Donnie Wahlberg has had successful careers in music, movies and TV. His group New Kids on the Block reunited in 2008, yielding a new CD and worldwide concert tour. In movies, he’s been in such box office hits as The Sixth Sense, Ransom and Righteous Kill, and starred in the blockbuster TV miniseries Band of Brothers and the critically acclaimed series, Boomtown.
In his new TV drama, Blue Bloods, he portrays Danny Reagan, a seasoned detective with the New York Police Department, whose entire family is connected with law and its enforcement. His father, Frank Reagan (Tom Selleck) is the New York City Police Commissioner, his sister Erin (Bridget Moynahan) is a N. Y. District Attorney and his youngest brother, Jaime (Will Estes) is a new cop on the beat.
Did you do a back story for this character?
I think in the past, specifically in a show like Boomtown, it was really important that I know what the character’s moral line was, who he was, what he stood for. But with this, it’s ambiguous. I kind of like it that way. I don’t want to know exactly how he feels about his dad being his boss essentially, does he resent it; does he use it to his advantage? Because I don’t think it’s clear.
I think people whose parents have been very successful before them, sometimes they’re really proud, sometimes they’re really resentful, most times they’re a little bit of both. And so I just wanted to kind of figure it out as I go.
How does it feel to be a part of this strong ensemble?
When I read the script, I was attracted to the family element of it. It was different, and there was a good balance. I think everyone’s favorite scene in the pilot is the dinner scene. A lot of people try procedural shows. Some people try character-driven shows.
A lot of times when people try to do both, they don’t really work, because there’s not a consistent element that ties the two together. I don’t know if it was done by design, but that dinner scene almost serves as that.
It’s really a place where work and the procedural stuff comes into the character stuff directly. And you see how everyone is connected.
All the characters are ultimately intertwined somehow, and so it makes it much easier. We’re all police, or work within the law to uphold the law.
Some critics have mentioned the unpredictable way the characters act in this sometimes.
I find that with the show some things play differently than I had anticipated. Tom’s demeanor sometimes in the scenes, the way he plays them, I’m never really quite sure what he’s thinking when I watch him. He seems to be a very straightforward, honorable man and policeman, but he seems to be aware of a lot more than he lets on about. And I find that stuff to be interesting.
Your character has a short fuse, and can be a loose cannon at times, and yet he has advanced to a position of authority, how do you play that as an actor?
I think the one thing with my character’s choice in the pilot episode, there’s a girl’s life at stake and the clock was ticking, and he made a choice. Was it a well thought out choice? Probably not, he just did what he did, that’s kind of authentic too. A lot of people who are very successful and in very powerful positions are capable of snapping at any moment, their temper’s fueled and it helped them get where they are.
I don’t want to make this an over-the-top character. I try to be grounded in most parts I do. If it requires an over-the-top performance I’ll try to give that, but I try to keep it grounded anyway.
Can you talk about working with Bridget?
Yeah, it’s interesting, I executive produced and starred in a pilot for TNT a few years ago set in Boston with Jon Avnet from Boomtown, he was the executive producer along with me, and Bridget played my love interest in that pilot.
When I read this script I immediately thought of Bridget and I reached out to the producers to see who they were thinking about, and they mentioned Bridget’s name.
The minute they mentioned that Bridget was in serious consideration I called her right away and her big fear was not shooting in New York.
She did not want to be stuck shooting in Canada, because she has a young child and she wanted to be in New York or L.A. And I said, ‘I give you my word, we’re going to shoot in New York.’ She said, ‘You can’t guarantee that.’
I said, ‘Well, if we don’t shoot in New York, every time you see me for the rest of your life you can kick me in the ass.’ She said, ‘I’ll do it.’ Fortunately, we’re in New York, so I’m safe.
What is it like working with Tom Selleck?
It’s fun playing with Tom. When I look at Tom he reminds me of my dad. At the dinner table, I could always take it to a certain point before my dad would whack me in the side of the head, and Tom has that. I’m always worried that I’m going to improvise one too many lines and Tom’s going to, in character, say, ‘Knock it off, son,’ and off camera he’s going to go, ‘Alright, Wahlberg, settle down.’
I’ll tell you one fun thing, in my experience, having done the music and acting, I bump into so many people who say, ‘Oh my God, my sister loved you.’ Someone always has a message from someone for me, and now I’m working with Tom, everyone has a message for Tom. ‘Tell Tom my mom loves him.’ It’s awesome. It’s such a treat to be in that position. I’m not getting hit with messages every day; I’m getting to deliver a few.