Donnie Walhberg knows a thing or two about playing a cop on TV and in the movies, having embodied more than a dozen lawmen since he parlayed his New Kids on the Block fame into a successful acting career in the mid ’90s. But when Wahlberg, who currently stars as Detective Danny Reagan in the hit CBS cop drama Blue Bloods, decided to produce a law enforcement show of his own, he knew exactly whom he wanted for his stars — the real men and women of Boston’s police force. The result is TNT’s new unscripted series, Boston’s Finest, which premieres Feb 27.
“It’s my hometown,” Wahlberg says. “And the Boston Police Department works in a way that’s very different from most police departments. They’re very much about preventative law enforcement as opposed to responsive law enforcement, so they work really hard at keeping things from happening in the first place, as opposed to reacting when they do happen.”
Wahlberg credits his work on Blue Bloods for giving him a new level of respect for and understanding of folks entrusted with the safety of the very neighborhoods in which they grew up. And it’s that personal side of the patrolmen that he wants to convey over the door-busting and head-bashing of other police-related reality shows. “If you know how passionate a police officer is and what his upbringing is and why he’s so motivated to do the job he does, you can see him in a lot less dangerous a situation and still care that much more for him,” Wahlberg says. “It’s not just some guy in a blue uniform who’s supposed to be a superhero — he’s a human being with a family and vulnerabilities and responsibilities. You can actually heighten the drama by knowing more about the person.”
Wahlberg cites an episode featuring a member of Boston’s gang unit. “He’s talking to gangbangers on the most dangerous streets in Boston — and all the while there’s a huge amount of tension because a gangbanger was killed and now there’s a war ready to break out. We get to know more about him and how he came very close to being in one of these gangs himself, but now he’s working the other side of it. And when the funeral of the gangbanger passes by at the end and there hasn’t been any violence erupting, you see just how much it means to this police officer and how determined he is to keep these kids from taking each other’s lives. It’s really, really powerful.”
As powerful as Wahlberg’s drive to do the best job possible showcasing the force and the metropolis that entrusted him to tell its stories.
“To take on a job like this and a challenge like this, there has to be a tremendous amount of respect for the city and for the police department and the way things work there,” he explains. “Sort of ‘honoring the code,’ I guess you could say. For me that’s the No. 1 priority — to honor what the city needs from me and what the police department needs from me and not honor the TV show first.
“My success is only true success if I honor the mandates set forth by the city,” Wahlberg surmises. “If I don’t do that and the show has huge ratings, then I’ve only done a service to myself. And I can’t do that. I’m a Boston boy! I want to make the city proud!”
Boston’s Finest premieres Wednesday, Feb. 27 on TNT