Interview By: Edward Kasche
Being a former New Kid on the Block must be tough, and maybe that’s why Donnie Wahlberg only mentions it once during the entire interview. He only refers to the band without mentioning the name, saying that they started out very “low-budget; taping milk cartons to the walls in order to sound-proof their studio.” His talk of low-budget brings him back around to his current film, Saw II, which has a larger budget than its predecessor, Saw. He had seen the original, liked it, and knew the budget needed to be larger for the sequel. He knew it could work, if things were done right. “It is bigger, there is more, it is crazier, there are more twists, there’s more of everything, but it is still true to the groundbreaking format they conceived in the first film â€“ it’s smart, it makes you think, and it’s all connected.” That sounds great for the fans of Saw.
Donnie is used to next-to-nothing, coming from a low-class Boston family, but it’s the attitude and professionalism he brings to the set that make him a commodity in Hollywood. Maybe, just maybe, attitude and professionalism = realism. Realism is Donnie’s approach to acting, his technique, you could say. “Life is in the details. If you’re giving me a character that’s a cop who doesn’t have time to do laundry, then his tie better have a few little mustard stains on it. It’s all about internalizing the character and doing all the preparation you can, so the day you step into wardrobe you can walk like the person. That’s when the light bulb goes off. We [actors] doubt until the last moment that we can do this person.” His dedication to realism is the reason I hardly recognized him in earlier roles in The Sixth Sense and Dreamcatcher; he has very important, and difficult, roles in each film. He disappears into his characters, a pretty hefty chore for someone with no acting training and a history of singing in the 90’s first boy band. “What is most realistic resonates with the audience. That’s what I want to happen. I think they brought me onto the project because it was a first-time director, and my reputation is one of being an actor who is there for the betterment of the project; to bring all my resources to the table to make the project as good as it can be, because in the end it makes everybody look good.” Ok. That’s good for the film, but why would Donnie Wahlberg want to make Saw II when he had already been in films directed by M. Night Shyamalan and Lawrence Kasden, two Hollywood heavyweights?
Oddly enough, Donnie’s reason for making the violent and grotesque Saw II was his 12 year-old son. “He snuck into the first one, without my permission, and he loved it. He kept asking me why I didn’t make cool movies like that. When he found out I had the chance to read the script, he told me I had to do it.” What about the hesitation of making a sequel? “I understand the dangers of making a sequel. The fans demanded this one, which is good, for the built-in audience, but you know they want it done right. I don’t want to be the face out there in the front destroying the franchise and upsetting the fans.” And, of course, he doesn’t want to upset his son. Make no mistake, just because Donnie can internalize his characters, it doesn’t mean he lives his lives like they do. “Every time I leave my son, the last words I say to him are ‘I love you.’ That’s the opposite of my character, whose last words to his son are #^@&*%#$@.” It is obvious from the interview that Donnie loves his son more than he loves his career.
Finally, when asked if he was a horror fan, he replies, “In doses. I like any movie that can take me somewhere and make me feel something. Liar, Liar; I never laughed so much in my life; I don’t know why. Crash touched me. Hustle and Flow took me back to my music days.” He has an eclectic taste. Oh, and by the way, his favorite concert ever was Stevie Wonder. Does any of this add up to you?