Mark Wahlberg: From Star To TV Power Player

10/08/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

WHATEVER else comes to mind in connection with the actor Mark Wahlberg, who first gained national attention by dropping his pants as Marky Mark on stage during rap concerts and posing in Calvin Klein underwear ads, one thing now stands out in the public's mind. "I don't care what I'm doing, what filmmaker I've worked with," Mr. Wahlberg said in an interview over lunch at the Beverly Hills Hotel, "people spend 20 minutes talking about the project I'm involved with and then they mention 'Entourage.' "

It even happens at church, which Mr. Wahlberg attends regularly. "Young, old, men, women, black, white, everywhere I go," he said. They all want to know about "Entourage."

More or less a chronicle of Mr. Wahlberg's own ascension as a Hollywood leading man and the enviably sybaritic life that has followed, "Entourage" was an instant sensation among voyeurs wondering what celebrity life might really be like, and among young men who like to dream of wealth and indolence. Now, heading into its fifth season on Sunday with three Emmy Awards under its belt and five fresh nominations, the show has become a powerful calling card and more for Mr. Wahlberg, one of its producers.

In fact, even as Mr. Wahlberg continues to win starring roles in movies like "Max Payne" and "The Lovely Bones," "Entourage" is proving to be the first step in a long-term plan Mr. Wahlberg hatched years ago with his partner, Stephen Levinson, to become formidable players in the television business.

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