Donnie Wahlberg on Why We're Fascinated with Serial Killers
Since Blue Bloods halted production in March, Donnie Wahlberg (Det. Danny Reagan) has co-hosted his wife Jenny McCarthy’s radio show, recorded a music video for charity and done a couple hundred Zooms with New Kids on the Block fans. The true-crime aficionado also filmed Season 2 of Very Scary People, the serial killer docuseries he hosts for HLN.
He catches us up on the show, which airs Sunday nights at 9/8c. (The premiere on July 12 covered NYC’s infamous Son of Sam and July 19 investigates the self-named “BTK” torturer and killer, who terrorized Wichita Kansas from 1974-1991.)
You told me after you filmed the first season that you’d like Very Scary People to run for a long time. Why?
Donnie Wahlberg: It is a conundrum. It’s a fascinating show. I like crime shows, so it’s a genre that I enjoy. I hope, however, that there aren’t a lot more scary people coming up; I think there’s enough out there that we haven’t learned about that we can explore on the show. In terms of its information and quality, I love being a part of it. Hopefully, we can keep it on a historical level.
After two seasons under your belt, what’s your take on predators like the BTK killer, the Night Stalker (July 26) and the Co-Ed Killer (Aug. 2) profiled on the show?
They all have trauma in their upbringings. There’s thrill and attention-seeking [involved], and a power they get from hurting people that’s hard to fathom. That’s what we’re trying to understand: Where does the need for that power come from? Why does it happen in this way?
Most serial killers are men, mainly white, as are those you cover here.
That is accurate, and I’m not sure why.. We did do Aileen Wuornos who had similar traumas to many serial killers. That’s something that as we go forward with the show, maybe we can try and understand more.
Is it ever disconcerting when someone tells you they enjoy Very Scary People?
I don’t think they like the bad guys. It’s fascinating to see how investigations can go on so long and then something little [is uncovered] that changes.
What are some other favorite true crime shows?
I love Forensic Files. It’s a show that I can turn on anytime and binge ten episodes back-to-back. Earlier this year Netflix’s Don’t F**** with Cats was one of my favorites. It was jarring and uncomfortable.
Was the show shot before or during the COVID-19 pandemic? Did you shoot your hosting parts of the show at home? If not, where?
The shows were all produced pre-COVID, but because of the shut-down we had to delay the air date and I didn’t shoot any of my stuff until later. We had talked about shooting my parts in my house or in a vacant hotel and I could have shot it myself with a camera, but after the delay I ended up shooting in a studio. It wasn’t the haunted house venue we usually use and I have very limited contact with any of the few people there. Some of the producers are on different floors of the building watching on video and sending notes through walkie-talkies.
How strange is that?
We’re still in the process, but everything is different now since COVID came along, including going to the supermarket. So in some ways it’s different, but it’s not difficult. People have real difficulty having to figure out how to do their job, and some don’t have a job, so I have nothing to complain about. I also recorded a song during quarantine and made a music video. It was a charity song for No Kid Hungry called “House Party.” It came out in April and was hugely successful. I did it with a bunch of different artists around the country. The process of mailing microphones and sanitizing them and everyone having to record their parts at home by themselves and then record their video part and then send it to me to get edited was really unusual, but there are very few people whose work is the same.
What else did you do during the quarantine period?
I’ve been at home with my family. Jenny and I have an at-risk child who is immune-compromised, so we’ve had to be really disciplined and safe at home. I had a cruise with my band that was cancelled — we did a virtual cruise — and we recently cancelled our Fenway Park concert. I've done a couple of hundred Zooms with groups of fans from around the world, including from Germany, Spain and Argentina. Co-hosting Jenny’s radio with her for over 3 ½ months and talking to people and experts about what we’ve all been experiencing has been a really positive experience.
Did you discover a favorite show or three to watch when you were locked down in the house with your wife and son?
We watched Tiger King like everyone else, and The Last Dance. The Last Dance was really fun for my son because he’s a huge basketball fan. To explain Michael Jordan to him and the Chicago Bulls, was a new level of understanding just how great they were.
Very Scary People, Sundays, 9/8c, HLN
In part 2 of the interview with Donnie Wahlberg posting on Friday, the actor/musician talks about 'Blue Bloods' and what we might expect after the nationwide protests calling for police reform.