When it comes to his own music, Mark Wahlberg jokes, “I try not to look back on it,” and adds, concerning his kids, “I try to keep it as far away from them as possible.”
So, no reunion of Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch will be forthcoming, but Mr. Wahlberg will be coming through here in a semi-musical capacity Thursday, appearing at Stage AE to introduce a concert by the rock band 3 Doors Down.
The star actor’s purpose is two-fold, as the concert is a benefit celebrating MARKED, his new line of performance nutrition products for the Pittsburgh-based GNC. A portion of ticket sales will be donated to support the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation and the Pressley Ridge Foundation.
“I spent 15 years trying to find out what was good for you and what wasn’t, and I’ve always wanted to be in the health and wellness business,” he says. “People have approached me about endorsing certain products and stuff, but I met with Joe Fortunato and Tom Dowd [of GNC] and we hit it off, and I told them I desired to be in the business and what I wanted to do: that I wanted to start with vitamins and supplements and eventually create inner-city gyms, stuff like that, really try to attack obesity. I want to create opportunities for those who can’t afford to have a trainer and a nutritionist to come to a place where they can learn about fitness and nutrition, and encourage people to live healthy lives. So this is kind of like a starting point.”
From those Calvin Klein underwear billboards in 1992 that showed off his killer abs to his Golden Globe-nominated role in 2010′s “The Fighter,” the 41-year-old actor from Boston has been known to be in great shape. He’s put that body to the test a few times for his roles, especially of late.
“I put on 40 pounds for ‘Pain & Gain,’ which is the body-building movie I did with Michael Bay, and then I had to drop 30 of it right away for ’2 Guns,’ which is the movie I did with Denzel Washington.”
In “Pain & Gain,” Mr. Wahlberg, who scored big this summer with the comedy “Ted,” goes back into action with Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson as part of a gang of Miami bodybuilders wrapped up in kidnapping, extortion and murder. For “2 Guns,” derived from the Steven Grant graphic novel and also coming in 2013, they didn’t want him to look quite so formidable as a naval officer who teams with a DEA agent for an undercover operation.
The physicality of a role obviously doesn’t discourage him.
“There’s a few things that go into the decision-making process. It’s about the material, it’s about the part, it’s about the filmmaker. I usually look for roles where I can kind of transform myself in some sort of way. And I also try to find roles that I can connect to in some personal or emotional way, so there’s a lot of factors.”
In addition to those movies, he’s about to star with Catherine Zeta-Jones and Russell Crowe in “Broken City,” a crime thriller shot in New Orleans that’s described as being in the “Chinatown” vein.
One of the other balls in the air is executive producing the big-screen version of “Entourage,” the HBO comedy that was loosely based on his circle of friends and associates early in his career.
“The screenplay is finally finished,” he says, “and hopefully we’ll be in production no later than the spring for Christmas release later next year, or we’ll figure out the best time to put it out, but we’re really excited about it. It’s been a long time coming.”
The actor is juggling all these projects while raising four children — two girls and two boys ages 2 to 9 — with wife/model Rhea Durham.
“I just make sure that I plan my days wisely,” he says. “If I’ve got to be working or training for work I’m up at 4:30 in the morning. I get as much done as possible before the kids wake up, and we get the kids up and off to school. But right now, about to start my fourth movie in like 12 months, it’s been hard. I’m making sure I’m home every weekend, and the kids are coming and visiting me. It’s hard, but I gotta make it work while I can.”
Clearly, his kids are enjoying a very different upbringing than his own as the youngest of nine children to a Teamster dad and mom who was a nurse’s aide and bank teller. Prior to becoming a rapper and getting his first role in 1993′s “The Substitute,” he roamed the streets as a violent gang member who ended up in prison. That’s a big part of why he established the Mark Wahlberg Youth Foundation in May 2001.
“The most effective thing is to be able to communicate with them directly,” he says of the kids, “because once they realize I came from the same kind of place as them, and was able to accomplish my dreams and goals, they can identify with me on a very personal level. I just tell them that things may be difficult, but if there’s a will, there’s a way, and with hard work and determination, you can create your destiny, with our help, the opportunities we create for you, give you a better chance of education, inspire you to go into the arts. Because, I never had anyone trying to create opportunities for me and I was very fortunate, but unfortunately, most of my friends weren’t. Me, I’ve always had the desire. I just needed the opportunity. They realize if I could do it, they could do it.”