Before Gen Zers went bonkers for BTS, or millennials melted down over Backstreet Boys, there was New Kids on the Block (NKOTB). For almost a decade, the boy band—comprised of five unknown kids from the Boston area: Donnie Wahlberg, Joey McIntyre, Danny Wood, and brothers Jordan and Jonathan Knight—defined the pop culture zeitgeist. Their second album, Hangin’ Tough, went eight-times platinum and cranked out five top ten hits. You’d be hard-pressed to find a teenage girl in the early ’90s who didn’t have a favorite member.
But after breaking records for record, concert, and merch sales, the group disbanded to make way for the grunge era. In 2008, KNOTB tried to stage a comeback with a new album, The Block. They were honored with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2014, then spent the following years performing on throwback tours with fellow artists of their era (Paula Abdul, Boyz II Men, Debbie Gibson, Naughty by Nature, etc…)
Even though they are now decidedly past their prime, we can’t help but wonder what they’re up to these days. Let’s take a look at where the members of New Kids on the Block are today.
It’s no wonder Donnie Wahlberg was hand-picked as the original member of NKOTB. His talent is the real deal and it’s serving him well, long after the pop music-era of his life.
Wahlberg, 51, had enjoyed a successful acting career since 1996. On the big screen, he’s appeared in Ransom (directed by Ron Howard), The Sixth Sense, and three installments of the horror film series Saw.
On television, Wahlberg scored roles on the acclaimed miniseries Band of Brothers and NBC’s Boomtown. Currently, he’s set to appear on his eleventh season of the CBS police-themed drama Blue Bloods. Wahlberg, who plays Detective Danny Fitzgerald, stars alongside Tom Selleck and Bridget Moynihan.
Crime is apparently a fascinating subject for Wahlberg. When he’s not filming Blue Bloods, he’s the host of HLN’s Very Scary People. The show, which debuted its second season in July, details the lives of history’s most infamous criminals.
The former boy-band bad boy-turned serious actor also has a playful side. From 2014-2019, he starred in Wahlburgers—a reality show about the burger chain he owns with brothers Mark and Paul. The unscripted series ran for 10 seasons and earned two Emmy nominations.
It also launched a spin-off. Following Wahlberg’s 2014 marriage to Jenny McCarthy, A&E aired three seasons of Donnie Loves Jenny, which chronicled their lives as newlyweds. These days they’ve switched to a podcast format, with Wahlberg co-hosting The Jenny McCarthy Show to pass the time during quarantine.
The oldest member of NKOTB was also the first to leave. In 1994, Jonathan Knight exited the group in the middle of a tour for their album Face the Music. While the band tried to do damage control by telling the public that he was out with an injury, they announced an official split weeks later.
Since then, Knight has kept a very low profile. In a 2000 interview with People, he revealed that the pressures of fame had sent him over the edge.
“Sometimes, back then, it got real scary,” he said. He admits that being a teen idol was “more fun than unfun,” but “I had lots of anxiety attacks. Those attacks had a big impact on my determining to leave the entertainment industry.”
Knight retreated to a rural area in Massachusetts, where he found a new life as a real estate developer.
However, in 2011, he found himself back in the spotlight—this time to clarify rumors about his sexual orientation. Former teen pop star Tiffany had “revealed” that Knight was gay in a TV interview, surprising some fans.
In a post on the band’s official website, he wrote, “I have never been outed by anyone but myself. I did so almost twenty years ago. I never knew that I would have to do it all over again publicly just because I reunited with NKOTB! I have lived my life very openly and have never hidden the fact that I am gay. Apparently the prerequisite to being a gay public figure is to appear on the cover of a magazine with the caption, ‘I am gay’.
“I love living my life being open and honest, but at this time I choose not to discuss my private life any further! My fellow band members don’t discuss their private lives with their loved ones and I don’t feel that just because I am gay, I should have to discuss mine!”
In 2015, Knight and his partner of 12 years, Harley Rodriguez, participated in the 26th season of The Amazing Race. The pair finished in 9th place. Four years later, while on holiday in Africa, Knight proposed to him.
