The trajectory of Donnie Wahlberg’s career is a strange one. The Boston native has been a touring musician, dancer, actor, and investor, and he currently does all four at once. But each time he’s transitioned, people have said his career was over. Then they’ve been forced to watch him gain more fame in his new field.
Donnie Wahlberg, brother to Mark Wahlberg, started as a singer in New Kids on the Block. Which for several years in the late 1980s and early 1990s were the biggest music act in the world. The band sold millions of records, but the early 90s wasn’t a time of longevity for bubble-gum pop acts. Grunge and gangster rap were becoming the mainstays and after a failed rebrand to a harder-edged NKOTB in 1994, Wahlberg was out of a job. So, he decided to follow his brother Mark into acting.
No one expected him to make it. But bit-by-bit he began to amass a line-up of several respectable but small TV roles. He made his film debut in 1996’s Bullet. Wahlberg played a character named Big Balls, a henchman of Tupac Shakur’s character.
It’s ironic, considering Shakur was one of the leading voices in gangster rap that helped dismantle Wahlberg’s music career.
The film isn’t remembered fondly, but it’s loaded with future and falling stars. Along with Wahlberg and Shakur, Oscar-winner Adrien Brody, The Wire’s Michael Kenneth Williams, and Mickey Rourke, who was on his way down, also starred in the movie. Shakur, himself, would die not long after finishing the film. But the rapper’s legacy lived on more for his music than his acting.
Later that same year Wahlberg played a thug in Ransom, the Mel Gibson thriller directed by Ron Howard.
Donnie Wahlberg Proves His Mettle in ‘Sixth Sense’
Donnie Wahlberg’s big break came when he starred as an unstable mental patient who tries to attack Bruce Willis in the blockbuster The Sixth Sense.
Chances are you may not have noticed him, however. He lost nearly 50 pounds to play the role and looked entirely different than the male model earlier in the 1990s.
But that performance led to more and more acting work, and Donnie Wahlberg went from Mark’s older brother to an actor in his own right. After several leading film roles, he landed the part of Detective Danny Reagan in Blue Bloods.
The show just finished its 11th season and has been renewed for its 12th. Wahlberg said after season 10 that he didn’t see the show slowing down anytime soon. And his prediction has been proven right. Ratings are up and Blue Bloods is becoming appointment television for many.
“I just know that we’re having more fun than we’ve ever had on the show,” he said. “It’s still the number one show on Friday night for 10 years and it’s been a great run and I don’t see it stopping anytime soon.”