Duo learn to work the HBO brand
Steve Levinson, who has been Mark Wahlberg’s partner at Leverage Management for nearly two decades, attributes the star’s success as a producer to several reasons.
“His acting career really informs his approach to producing, and over the years he’s learned pretty much every facet of the business,” Levinson explains. “He’s been in many situations where his personal touch has really helped out.”
Wahlberg’s partner cites specific situations involving Kevin Connolly on “Entourage” and another involving Luis Guzman on “How to Make it in America.”
“Mark was very helpful and ultimately instrumental in making them comfortable and then committing fully to those projects,” he notes. “So Mark takes a very workmanlike, can-do approach to every creative endeavor, and it usually pays off.”
When Wahlberg’s own acting commitments keep him too busy to be able to visit the sets of “Entourage” and the other shows, Levinson picks up the slack. “But otherwise he’s very present and very available,” he reports.
Similarly, the development process of bringing “Boardwalk Empire” to the smallscreen hinged on Wahlberg’s personal involvement. “After we’d found the book, it was Mark who called Marty and got the whole thing moving,” says Levinson, “so it all worked because of his great relationships and friendships.”
Wahlberg’s long relationship with HBO and executives Michael Lombardo, Sue Naegle and Richard Plepler is another “big factor,” Levinson says. Leverage now has four shows with HBO with others in development.
“And importantly, it’s never been a vanity deal as it relates to Mark. It’s simply not the way he works,” says Levinson.
According to Lombardo, the relationship has flourished because “Mark has a great eye for what works on HBO — he really understands our brand and the kind of shows that make sense for us, which is not the case with every producer. He also has an unerring eye for getting it right, whether it’s a drama like ‘In Treatment’ or a comedy like ‘Entourage.’?”
Lombardo notes that Wahlberg’s producing role on “Entourage” is “obviously much more hands-on, as he was the inspiration for the whole show, so he’s very involved in the storytelling and much more concerned about the accuracy of the world that’s presented.”
On other shows, such as “Boardwalk Empire,” his participation is a little more nuanced. “He knows to play a different role, albeit a critical one, because of Marty and Terence,” Lombardo adds. “Like all good producers, he knows how to accommodate his role to each situation.”