Eight questions with Donnie Wahlberg

Channel Guide Magazine: You’ve done feature films and TV. Do you have a preference of medium?

Donnie Wahlberg: I sort of gravitate toward television in terms of work. It hinders you in some ways, but at the same time, it suits my personality better. I like to work at a brisk pace; I like to stay busy. I don’t want to sit in my trailer for eight hours to do one page of work, and in a big movie, that’s what happens. I want to stay on set; I want to stay close to [the project], because it sharpens my game, and keeps me more on my toes. And I have to be better prepared, and I always want to be as prepared as possible.

Do you have any new TV projects coming up?

I’m more interested in producing TV series right now, but I’d certainly be open to [acting in one]. Sometimes it’s really difficult to walk away from that. Doing a pilot every year or two is not financially beneficial, so it’s never really an issue of money. That’s like playing Lotto. For me, it’s like, okay, I’m here, I have an offer to do this pilot, I really like it, let me go meet the people involved in it and see if it could be a good situation for me. The rest is a crapshoot. But you could do a studio film and that could end up on the shelf, too. You just don’t know.

Can you talk about the series you are producing?

I’m developing a pilot right now. We’ve already set it up at the The CW network. It’s based on my teenage years in Boston, and my family. It really centers around sort of surviving forced bussing in Boston. That period really created a legacy for Boston, and not a good legacy. A legacy of racism. And Boston really hasn’t escaped its reputation of being a racist city.

The flip side of bussing and all the problems that it caused, is that it created a guy like me. I can tell you with certainty that had I not gone through that experience, I wouldn’t be sitting here right now. My first school experience was as a minority. I was bussed to a predominantly black school. And I believe that really shaped me, really helped me to be a more open-minded person, a more sensitive person, and have a much better awareness of people — the differences and similarities. It’s funny; a lot of people say, ‘Well, I’m colorblind. I don’t see the differences in color.’ I’m not color blind, because for people of different ethnicities, of different faiths, things are different. It’s not an even playing field for everybody. If you say you’re color blind, then you don’t acknowledge the fact that in this country, everybody doesn’t get the same deal. And I feel fortunate that having had that experience, and had friends from all different walks of life, it really helped me to have a greater compassion and sensitivity. To see the differences, and appreciate the differences, but also to see the similarities. First and foremost, everyone at my school when we were little was poor. The white kids, the black kids, the Puerto Rican kids — we were all poor. In some ways we are all alike, but in other ways we’re not. I think I got to see both sides of that. It’s an invaluable tool for me. Those early years prepared me to be the right person in the right place at the right time to take advantage of the opportunities that came my way.

Are you still creatively involved with music?

I have a creative bug in me about music, but I had to make a real choice when I finished the New Kids on the Block. I was still producing records. I was producing Mark’s records and different songs. But I wanted to act really badly. I found that I just couldn’t do both. I was committing half my time to each, and neither was getting the attention that it deserved, so I kind of had to put music aside to do my best as an actor. It’s worked out for me pretty good, and I just haven’t felt comfortable enough to dangle in both worlds, not yet.

Are you at a point now where people recognize you more for your current work than for New Kids on the Block or “The Sixth Sense”?

Absolutely. The second incarnation of me being a recognizable figure [after New Kids] was The Sixth Sense. But then it became Band of Brothers, then it became something else, a Boomtown, there’s always been another project. It seems like every two years I become the guy — “Hey, you were in that!” I love that. To be acknowledged for doing something that people like, that’s been pretty cool. I don’t know how well I would have done with only being acknowledged as a New Kid on the Block for the rest of my life.

While the New Kids was hugely successful, it came from a real place. The whole origins of that group and growing up in Boston, having the upbringing that I’ve had, it was a struggle. That whole time, putting that group together. To most people it was a pipe dream, something that could never evolve into anything good, because people don’t become famous from where we come from. So while [New Kids] was a massive thing, the origins of it are such a success story, like a Rocky, that I wouldn’t want to parody it. I would really more choose to fight to tell people the truth about it, that it wasn’t some manufactured thing. It was a bunch of poor kids and a poor record producer struggling to try to make something happen. We had tabs run up all over town for restaurants because none of us could afford to pay for dinner. The struggle was never really reflected in the success.

A few personal questions. You’re at a magazine rack and can pick three magazines. What are they?

Sports Illustrated, Boston Globe newspaper, and Architectural Digest.

What’s Your Favorite Sports Team?

Boston Red Sox/Celtics/New England Patriots — it’s all one team from Boston.

When Was The Last Time You Were Starstruck?

I don’t get starstruck. If anything, I get “star-disappointed,” you know what I mean? Perhaps because I’ve been pretty famous myself, I know that it’s just fame — it doesn’t mean anything. It doesn’t make you any better or worse than anyone else. It’s something that comes along with doing what I happen to love to do. If there was anyone I was ever starstruck by, it was probably Bill Clinton, but he defused that so quickly because he’s so charismatic and charming. You’re instantly taken in by him and you feel like he’s a regular guy.

If Your TV Only Carried Three Shows, Which Three Would You Want?

SportsCenter, the local ABC affiliate 11 o’clock news in Boston, and … Flavor of Love. You’ve got to laugh a little bit!

When Was The Last Time You Felt Like Crying?

Probably this morning. I’m a sensitive guy. Sometimes I cry when I drive my kids to school and drop them off. I dropped my son to school, he’s 5. When you drop the kids off to day care when they’re little they cry and you just want them to stop. When they’re finally mature enough to not cry, that’s the day I cry. But I cry more than them. I keep crying. Every day I drop my son to school and he puts his folder in the folder container and he hangs his bookbag up on the hook and shakes the teacher’s hand — it just rips my heart out, but in a joyous way.

What’s Your Favorite Condiment?

Hot sauce.

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