The last name Wahlberg has permeated the entertainment world for several years now. Mark Wahlberg began as a musician, leading the group Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch, and now is a movie star and successful film and television producer. Brother Donnie, also a musician, was a member of the mega-selling boy band, New Kids on the Block and has also starred in film and television. Currently, he’s featured on the CBS series “Blue Bloods” and is Executive Producer of the TNT reality show, “Boston’s Finest.”
What many people don’t know is that the brothers grew up in a family of nine children in a one of the toughest neighborhoods in Boston.
The new A&E reality show “Wahlburgers” features Mark and Donnie as well as two other Wahlbergs, brother Paul and mom Alma, as they work together to run, and expand, the family restaurant business.
Paul, the chef of the family, oversees the original Wahlburgers in Hingham, Massachusetts, as well as Alma Nove, matriarch Alma’s namesake restaurant, an upscale establishment located on Boston’s waterfront.
While there’s a lot of good natured ribbing among the siblings, mostly to get Alma’s attention, the genuine affection between the grown men is evident.
“In some ways it’s reminiscent of a ‘60s sit-com,” explains Executive Producer Rasha Drachkovitch of 44 Blue Productions, the company that oversees the show. “They’re really simple plotlines that every family can relate to - mostly about the brothers doing what their mom tells them to do -- and while they might argue some of the time, at the end of the day, they come together and they really do have each other’s back. Fans have told us that they think the heart of this show is that this family cares about each other and they like to see that on TV. It’s kind of a refreshing change from watching shows where people just fight and fight and dig at each other.”
Drachkovitch believes it’s this honesty that draws people to the show. “This is not just about famous people opening restaurants,” he says.”Sometimes celebrities don’t want to share their past, but the Wahlbergs openly talk a lot about their humble beginnings, eating ‘government cheese’ and bologna sandwiches several nights in a row or having cereal for dinner because money was so tight. They don’t shy away from anything.”
While the openness within the family is a cornerstone of the show, the project almost didn’t get off the ground due to the reluctance of one brother – Paul.
“Paul didn’t want to do this show initially,” reveals Drachkovitch. “He said, ‘TV is what Mark and Donnie do. I just want to make hamburgers,’ but, with a little nudging, Paul came around and things took off from there.”
With Paul onboard, Drachkovitch knew the show would be a success but worried a bit about the level of involvement from Mark and Donnie, knowing that to truly portray the family dynamic they had to be more than just names on the marquee.
“I thought we’d get use Skype or get a phone call here and there or maybe we’d catch them at a red carpet, but they’ve been so open to letting us come in,” says Drachkovitch. “They’re on-camera a lot mostly because I think they’re having so much fun with this.”
All fun aside; there is concern about keeping Paul happy, and healthy. “If there’s anything that we have to really pay attention to, it’s that we don’t run Paul into the ground,” explains Drachkovitch. “He has to do so much. He moves very quickly. His brothers have that competitive gene to get out there and make this thing a success but while Mark and Donnie have the ambition to build and build, Paul’s the one who’s doing the actual work on the ground. Mark and Donnie are very involved with the expansion of theWahlburgers restaurants, but then they fly off to do their TV shows and movies and Paul’s the one who’s overseeing all of the tangible business operations. It’s hard work that he takes very seriously.”
While it’s truly entertaining to see familiar stars Mark and Donnie in a non-scripted role, the true stars of “Wahlburgers” are Paul and Alma whose genuine candor can’t be faked and certainly is not manipulated in any way here.
In fact, in one episode Donnie attempts to stir up family drama by instigating a contest between Paul and Alma featuring a ‘which is better’ taste testing featurng a marinara sauce made by Paul and Alma’s ‘famous homemade Italian sauce.’
The winner of the contest ends up being of little consequence to anyone when Alma, with no prompting at all, openly admits that her famous sauce isn’t even really her recipe. “A lady at the bank gave it to me,” she laughs. To which Donnie says, “Why are we surprised? She’s Irish, not Italian!”
Drachkovitch too laughs at this, admitting, “We get requests for her sauce and we have to tell people that it’s not her sauce, it’s from the lady at the bank.”
The original episode order for the show was for a pilot and eight additional installments, but after just a few airings, the series has been so well-received that a second season of 18 additional episodes has already been ordered by A&E.
Drachkovitch is certainly happy about this but a bit concerned about a few production challenges. “We really just have to figure out how to keep it moving given Mark and Donnie’s schedules.”
He did reveal that there’s a chance that a very special guest star might pop up in an upcoming episode. “We’re talking about incorporating Ted (from Mark’s hit film of the same name) into the show. Mark wants him to bust Paul’s balls. That would be a great ‘movie meets TV’ moment, right? I mean who else could make that happen but Mark Wahlberg?”
As of now, the future of “Wahlburgers” looks strong with Drachkovitch believing, “I think that we’ve just scratched the surface of where this show can go. There are so many stories to tell about this family – about their past and certainly about their future. And, with these strong personalities it’s a sure bet that there won’t be a dull moment.”
"Wahlburgers" airs Wednesdays at 10:30e/p on A&E.
For More information about the show, please visit the A&E website here.