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Before ‘Blue Bloods’ Comes to an End, Take a Look Back on the Career of Donnie Wahlberg

From his New Kids on the Block fame and beyond!

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Donald Edmond “Donnie” Wahlberg, Jr. was not always on the right side of the law as he currently is in numerous movies and TV shows, specifically his role of First Grade Detective Danny Reagan on the police drama, Blue Bloods. The actor was charged with first degree arson in 1991, but did his mea culpa with public service videos addressing fire safety, drug abuse and drunk driving.

Despite the scattered hiccups in his personal life, Wahlberg has proven himself a talented actor and musician, being a founding member of boy band New Kids on the Block at age 15. Young Donnie had a love for music and obsessed over Michael Jackson videos, practicing his choreography every day. The boys went on to sell over 70 million albums worldwide and gave way to other boy bands throughout the 80s and early 90s.

New Kids on the Block,  Danny Wood, Jordan Knight, Joey McIntyre,  Jonathan Knight and Donnie Wahlberg, 1985
New Kids on the Block, Danny Wood, Jordan Knight, Joey McIntyre, Jonathan Knight and Donnie Wahlberg, 1985John Nordell/Getty Images

Born in Boston, Massachusetts, the eighth of nine children, Wahlberg discovered a positive outlet from his rebellious nature by performing in school plays and became involved with various aspects of theater – from acting to writing to directing.  

Wahlberg made the leap from pop music to his big screen debut in the urban Mickey Rourke film Bullet (1996) as, what else, a tough guy thug. Later that year, he moved up the quality ladder with Ron Howard’s thriller Ransom, cast as part of a gang of kidnappers.

The next year, Wahlberg continued in his amoral heavy mode as a drug dealer in the horror film Black Circle Boys. But before long, he stepped out of the shadow of his brother Mark and came into his own, with raves for his tense and compelling character work, culminating with his current role on Blue Bloods.

Bridget Moynahan, Tom Selleck and Donnie Wahlberg, 2024
Bridget Moynahan, Tom Selleck and Donnie Wahlberg, 2024Jose Perez/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

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Here’s a look at some of Donnie Wahlberg’s most powerful roles over the years.

Donnie Wahlberg movies

Southie (1998)

Wahlberg played Danny Quinn, a South Boston Irish bad boy who returns to the mean streets of his neighborhood and grapples with which side of the fence he will land on – his pals who are supported by one Irish mafia clan, and his family who are members of the other.

The Sixth Sense (1999)

You might not have recognized Wahlberg in this brief role of Vincent Grey, a deranged former psychiatric patient of Bruce Willis who sets the film’s many twists and turns in motion.

His opening sequence was jarring, not only in its horrific violence, but also to see that Wahlberg had lost 43 pounds for the role.

Dreamcatcher (2003)

He’s the mentally challenged Duddits in the adaptation of the Stephen King alien-invasion thriller. A group of friends go on a camping trip, but the town they’re vacationing in is being plagued in an unusual fashion by parasitic beings.  

Saw II (2005), Saw III (2006) and Saw IV (2007)

Wahlberg burst into this horror franchise in the second movie playing Detective Eric Matthews, a disgraced cop tasked, along with his team, with rescuing eight people trapped in a factory and capturing the demented killer, Jigsaw.

To hide the ending on Saw II, most of the actors weren’t given the last 25 pages of the script — Only the principal actors involved in the sequence knew what was going to happen.

Donnie Wahlberg TV shows

Band of Brothers (2001)

Wahlberg proved he could really act with his gripping performance as Second Lt. C. Carwood Lipton in a major role as a WWII paratrooper. This 10-part critically acclaimed miniseries told the story of “E” Easy Company, 506th Regiment of the 101st Airborne Division, starting in 1942 to the end of World War II. A moving story of ordinary men in extraordinary circumstances.

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Boomtown (2002): Donnie Wahlberg Movies and TV Shows

Wahlberg starred as Joel Stevens, a Los Angeles police detective, alongside Jason Gedrick and Neal McDonough in this harsh look at the lives of law men, reporters and EMTs. The show was a bit much for network TV and would have fared better on cable, But Wahlberg’s spot-on take of playing a detective would follow him to Blue Bloods.  

Executive producer and writer of the series, Graham Yost, had worked with Wahlberg in Band of Brothers and was so impressed by his performance, that he wrote the role of Joel Stevens just for him.

Runaway (2006): Donnie Wahlberg Movies and TV Shows

Wahlberg did land the lead as Paul Rader in this short-lived TV drama. Rader was unjustly convicted of a violent crime and he and his family are on the run with new identities. He lives in fear that somehow, somewhere, someone will accidentally reveal the family’s dark secret.  

The Kill Point (2007): Donnie Wahlberg Movies and TV Shows

Not a member of law enforcement in this series, Wahlberg as Captain Horst Callie returns home with a group of his military vet friends after serving in Iraq. They band together to pull off a major bank heist.

Very Scary People (2019-2023): Donnie Wahlberg Movies and TV Shows

Wahlberg serves as host for this true crime series that revisits the twisted lives of some of the most frightening people behind monstrous acts who are eventually brought to justice. The diabolical characters run the gamut from The Iceman to Son of Sam.

Blue Bloods (2010-2024): Donnie Wahlberg Movies and TV Shows

The long-running series is a police procedural drama that revolves around an Irish Catholic family in New York City with a long history in law enforcement. Starring Tom Selleck as NYC Police Commissioner Frank Reagan, additional cast includes Bridget Moynahan, Will Estes and Len Cariou.

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Wahlberg plays Danny Reagan, the oldest son within the fictional law enforcement dynasty, as an NYPD detective. CBS recently said this will be the last season for the drama, which has elicited many comments from the cast and audience alike.  

Danny is a very layered character,” says Wahlberg to Nerds of Color, reflecting on how his on screen alter-ego has grown over the years. “He was very affectionate with his wife, he’s fun with his kids, but he’s also who he is. He’s straightforward, can be tough and a little gruff at times; he’s sort of a hard-nosed cop. Linda’s passing [Danny’s wife] was the first real change point for him to become a little more grounded and grateful.“  

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In a recent appearance on The Kelly Clarkson Show, Wahlberg gave fans a glimmer of hope that the show may continue in some form after the final eight episodes in the fall.

I’m gonna miss it. I’m still in denial. Until it’s gone, it’s not going away, as far as I’m concerned. And maybe there’s some way it will still end up surviving and carrying on in a different way. It’s truly been an amazing run; I love it so much.” 


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