Wahlberg's ability to morph into fitting into the clothing of all these characters is as impressive as his ability to be believable in all the roles. When I said as much, he thanked me—but not in the typical Hollywood "I know I'm awesome, but I shouldn't say it, so "I'm glad you did" demeanor you'd expect.
He stopped, thought for a second, and said, "I've always wanted to try to do it all. Right now, I'm shooting 12 hours per day, I go to bed early, get up at 4 a.m. to train, then I eat, take my supplements, spend some time on my lines, and get to work." He concluded the stream of consciousness simply by saying, "Hard work does pay off.
Truly a sentiment that the Mark Wahlberg many people like to talk about—the high school kid with an attitude—invoke on a routine basis because it highlights who he was.
And, indeed, you can tell his story as a dramatic turnaround, as many already have. But when you talk to Wahlberg, you can tell that the man he was certainly isn't who he is now, and that he hasn't been that kid in a very long time.
This is a seasoned, smart, savvy businessman who won't be acting for life—unless he chooses to. His evolution to becoming this powerhouse didn't happen overnight, but it's past transition now. There are no lurking skeletons in the closet or hidden secrets that will take him back to who he was.
In many ways, however, the reinvention of Mark Wahlberg and ultimately who he is today is vastly more impressive than any of his roles or anything he has done in his colorful past. "I start every day on my hands and knees in prayer," Wahlberg told me, eyeing me to see if I'd be a cynic or at all skeptical about the statement. I wasn't.
In fact, Wahlberg is clearly not playing the part of a devout Roman Catholic; it really is a big part of his life. Staying quiet, he could sense I was leaving it open for him to unpack the statement, especially in light of his youthful image and current roles where he carries more guns than rosaries.
He recounted an all-too-common story of being a kid who didn't have an option about attendance at Sunday mass, but now he openly says, "God is more important [in my life] now." He didn't preach it at all—he was just honest enough to say it, which is something many in the public eye stay away from. And maybe the Wahlberg of old, or many of his contemporaries, would sidestep being honest about something that personal, but as with anything in his life at the present time, he endeavors to be, as he told me, "as real as possible."
And that's exactly who Mark Wahlberg really is, a genuine article who has been through as much in life as he has onscreen and someone who has grown as a man and outside of the shadow of a persona.
I asked him if he had undergone any of these changes as a result of being a father. It was a soft question, but his answer was disproportionately intense. "Having daughters made me a real man," he told me with the tone of a dad who values being a protector and role model. It makes sense and seems to be a reflection of his current image in the public eye.
"I don't think about my public image," he said, almost anticipating my next question, "I can't control it. I just try to do the right thing." And he's very aware of making sure he's doing the right thing—so much so that when I was thanking him for taking the time to sit and talk (for much longer than anyone had promised—no doubt to the dismay of any handlers, producers, or the like), he asked me if there was anything else I needed to know.
It was a broad enough question that I figured I could answer with an equally broad query: "Who is the real Mark Wahlberg?" I asked. His answer didn't surprise me and had no hyperbole attached to it: "The real Mark Wahlberg is the most blessed individual ever, a devoted servant of God, humble with a huge appreciation for everything, and a hard worker."