For years, Joey McIntyre has pursued his singing, acting and comedy career while his “awesome” wife Barrett took on being a stay-at-home mom, but the New Kids on the Block singer credits working together on their new show, Return of the Mac, for strengthening their bond after 13 years of marriage.
The couple and their three children are the focus of McIntyre’s new Pop TV sitcom Return of the Mac, loosely based on the 44-year-old musician’s quest to find success as an actor in Hollywood while juggling family life and daddy duties.
“It was fun to share the experience with her, and I think couples can relate -- they both have jobs, they come home after a long day, and it’s all about the kids, then you barely have time to talk about your lives,” McIntyre tells ET. “To not have to go through that and know that we were sharing the same experience and on the same journey was very cool for us. It made me think of couples who always work together and that must be so challenging and stressful, but at the same time you have that shared experience where you can relate to each other without saying a word, which is cool.”
The show marked Barrett’s first acting experience and while McIntyre initially offered some tips, he eventually “realized she’s better than me,” and left her to it.
“I loved it,” Barrett said at the Return of the Mac and Hollywood Darlings launch in Los Angeles on Wednesday. “It was a whole new experience for me and really fun to share it together. It was definitely a learning curve -- in the beginning it was like, ‘Oh, I have to know where the camera is!’ But it was fun and I just tried to keep it simple and enjoy it.”
The series follows the L.A.-based Massachusetts native as he reluctantly takes on a gig as a late-night talk show host for The Comfy Channel in the hope that it will open the door for greater acting projects. The job comes right as Barrett faces an opportunity to restart her career as a Hollywood stylist. In real life, Barrett is a former real estate agent who has focused on being a mom since the couple started a family almost 10 years ago, right as NKOTB were staging their comeback.
“She’s been pretty awesome about that,” says McIntyre, who has starred in the TV series The McCarthys and Boston Public, films including New Year’s Eve and on Broadway in Wicked. “The New Kids have been super successful since we started having a family, and that was a wave that took over and we tried to ride it and now it’s a balance. We tour about every other year, so it’s not too overwhelming, but she was happy enough to be a stay-at-home mom and take care of our kids -- and that is, as anybody knows, a full-time job.”
“My wife’s a super dedicated mom and is grateful for that, but she also struggles with, ‘What’s my life going to be now?’ Now that the kids are older and at school, she’s trying to figure it out and slowly get back to her own life, so she can definitely relate to that whole balancing act.”
With his kids getting older -- eldest Griffin will turn 10 in November -- McIntyre admits it’s daunting to think about having them enter their teens. He himself was only 12 when he joined NKOTB.
“It’s crazy,” he reflects. “Life is wild and you get into your forties and throw around ‘Oh, that was 20 years ago.’ When you get to the age when you can say, ‘Can you believe that was 20 years ago?’ and you weren’t a teenager, it’s like, time flies!
“But at the same time, this is our prime,” he continues. “I think on average people are coming into their own in their forties and the work is being paid off. So, on one hand I’m grateful for the experience I’ve had at this point, and on the other hand it’s like, ‘Man, my kids are going to be grown up soon!’ That’s scary!”
While some celebrities shy away from throwing their children into the limelight of a television show, McIntyre says he has always happily shared his family life with “Blockheads.”
Griffin, 7-year-old Rhys and 5-year-old Kira are frequently seen on his Instagram posts, helping make sandwiches for hungry locals, posing at soccer practice and attending shows in Las Vegas.
“Maybe I’m naïve or maybe I’ve just been lucky, but I wasn’t worried about the safety of my kids or their privacy,” says the boy bander, who has also found success as a solo artist. “I’ve always shared my kids on Instagram, and Griffin has been coming up on stage since he was 3. We’ve known our fans for so long that it’s a family, and they respect that you draw the line somewhere. With the show, I was concerned for a second that it would take away from their schedule and activities, but they only missed one day of school, so it really worked out and was super fun for them. They loved working with all the different people and had a blast.”
As for Barrett, she hilariously portrays an L.A. housewife who gets news about her family through the grapevine, proudly maintains a wall planner with the kids’ busy schedules and has a “job jar” for her husband to get through in his downtime.
“She’s not a stylist, so that was her playing a part and she was fantastic,” he says. “She’s never acted before, but I knew she had the confidence, which is more than half the battle, and she did great.”
As well as his family, the series also features guest appearances from January Jones, Joey Lawrence and *NSYNCers Joey Fatone and Christ Kirkpatrick. Bandmate Donnie Wahlberg and his wife Jenny McCarthy are also executive producers and appear on the show -- from bed -- dishing out advice to McIntyre over the phone when he finds himself at crossroads.
Offscreen, Wahlberg and McIntyre are busy preparing to release NKOTB’s new EP, Thankful, out on May 12, which also marks the opening night of their Total Package Tour with Paula Abdul and Boyz II Men.
The catchy, soulful first single, “One More Night,” already has fans counting down to more new music.
“We’re excited about the song and the reception. Everyone seems to like it and the rest of the EP is cool, man,” he says. “We didn’t have time to make a whole album, but we wanted to have new music and I think it was a good compromise.”
Meanwhile, away from the stage, McIntyre’s looking forward to bandmate Jonathan Knight’s upcoming wedding to longtime love Harley Rodriguez -- although he admits he’s wary of the pair eloping.
“He was throwing out some dates,” he says. “Jon has fun telling little white lies just to throw everybody off, including the group, so we’ll see. I know it’s going to be beautiful, no matter what. He’s got great taste, in men especially -- Harley’s a great guy. So I better be there! I’ll be very mad if they elope and then tell us that they got married. I’m going to pressure him to make sure I’m invited and it’s a beautiful event.”
Return of the Mac premieres April 12 at 8:30 ET/PT on Pop TV.