Donnie Wahlberg has been impressed by the power of his Twitter follower army (180,000+ strong) before, but events of the past five months have taken his awe to a new level.
“I helped a fan get a kidney for a transplant. Well, my Twitter followers did. It’s really amazing,” the “Blue Bloods” and New Kids on the Block star tells this column exclusively. “Some fans made sure I got a message about this woman who needed a transplant, and she ended up with three matches. I can’t take credit. It’s this circle of energy we have. I’m the central figure for these followers. It’s a shared credit with them. I feel blessed and grateful to be a part of it.”
It all started when New Kids on the Block fan Bobbette Miller of Nashville was told that her kidney condition had reached the point she would need a transplant, and her best friend Abbie Vicknair went into action. Abbie was not a candidate for donation herself, so “I figured I’d do what I know how to do best, and that’s talk,” she recalls with a laugh. “I wrote a blog about Bobbette’s story. New Kids fans started retweeting it. The next thing I knew, it was coming off of Donnie Wahlberg’s Twitter page, too.”
That was in December of last year. “By the beginning part of January, they already had a list of people getting tested. I know of 20 people who said they were getting tested,” she says. “The hospital said they’d never seen such an outpouring of people.”
The groundswell of support for Miller continued to grow. “There were also people who decided that, while they couldn’t donate an organ, they would become blood donors or plasma donors. While Bobbette is getting the immediate help, the impact is going beyond her,” Vicknair says.
Miller’s surgery is now scheduled for June. Vicknair’s a long time Danny Wood NKOTB girl. But her BFF “Bobbette is very much a Donnie girl.”
The news of Miller’s plight came up when we asked Wahlberg for an example of his most outstanding Twitter exchange, and he was discussing the hour he spent in a Twitter session with fans last week to help promote “Blue Bloods.” As his Twitter followers know, however, his presence in that particular social networking arena is “nothing new. I’m a Twitter-aholic.”
He starts tweeting in the makeup chair at five a.m. and goes ’til bedtime, some days. “My Twitter followers are pretty amazing. They network so well. They’ve mastered Twitter. Whenever they tweet something I should hear, they retweet until I get the message….When someone is sick, or loses a loved one. If someone is stuck outside of a concert. I’ve had people tweet me from outside my trailer, and then I’ll pop out and say hi.”
Meanwhile, Wahlberg is transitioning this week between his policeman’s badge and his microphone.
He’s just wrapping his work on this season’s production of “Blue Bloods” — and “I’m going straight into rehearsals for the New Kids on the Block and Backstreet Boys tour this weekend.
“It’s going to be a great way to spend the summer. Our first date is in Chicago May 25,” says Wahlberg, referring to the upcoming concert trek by the two-boy band supergroup, whose initial round of ticket sales were so hot, they crashed both bands’ websites.
“I’m very excited for the tour, but right now, we’re doing such a big season finale episode of ‘Blue Bloods,’ I’m really compartmentalizing,” he says of the May 13 episode. “I want this to be the best episode of ‘Blue Bloods’ yet. It’s really emotional.”
This is the end of a long stint of double duty for the star, who has been flying back and forth between L.A. planning meetings for NKOTBSB and New York filming of the series about a family of cops, in which he plays the son of Tom Selleck’s police commissioner character. Donnie’s been doing a lot of the heavy lifting in his character of Danny Reagan, the Iraq war veteran and former marine who is now a hard-nosed NYPD detective.
“The hours on the show are pretty crazy, but I knew what I was getting into,” he tells us. “Doing a drama series, I knew the kind of hours I’d be faced with. What I didn’t account for was the tour. The two, three hours I can sleep I work on music for the tour.”
He admits, “Four years ago, if someone had told me I’d be touring with New Kids on the Block, I’d have said they were crazy. If they’d said we’d be going out as a supergroup with Backstreet Boys, I’d have told them they were insane. But it’s happening.”
He makes it clear he’s not complaining about his long hours. “I’ve been acting for a long time now, and this is the most happy I’ve been in terms of my cast mates, our writers. I’m in a really great place. It’s the most fun I’ve had as an actor my whole career,” he says.
How long has he been fitting in NKOTBSB work between camera calls?
“Pretty much the whole first season,” he says, “but it’s been really good for me. What I mean is, it may seem daunting, it may seem tiring, but I really need the balance of both. I thrive on it actually…I just think I love both things equally. I give them each my full commitment, but they take a different kind of energy. I thnk have enough in the tank for both.”
Wahlberg says of the tour schedule, “We’ll go up to the start of ‘Blue Bloods’ production for next season. Then maybe during hiatus, go out again.”
“Blue Bloods” is aiming to finish off its Season 1 in a blue blaze of glory, with episodes coming up that get more and more intense for Danny Reagan. The series has won critical acclaim and ardent and loyal fans, but ratings watchers and other TV pundits are murmuring about its insecure future.
“I don’t think it’s on the bubble at all. I don’t know what that thinking is about,” says Wahlberg. “I don’t know how a show that’s drawing 12 1/2 million viewers on a Friday is on the bubble. After ‘CSI: New York,’ there’s nothing even close. Nothing surprises me in any business any more, but I have to think if any show deserves a shot, it’s ‘Blue Bloods.'”