for Donnie Wahlberg,” but I hope they say “That guy’s solid, which means this show should be pretty decent.” And they might take a peek at it.
CTV.ca: Does that mean you kind of need to have two different personas then?
There’s a responsibility. I’m sure my personas change a little bit. When I walking around set, banding tables and singing songs, making the crew dance and stuff because it’s Friday night and we’re shooting until two in the morning, I think that the music persona is alive and well! It hasn’t gotten too far away from me. And there’s usually about 25 fans on set every day since we’ve started shooting, for about eight or nine weeks so far. They’re not going anywhere.
CTV.ca: Are those fans on set a distraction or an inspiration?
I think it all feeds itself. As an actor I’m going to act and do those roles that I want to do and appeal to me. But I keep my fans in mind, and hope that they’ll be supported, and I keep them updated through Twitter. There’s a little sense of responsibility. But at the end of the day I have to do roles that are exciting for me, because if I don’t then I’m going to be bored and disinterested and do it for the wrong reasons, and it will be less than great. I’ll always choose the roles based on the roles, not based on the fans. But I do always keep my fans in mind. I want to make them proud.