Joey McIntyre Talks Becoming A TV Regular On ‘The McCarthys,’ The NKOTB Days And Fatherhood
To say that life begins at 40 may seem like an odd concept for someone who sold millions of records, became a household name and was named one of Forbes’ highest-paid entertainers all before the age of 20.
But when Joey McIntyre marked his 40th birthday last year, the New Kids on the Block singer was only getting started on revving up his resume as he prepared to star alongside Sandra Bullock in “The Heat,” release NKOTB’s sixth studio album “10,” run the Boston marathon and put on a one-man play about his life. Now approaching 42, the Boston native continues to outdo himself.
Instead of being the star of his own play, he’s just been cemented in a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Rather than simply releasing records, NKOTB are playing musical residencies in Las Vegas. Instead of just completing the marathon, he cut his time by nine minutes. And in perhaps his biggest acting accomplishment yet, film and television cameos have been replaced by a lead role in a primetime sitcom.
Kicking off October 30 on CTV, Joey stars alongside Laurie Metcalf (“Roseanne”) and Tyler Ritter (yes, of the Ritter family) in “The McCarthys,” a comedy about a sports-crazed, Boston family. After three decades in showbiz, it was only a matter of time before the father-of-three landed his dream acting gig, a sitcom combining his love of live performance with his natural comedic flair.
“I’ve always felt like I have a comic’s heart as far as that need to get on stage, be willing to make mistakes and feel uncomfortable,” he says. “That helps me be a good actor. With this I’m bringing that comedy out, but in a real way because the more truthful it is, the funnier it is. Gerard is controlling, wants it a certain way and thinks if people would listen to him more the world would be a better place — that was my M.O. for a while!
“Looking back, it was stressful and put off people in my life. Like the New Kids — people you love and who love you. Now, I’m finally becoming half an adult in my working and personal life and can be more go-with-the-flow — which is not what Gerard is about. So to grow and become a better person, but still have the insight to play the character, is a treat.”
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Indeed, those Gerard traits sparked multiple conflicts when Joey joined NKOTB, aged 12. As the youngest, he was frequently pranked and picked on.
“They were 15-16 and I was 12 which was a huge difference at that age so we felt it,” he recalls. “Me and Donnie used to go at it because we came from similar families and were very similar. Luckily we loved each other enough to stick it out and it was just the times of pressure that got to us. In some ways, with us getting back together, I had to relive all that because all of a sudden you’re back in that dynamic. We were grown-ups and had lives outside the group then suddenly were thrown back in, which was a lot of fun but also hard for me.
“But we’re lucky to be able to stay together — it’s been six years, which gave me time to work that out and it’s been amazing.”
When NKOTB disbanded in 1994, the members all faced their own struggles as their speedy ride to fame jerked to a sudden halt, leaving them to ponder what to do with life.
As the youngest, Joey could have easily fallen down the destructive path like so many young Hollywood stars before him. He admits making up for lost teenage years with wild partying, but credits his family for helping him avoid problems like addiction.
“Being the youngest of nine and having people in my life that have hit their own bottom and came back up … I couldn’t fall too hard without them saving me. At the end of the day if you’re an addict, you’re going to go that way no matter what. Whether you’re going to college or used to be in a boy band, that’s your path and thankfully I didn’t have that. I partied, made mistakes and went, ‘What the hell am I doing?’ but rode it through and kept showing up and being willing to risk failure.
“Through those years I did Broadway, solo albums, TV. From a distance I was doing a lot when, sure, internally I had to work stuff out. But I was in my 20s and who’s thriving in their 20s? The majority of us are trying to figure it out … I’m still trying to figure it out!”
Appearing in TV shows like “Boston Public” and “90210” and films including “New Year’s Eve,” it’s acting which has always been Joey’s biggest passion outside of NKOTB, and something he has continued pursuing since the band’s 2008 reunion. But like any other actor, he’s had to work hard to establish himself in hard-to-crack Hollywood. While NKOTB may make him a recognizable name, it often limits the industry’s perceptions of what he’s capable of on-screen. So with job offers “not exactly rolling in,” he went about creating small projects, like “Mad Men” parodies on Funny or Die to help showcase his abilities.
Age has also improved his attitude towards the auditioning.
“Now I go into a room and bring me to the table. I’m not going to twist myself to please them because it’s not up to me whether I’m right for the role. The only thing I can do is be genuine. I needed to get that clarity and be OK with whatever happened instead of trying to control something I couldn’t. You either have it or you don’t, so you just have to get into that [audition] room. I’ve been doing that these last few years with guest spots and staying active, hoping the right role would come along — and it has.”
“The McCarthys” is centered on family and his own family life couldn’t be better, thanks to his wife of 11 years, Barrett Williams. The pair met when realtor Barrett showed Joey a house in LA, and having grown up in the New York arts scene, she has a crucial understanding of what it takes to work in the entertainment business. Joey credits her support for his continued success — even if it often goes unrewarded.
“She’s a stay-at-home mom and that’s what drives her, but it’s not easy. Sometimes we get excited about the New Kids doing well or me getting ‘The McCarthys,’ but other times it’s like, ‘Oh man — three kids, aged six, four-and-a-half and three!’ It’s the best of times and craziest of times, and to balance it out I sometimes wish she could go on a trip, or just us on our own. I’ve got to figure that out because she’s really dedicated and deserves it. You can love a million people, but I don’t think you can be in love with a lot of people, and she makes me believe in fate and that it’s meant to be.”
Their two sons, Rhys and Griffin, and daughter Kira are also a driving force, often joining Joey on stage, and standing by his side when NKOTB received their Walk of Fame star recently. With Rhys born with severe hearing loss, fatherhood has been challenging, but full of proud milestones. Griffin just received his first paycheque — $50 — for recitals performed at LA’s Debbie Allen Dance Academy, a diverse performance environment which reminds Joey of his own Boston upbringing. It’s Boston that shaped him, and his musical Boston brothers who have influenced his greatest role, as a father. Jordan, Donnie and Danny all became parents before he did and have left their marks on his parenting approach.
“Everybody’s got certain traits and sensibilities and it’s great to have guys that you love and trust, who you can learn from just by hanging with them. Jordan, for instance, is so laid-back, so his kids are laid-back. I’m not as laid-back so my kids aren’t! Danny is hilarious with his girls. He is hardcore … doesn’t mess around. Donnie, I don’t really see what he does, but his oldest was in Vegas and he’s a great, sweet kid and it was like, ‘Wow — how did that happen?’ I hope my kids can grow up that way too. So I learn from everyone and all I can do as a parent is lead by example, which is the most challenging thing in the world. If I want my kids to have good attitudes, I have to have a good attitude. I don’t want to shame them into not doing things by going, ‘How dare you?’
Whether his children follow him into showbiz or not, he hopes the biggest lesson he instills in them is that despite their at-times privileged Hollywood life, success requires hard work and money doesn’t buy happiness.
“As long as they know what it takes and that you have to ride the wave, they’ll be fine. Yes, we live in Hollywood and I get to work in this business, but we’re just a normal family dealing with problems. We’re lucky and have some privileges, but that’s not what makes us happy. It’s how we spend our time together and knowing that there are different ways to live life.”
“The McCarthys” premieres on Thursday, October 30 at 9:30 p.m. ET on CTV in Canada and on CBS in the U.S.