He's been nominated for two Academy Awards. He's had a No. 1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. His latest movie opened to $37 million earlier this month. So why would Mark Wahlberg want to star in a reality show?
"I thought kind of the same thing," executive producer Rasha Drachkovitch tells TVGuide.com. "It definitely helps that the subject matter is his family and the family business."
That family business, the Hingham, Mass., restaurant Wahlburgers, is the focus of the new A&E reality show of the same name. Premiering Wednesday at 10:30/9:30c, the docu-series follows Wahlberg, along with his two brothers, singer and Blue Bloods star Donnie and chef Paul Wahlberg, in their adventures running a restaurant together.
After first reading about the fast-casual burger spot two years ago, Drachkovitch reached out to Mark about the reality show idea. He soon traveled to Hingham to meet both the Wahlburgers restaurant family, as well as Mark's own family. "They're very Boston, so very big-hearted. I was basically being hugged and smooched for the first couple days," he recalls. "This is a great American story because when you hear about their upbringing on the tough streets of Dorchester, nine kids under one roof trying to get by and then where they are today with television, music, films, and now the restaurant business, it had all the elements to be an entertaining show."
So what can viewers expect? Drachkovitch shared seven enticing reasons to tune in:
1. The show digs deep: Drachkovitch says viewers will be surprised to see just how candid and honest the Wahlbergs, whom he dubbed "Boston's first family," are on camera. "It's a rare glimpse behind the curtain where you get to see such a visible family and you get to see how they discuss things. We get to tackle sibling rivalries, we get to tackle competition," he says. "It kind of morphed from a celeb-reality business show to a show about this amazing American family. They may be huge stars, but at the end of the day, they're dealing with the same kind of issues about family that most of us deal with as well."
2. Mark and Donnie will be a big presence: Despite their busy schedules — Mark worked on five movies during the course of shooting, and Donnie split his time between Blue Bloods and the New Kids on the Block reunion tour — they will both appear in every episode of Wahlburgers. I was kind of hoping maybe they could call in or Skype," Drachkovitch says. "It was pretty much, 'Whatever you guys need to film, let us know.'"
3. Get ready to meet "the most-talented Wahlberg": At least that's what Mark calls his older brother Paul, a classically trained chef who runs Wahlburgers' day-to-day operations. A stranger to the screen, Paul was initially hesitant about appearing on docu-series because "he didn't want to do the TV thing," according to Drachkovitch. "He got comfortable and then all of a sudden that Wahlberg star gene kicked in and he came up with the one-liners." Drachkovitch says. "He has a hard nose-to-the-grindstone work ethic. ... I think that's the part that will resonate for people."
4. Tensions will flare: "What's so great about their relationship is [Paul] is a worry wart. He is a perfectionist," Drachkovitch says. "He wants to make one great burger at a time and please the customer." However, that philosophy will clash early and often with Mark and Donnie, who want to open Wahlburgers in every airport and sporting arena in America, as well as expand to Europe and Asia. "That intersection of quantity and expansion, and quality was a great starting point for almost every episode," he says.
5. Celebrity cameos: In the second episode, the cameras film the first meeting between Donnie's girlfriend, Jenny McCarthy, and his mom, Alma. Fellow New Kid Joey McIntyre will also show up on an episode when the brothers try to craft a jingle for the restaurant. Although Wahlburgers has not yet been renewed, Drachkovitch says there's already been talk of a big cameo. "We played around with the idea of bringing [movie bear] Ted into one of the scenes so that Ted gets to drive Paul crazy," he says.
6. Meet the real Johnny Drama: Wahlburgers is also populated by some of their colorful friends, such as Johnny Alves, aka the inspiration for the Entourage character). In one episode, the show will follow Alves out to Hollywood and on an audition for the upcoming remake The Gambler, starring Mark. "He's always trying to make it in Hollywood, but he's got a great heart. He's just a hilarious character," Drachkovitch says. There's also Mark's childhood friend, Nacho, an extreme eater. "He drives Paul crazy. Paul basically bans him from the restaurant because he doesn't want a circus environment, but Nacho is kind of there as comic relief of the show," Drachkovitch says.
7. But the show's real scene-stealer is...: As predicted by Mark, Drachkovitch says matriarch Alma Wahlberg will steal the spotlight. "Mark says, 'You know, I have this huge business and I'm thinking global, but when my mom talks, I become that 10-year-old sitting at the dinner table. What she says goes.' It's the same for Donnie. They adore her," Drachkovitch says. "The show has a lot of heart, and you'll see it in Alma."
Wahlburgers premieres Wednesday at 10:30/9:30c on A&E. Will you tune in?