As a proud Bostonian, Donnie Wahlberg knows he's going to get flak for what he's about to say.
"It's awesome being a New York cop!" the Blue Bloods star tells TVGuide.com. "Everyone at home is going to kill me for this, but New York cops are the best. To work so closely with them and to get to play one, it's a great, great feeling. Nothing is better than walking through the streets of New York. We did a huge scene outside a few weeks ago and there's hundreds of New Yorkers watching. This guy riding a bike goes, 'Way to go, Wahlberg!' He had a Yankees hat on. It's like, 'Wow!' What a great feeling. Keep the Emmys, give me more of that."
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Wahlberg will get to hear more street praise, as the CBS series has been picked up for a full season thanks to strong ratings on a night that didn't seem to be so prime anymore: Fridays. But what on the surface seems like a death sentence was actually very shrewd scheduling for what is not only a cop procedural, but a family drama, too.
"I think Friday night really works for us. CBS does well on Fridays," Wahlberg says. "A lot of Tom [Selleck]'s core fans are going to be around Fridays and a lot of my core fans have families and husbands now. Who better to be watching the show? I think it's a different world anyway. I know when I was younger, Friday nights were my favorite nights to watch TV. You won't believe me if I told you, but I watched CBS when I was a kid. I was a Dukes of Hazzards guy. I watched Magnum, [P.I.]. Don't tell Tom!"
It's the family hook that has viewers, well, hooked on the Reagans, a multigenerational clan deeply rooted in law enforcement in the Big Apple, Wahlberg says.
Besides, it's the family's famous Sunday night dinner scenes that first caught his attention. "The dinner scene in the pilot — I can't even tell you. I just pictured my sister and me sitting across the table and arguing with each other," he says. "I think that was the moment I was seduced. ... But the great thing is that, as the show goes on, dinner's no longer the only time we intersect. Now we cross paths more on the job."
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On Friday's episode, Wahlberg's character, passionate and hot-headed detective Danny, and his partner, Detective Jackie Curatola (Jennifer Esposito), investigate the deaths of three teens, who overdosed on a new street drug. They're helped by his younger brother and rookie cop, Jamie (Will Estes). Danny hands out some tough love to little brother when Jamie's inexperience gets the better of him during a interrogation. It's instances like these, Wahlberg says, that could affect Jamie's decision as to whether or not to take up the FBI's offer to probe the Blue Templar, the NYPD's rogue group of cops that their late brother Joe and — as we learned three weeks ago — Danny were (are?) part of.
"Obviously his instinct is to say no. This is his family here. But now he's regular beat cop and what happens to him could influence him as to whether or not he's going to do this," Wahlberg says. "He sees things, he starts to ask questions, and like everyone else, he's curious."
Well, not everyone.
Though he thinks the secret society is a "fun" storyline, Wahlberg, 41, has no interest in asking or learning where producers are planning to go with it. "If there's one way I've changed as an actor, it's that I used to want to know the answer to everything. 'Tell me what's going to happen in Season 20.' Well, how about we get through Episode 6 first?" he says with a laugh. "That's really where I'm at. I'm dialed into what's now. I trust in what they're doing and what my character is."
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Danny is a cop, obviously. But he's also a son, brother, grandson, husband, father, uncle and Iraq War veteran — things that don't make him easily describable, Wahlberg says. But if there's one aspect of a rule-bender — if not rule-breaker — that the singer-turned-actor finds most fascinating is his relationship with his father, police Commissioner Frank (Selleck). Living and working in the shadow of a powerful parent is pressure-filled enough, but Wahlberg believes there's more to it.
"Danny also probably thinks he has [Frank's] power from time to time. He doesn't want anyone to think that and when he thinks they think he's taking advantage of that power, he probably resents that and further resents his dad," Wahlberg says. "It's so convoluted that — why try to define it? ... I kind of reserve the right to figure it out what makes him tick as I go. We've dived into their relationship a bit already and you know there's more to come."
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With a full season secured, Wahlberg, who also played a cop on NBC's critically acclaimed but short-lived Boomtown, is solely focused on Blue Bloods until the spring, putting New Kids on the Block tour plans on hold until the summer. And after that? Hopefully, more Danny Reagan.
"We'll see. I don't want to get too far ahead," he says, laughing.