Donnie Wahlberg is a busy man. He's deep in the midst of the meticulous planning for the massive New Kids on the Block/Backstreet Boys summer tour, but he's also got a full-time job portraying Detective Daniel Reagan on the CBS police drama Blue Bloods. "We just filmed a dinner scene and I ate about four pounds of that veal thing, osso bucco," he says. "I feel a little sick."
It's a 24/7 schedule few people would welcome, but Wahlberg says he thrives on it. "I don't sleep very much," he says. "I really like to work though. I feel like a kid in a candy store."
Things will get even crazier in April when he goes into production rehearsal with his fellow New Kids and the Backstreet Boys for their tour. In a tough economic climate, the tour has been a gigantic success: Sixteen shows were just added to the itinerary, bringing the grand total to 41. "There were naysayers when the New Kids first re-formed in 2008 and there were naysayers for this," Wahlberg says. "It's sort of vindicating after years of people thinking we were sort of a flash in the pan."
The idea of the two boy bands teaming up was first floated a year ago when somebody suggested that the Backstreet Boys might open up some New Kids shows. "I just thought that was ridiculous," says Wahlberg. "I didn't want to even insult them with that offer. That's a co-headlining show."
Last summer, the Backstreet Boys were the surprise guest at the New Kids' Radio City Music Hall show when they came onstage to sing "I Want It That Way." "It caused such a stir and we really got along with those guys," says Wahlberg. "We said 'hey, let's look into a co-headlining show.'"
At preview performances during the American Music Awards and New Year's Rocking Eve the two groups performed their hits together, but Wahlberg says that won't always be the case during the tour. "Backstreet Boys fans don't want to hear the New Kids singing all of their hits," he says. "Just like our fans don't want to hear the Backstreet Boys singing all of our hits. I think we'll pick our spots when we want to work together onstage. We'll do some big numbers together, and a few surprises."
Wahlberg is tight-lipped about what those surprises might be, but he does have his eye on the possibility of a duet with A.J. McLean. "I could see him and me rocking out or sitting down with a couple of acoustic guitars and doing something like 'Wanted Dead or Alive' by Bon Jovi," he says. "I like the kid and we get along great." (McLean is currently in rehab for the third time; he has said he wanted to go in before the tour started.)
Kevin Richardson left the Backstreet Boys in 2006, though he has returned for the occasional special appearance. "He made his choice and that's the Backstreet Boys' situation to deal with," says Wahlberg. "If they wanted him back it wouldn't be a problem for us. Whatever he decides is up to him. As much as we're two bands teaming up, we're still two separate bands and their business is still ultimately their business."
Early on there were rumors that Boyz II Men were going to join the tour, but Wahlberg shoots those down. "That's not happening at this point," he says. "We're definitely planning a lot of surprises and we're in discussions with different people. We're all fans of Boyz II Men, but the momentum was so strong with these two bands after Radio City that this was just the way it had to be."
Though two of the three biggest boy bands of the past few decades are touring together, there are no indications that 'NSync are planning a reunion. Does Donnie think that Justin Timberlake will ever return to his boy band — and possibly one day tour with the New Kids? "That's up to those guys, and quite frankly it's probably up to Justin Timberlake," he says. "If that's something he decides to do, then he'll do it. It really has no bearing on us. I just have one goal right now: Make this tour as great as it can be and make every person that bought a ticket go home happy."