Mark Wahlberg on His Emmy Nom, the Burger Biz and Expanding to Middle East
The star and producer also explains why he was initially hesitant to do the A&E docuseries, admitting: "Being on TV as 'Mark Wahlberg' was not of interest to me."
A version of this story first appeared in the Aug. 21 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
Your initial reaction to the show concept was allegedly, "Will people really be interested in this?" What made you say yes?
Yeah, initially I didn't want to be on television. I'm sick of being on television. Yes, I'm an actor and a producer, which is my first love, but being on TV as "Mark Wahlberg" was not of interest to me. But it was [ultimately] about promoting and building the business. And it's been a nice thing that has brought our family closer.
People are surprised by how often you appear in the show. How do you squeeze in time amid your film schedule?
We just shot a bunch of stuff for the show down here in Louisiana where I'm filming [the Peter Berg action drama] Deepwater Horizon. So we just have to be flexible as far as where and when we shoot. If I finish early, we'll go shoot some stuff. Whatever we can figure out.
How hands-on are you as a producer?
Very. Anything that involves me and the business, I'm very hands-on. As you'll see in the second half of this season, I've gotten even more involved.
What has surprised you the most about making a reality show?
Whether it's scripted or reality, I’ve been producing television for quite some time, so I’m [pretty] used to it. The only thing I’m not used to is [the producers] continuing to push to have more of me on [the show]. That was never the plan. Though as we work harder to promote the business, I find myself willing to do more stuff. But I’m only doing what I want to do and how I want to do it.
Now that you have an official working relationship with your family, how has the dynamic changed?
It's taking some getting used to, that's for sure. I'm the driving force behind the business aspect of it, and I don't think they're used to their little brother telling them, "Well, this is how we've got to do things." (Laughs.) But we're in a good place now.
Your brother Paul and mother Alma have become celebrities of sorts in your hometown of Boston. How are they adjusting to that?
Not that Paul likes it at all, but it's just part of the deal! My mom spends every Saturday at one of the restaurants hanging out and taking pictures — she's a hostess there. She had a very hard time after my sister Debbie passed away in 2003, but working and reuniting with friends has changed her life. If nothing else, that's the best thing that's happened from the show.
What kind of impact has the show had on the family's burger business since it premiered last year?
We have almost 70 restaurants under contract right now, with various franchisees and deals in different places. I think we will have nine or 10 open by the end of the year in places like Fenway Park in Boston and airports in Philly and New York. We're opening in Coney Island, Long Island, the D.C. area, Las Vegas — and we're looking for locations in L.A. We also just made a deal in the Middle East for 20 restaurants.
The Emmy for best unstructured reality program will be handed out at the Creative Arts Awards on Sept. 12. Will the entire brood be in attendance?
I don't know yet. My mother doesn't fly, so if she's going to go, she better hit the road now.