“That’s the funny thing, with two guys it’s always hard,” he said in a 2016 appearance on The Jenny McCarthy Show. “Like who proposes? Who asks? And I think that was our problem. I’ve been waiting for him to ask, he’s probably been waiting for me to ask.”
These days the couple lives on a seven-acre estate in Essex, Massachusetts. Knight chronicled its restorations for an HGTV pilot, Farmhouse Fixer.
Jordan Knight made various efforts to stay in show biz following the disbanding of New Kids on the Block. In 1999, he launched a solo career, and in 2004, he joined the cast of VH1’s The Surreal Life.
His last musical project was in 2014, when he teamed up with the Backstreet Boys’ Nick Carter for the collaborative album Nick & Knight.
These days Knight seems to be living just like the rest of us in the COVID era. With NKOTB reunion shows cancelled or on hold, he’s been laying low at home with his wife, Evelyn Melendez, and two sons (Dante, 21, and Eric, 13).
“These are just bizarre times that we’re living in right now,” he said in a May 2020 interview with Boston magazine. Knight confessed that he passes the time by binging on Netflix (his wife turned him on to Grace and Frankie), indulging in ice cream, and playing board games with the family.
Knight also spends time keeping tabs on Italian eatery Novara, in which he’s an investor.
“People are struggling, he said. “Luckily, a lot of restaurants have gotten loans from the federal government to help them keep afloat, but it’s really tough.”
Donny Wood suffered a series of personal setbacks following NKOTB’s original split. In a 2018 interview with ET, he revealed that his mother death from breast cancer in 1999 made him feel that his world was “crumbling around” him.
The grief spilled over into his marriage to then-wife Patricia Alfaro, with whom he shared two daughters.
“It had a big impact on my life because I didn’t accept it for a long time,” said Wood. “[My mom] was so influential in my life that I just didn’t accept it. Between me and my ex-wife, it was that for me and other issues for her, ending our marriage.”
“There was always this underlying pain there that I hadn’t really addressed because I was just trying to get through life, day to day. It probably wasn’t until I did get divorced [in 2006] and really was on my own with the kids, who ended up spending most of their time with me, that I finally was able to start realizing the reasons why she passed away…”
Wood established a nonprofit called Remember Betty in his mother’s honor. Funds that are raised are used to help cover everything from medical bills, rent, groceries, and even car repairs to ensure patients can attend treatment.
His sister Bethany, who is also a great cancer survivor, serves as the director of the organization. As of 2015, and largely due to the help of “Blockheads”, the foundation had raised $1.5 million.
While Wood awaits post-COVID-19 plans for NKOTB, he’s enjoying his time as a new grandfather. Rose Elizabeth Wood was born on August 14, 2019—Wood happily shared the news of her arrival on social media.
Joey McIntyre, the baby of NKOTB, has managed to maintain a busy career since the group split. He’s released seven solo albums since 1998, the last being the 2011 holiday record, Come Home For Christmas.
But his bigger success has been on stage. In 2001, McIntyre made his professional theater debut in the off-Broadway production of Jonathan Larson’s tick, tick…BOOM! (fellow ’80s teen idol, Molly Ringwald, co-starred). Three years later, he made his Broadway debut in Wicked, playing the lead Fiyero. He also starred in the film adaptation of Tony n’Tina’s Wedding that same year with Mila Kunis.
McIntyre has also made appearances on numerous TV shows, including Psych, The McCarthys, and Fuller House.
Most recently, in 2019, he returned to Broadway with the role of Dr. Pomatter in the Sara Bareilles musical Waitress.
On comparing performing with NKOTB to stage acting, he says in a 2019 interview, “It’s apples and oranges, but still fruit. The New Kids get to be rock stars. Our first hit was “Please Don’t Go Girl,” and I got to sing lead on that. I’ve been singing that for 30 years now. I make it a moment in our show; it’s special, and there’s history, and it’s a great song. And afterwards, people are all like, “You should do Broadway!” [laughs] I connect the way I connect regardless of the arena.”
Beyond his latest career accomplishments, McIntyre has been married to Barrett Williams since 2003. The couple has three children: Griffin, Rhys, and Kira.
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