We’re coming down to the wire on The Kill Point Countdown, with the show premiering July 22 on Spike. Next week I’ll have a roundup of random questions I asked the cast, plus my review of the first episode!
When I think back to 17 or 18 years ago, I probably would’ve freaked if someone told me I’d someday be interviewing a guy whose face was printed on my younger sister’s bedsheets. Donnie Wahlberg has definitely come a long way since the New Kids on the Block. He’s developed into quite a solid actor, and I was impressed with his roles in Band of Brothers, The Path to 9/11 and, earlier this year, Kings of South Beach (check out this personal interview Channel Guide Magazine did with him back in January).
Wahlberg stars in The Kill Point as Capt. Horst Cali, a hostage negotiator for the police who has to defuse the crisis at Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Trust Bank and get everyone out alive. Unfortunately, the schedule didn’t work out so I could talk to Wahlberg while I was on set in Pittsburgh. He arrived back in Pittsburgh a few days after I was there, and we talked over the phone. He did a pretty good job negotiating with me; I surrendered to police shortly after.
You know, I still haven’t told my sister I interviewed Donnie. I should probably do that.
Is there a political message in The Kill Point?
Donnie Wahlberg: I don’t think there really is one. I don’t think there is an intent there, anyway. I don’t think there is any message intended in the show, but I do think that if we can take anything from it, it is that Iraq veterans seem to be the most overlooked veterans of all. They seem to be appreciated and loved, but quickly forgotten about. Vietnam was a really bad situation because a lot of the veterans were sort of unloved, people had very strong opinions about that war. Whereas the Iraq veterans, everyone seems to appreciate them, but they’re expected to just run right back into society as though nothing happened. At least somebody felt something about the Vietnam veterans. Most people were angry and unappreciative, but there was a strong feeling there. And we’ve come to, as a country, feel regret about that and have a better appreciation for Vietnam veterans now. But Iraq veterans just seem to be totally forgotten about. The first Iraq War was such a “success” that it was like you really didn’t think those veterans had been through anything difficult at all. And I think that sort of carried over. I think most of the feelings about the war are all aimed at George Bush. There are Iraq veterans walking around among us right now. I just think that the politics is more important than the people, and that I think is one of the messages: It’s always about politics and it’s never about people. There are real people out there dying, and watching death around them all the time. They’re going through hell. It’s real easy to forget that.
What did you do to research this role?
DW: I worked with one of the top negotiators in the country. A guy named Jack Cambria from the NYPD Hostage Negotiation Team. Great guy. Very talented. He’s taught the NYPD technique of hostage negotiation around the world.
I understand the ex-soldiers who rob the bank in The Kill Point get some sympathy and support from the public. How does that affect your character’s job?
DW: Were it to be real life, or just a show, it really doesn’t matter. If you’re trained to do a job, you have to do the job. Any time you’re in law enforcement, there are many things you’re going to have to do that are going to seem unpopular. Having a bunch of heroic war veterans who made an error in judgment and got themselves in a bad spot doesn’t change the fact that my character has to do his job. You can’t give them a take-back and let them walk out of the bank and pretend it never happened, because they were heroic people. They still made a bad choice. And as difficult as it is for my character to even want to have to do it, he’s still got to take them down. I think it’s similar to the relationship between Al Pacino and Robert De Niro in Heat, where there’s almost a respect. There is a respect that sort of develops and an understanding that develops, and they realize that there are a lot of similarities between the leader of the police and the leader of the criminals. You hate to have to take the other guy down, but you gotta do what you gotta do. I think it goes both ways. It’s very much a chess match in that way. Public opinion, I think that’s the one great thing about my character, unlike a lot of characters I’ve played in the past, he really doesn’t care about public opinion. He doesn’t really care about any of that. He’s his own man. He’s very successful. He has a perfect record in hostage negotiations. He’s never lost a hostage, a bad guy or a police officer. That’s what a hostage negotiator’s priority is, is the preservation of life. This guy’s the best and he’s very much not concerned with public opinion. He doesn’t even care about the opinion of his higher-ups, so why should he care about the public’s opinion?
Is there an advantage to working on a cable series?
DW: Certainly one of the advantages is that if you’re improvising and the word “shit” comes out, you can pretty much get away with it. I think the flexibility is fantastic. I’m shooting eight episodes right now of a full season of a series. Schedule-wise, it’s fantastic. Character-wise, I don’t know if I could find a character this fun on a regular network show. There’s a lot of freedom and flexibility in it. I could theoretically go and shoot a regular network series now for 22 episodes and still come back and still be able to do another two or three seasons of this. And that’s the flexibility that cable gives you individually as a career actor. Cable gives you a lot of choices and a lot of freedom. As an artist, it gives you the same thing. Freedom. Just because you’re on a cable show doesn’t mean you can run rampant and not respect your bosses and the show and the material. It’s just a much looser feeling. There are a few less chefs in the kitchen on cable shows, I find. Where in network shows, everybody seems to be involved, hovering constantly giving their opinions and thoughts. On cable I find it’s much more hands-off.