The first time anyone really had a hint of some acting talent in Mark Wahlberg was after he had gotten past his Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch hip-hop days. An early attempt in film, opposite Leonardo DiCaprio in “The Basketball Diaries” (1995), earned critical plaudits and a couple of years later “Boogie Nights” gained him movie stardom. Before long, his music career behind him, he was landing roles as action heroes (“Planet of the Apes,” in comedies “I Heart Huckabees”), in serious dramas (“The Departed”), and in more comedies (“Daddy’s Home” and “Daddy’s Home 2”). For “Instant Family,” in which he plays a regular fellow, married to a down-to-earth wife (Rose Byrne), who both decide to try out foster parenting and maybe even adoption, he pulls off a combination of comedy and drama (leaning more toward the comic side). Wahlberg took a break from filming the gritty “Wonderland,” starring as Robert Parker’s private eye Spenser, to talk about “Instant Family,” his own family and how his career has been evolving.
Q: What drew you to a serio-comic family film about the fostering community?
A: I had already worked with (writer-director) Sean Anders in the “Daddy’s Home” films, I spoke briefly with Sean about this one, and I actually committed to it before I even saw the script. I had an experience at a sort of adoption fair in Boston. I was supposed to be there to give words of encouragement, to give the kids a boost, and they ended up inspiring me. I spoke with a 14-year-old boy who had a couple of siblings who were all in the system. He said to me, “Dude, nobody’s going to adopt me, but I’m OK; I’m getting a great education, and I’m going to accomplish a lot of things, and I’m excited about my future.” Being a dad, I couldn’t help but getting a little emotional, and when Sean told me about the film, I knew it was something I wanted to be a part of right away.
Q: In the film you and Rose do some trial fostering of three siblings — two very young kids and a teenager. You have a teenage daughter. Did you pick up anything about parenting while making the film?
A: I’m in the thick of it all, so it’s like there’s never a dull moment. Every day when Isabela (Moner) was playing the part of the teenaged Lizzy, and throwing attitude, especially toward her mom, I was actually dealing with that on the phone, on FaceTime, in real life. So, she reminded me a lot of my daughter. But even before that, when we were making “Daddy’s Home 2,” I was constantly getting called in to referee disputes between my wife and my daughter, and next thing you know, they all ended up in the script for “Instant Family.” (laughs)
Q: Was it a nice break for you to do a family comedy after recent things like “Mile 22,” “Patriots Day,” and “Deepwater Horizon?”
A: You know, just to be able to sit on a couch on a soundstage, talking to people, no explosions, nobody beating the crap out of me, was great. The other day (filming “Wonderland”), I got attacked by a German Shepherd, I got run over by two cars, and that was all before lunch. So it was nice to be able to switch to this.
Q: You produced “Instant Family,” and you’ve done quite a bit of producing over the past decade. Is there any effect on your acting when you’re both producing and starring in a film?
A: No, I think I still always have the same approach. I try to be as prepared as possible, and become the part, and make it as real as possible. I’ve probably changed because I’ve matured and grown and had more real-life experience, so that certainly has an effect (on my acting). And I kind of stopped caring what people think, which allows me to be more comfortable in my own skin. I can embrace the fact that I’m now playing a dad, and if I’m lucky, in five or 10 years I’ll be playing a granddad. It’s a good thing. I’m embracing getting older.
“Instant Family” opens on Nov. 16.
— Ed Symkus writes about movies for More Content Now. He can be reached at email@example.com.