In 2012, the adorable, foul-mouthed teddy bear, Ted (voiced by Seth MacFarlane), made his film debut and quickly became the highest-grossing original R-rated comedy of all time. Now, the outrageous Ted and his thunder buddy John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) are back in Ted 2, as Ted finds himself in a fight to be declared human, and not the property of someone else. In an attempt to sue the state and win Ted the rights that he deserves, they enlist a young, medical-marijuana aficionada named Samantha L. Jackson (Amanda Seyfried) who believes that Ted is entitled to the same freedoms as any American.
During this exclusive phone interview with Collider, done while he was in London to promote the film, Mark Wahlberg talked about how the edgy humor combined with heart really won over audiences of the first film, why he was initially hesitant about signing on for such an absurd-sounding idea, the movie’s message of people being treated equally, testing the movie to figure out which jokes are acceptable to audiences, and why Tom Brady is his favorite cameo in the film. He also talked about getting together with Michael Bay about Transformers 5, once Bay is back from filming in Malta, and working with Pete Berg on Deepwater Horizon.
Collider: Were you surprised at just how well the first movie went over with audiences, and that there would be such a demand for a sequel to a movie about a raunchy teddy bear brought to life?
MARK WAHLBERG: Yeah. You can never expect or predict that kind of success. We knew it had potential. It just worked. That combination of that edgy humor with that heart really won people over.
You’ve said that you had some hesitation about the first film and co-starring with a teddy bear.
WAHLBERG: When you hear about it, for the first time, it sounds absurd. There’s no good way to pitch it. It’s ridiculous. So, I was like, “Absolutely not!” It was one of those things where I was getting pressure from every angle. And then, when I talked to another agent about another project that I was producing and looking at one of their clients, they were like, “I heard you’re doing Ted.” I was like, “What is this thing!” So, I read the first 35 pages of the script and put it down. It was the same experience that I had with Boogie Nights, where I said, “This is either going to be brilliant, or it’s going to be awful.” So then, it was a matter of sitting down with Seth [MacFarlane] and hearing what his vision was for it. And then, from that point, I saw the test and saw how the bear looked. I thought, “You know, this could be good. Take a chance.”
After the success of the first film, were you more nervous about making a sequel that was at least as good, if not better than the original?
WAHLBERG: Yeah, but once I heard Seth’s idea, I knew we were in good shape. It helps that he came from television. You could have a group or a cast on a television show that people absolutely love and relate to and want to watch, and you can put them in a thousand different situations. With this, it was about keeping that balance between the heart and the humor. And then, the message of people being treated equally was a nice way to take it to another level.
Did you do a lot of variations of the jokes in this?
WAHLBERG: No, but we can always go back and shoot some additional stuff. When we’re doing a movie like this, we definitely test the movie with as many people as possible. You get a sense, right there, of what’s acceptable and what’s not. With a movie like this, you’ll probably go back and pick up a couple shots, here and there, to see what works. With the bear, you can just replace dialogue.
You seem to have a very natural gift for comedy and you have great comedic timing. Does it feel like that’s come really naturally for you, or do you work hard at it behind the scenes?
WAHLBERG: I work hard at everything that I do, but I approach everything the same. I’m just trying to make everything as real as possible. Just because it’s a comedy, I’m not changing my approach to the work. I still get it, learn it, become it and play it real. Most of the humor comes from how outrageous the situations and circumstances are.
There’s a bit of a role reversal in this film, with your character being the bachelor now while Ted has settled down and is pushing John to get out there again. How did Amanda Seyfried’s brand of humor compliment you guys, and what did she add to things?
WAHLBERG: The great thing is that that relationship is really earned. It’s not just convenient, all of a sudden. Ted is constantly trying to push people on him, but he’s not that kind of guy. He’s not just into hooking into somebody for the sake of hooking up, and he’s definitely not into getting into another relationship and putting his feelings at risk. She’s really game to try anything, and she’s easy to get along with. Having that quality makes for a really great pay-off when they finally do come together. Even though she’s well-educated and doesn’t know anything about pop culture, they still approach life the same way.
It’s also great to see Donny back causing trouble again. What’s most impressed you about what Giovanni Ribisi has brought to that character?
WAHLBERG: I’ve worked with him now three times, and he’s a wonderful actor and a wonderful guy. He’s very good at that sort of thing. He’s very good at everything that he does, but in particular, he makes you want to see more of Donny.
As someone who’s been to Comic-Con to promote movies, how did going to Comic-Con in this movie compare to really being there? Is it fun to get to wreak all kind of havoc without getting in trouble for any of it?
WAHLBERG: Oh, absolutely! I love to go to Comic-Con. Every time I’ve gone, I’ve just gone into the back door, done a panel and left. To be able to see it firsthand and enjoy it is pretty cool. Hopefully, I can, at some point, slip on a mask and go and see the whole thing.
There are some great cameos in this film. Did you have a favorite one to work with?
WAHLBERG: They were all great, but I would have to say [Tom] Brady, just because he’s a friend and he’s done so much for all the regular Joes, especially in Boston.
There were definitely some technologically challenging moments in the first film. Were there any particularly challenging scenes in this one?
WAHLBERG: No. We figured it out, as we went. It was really on-the-job training for the first one, but we figured out how to do it. It was pretty seamless this time. Aside from the fertility clinic, which was my worst nightmare, everything else was pretty easy.
John and Ted are thunder buddies for life. Did you ever have a stuffed animal, or even a human friend or family member, who was there for you, in that way, growing up?
WAHLBERG: You usually keep those things to yourself and go through them on your own, growing up in Boston. You don’t want to share those things. You’ll get picked on and beat up.
Do you have any update on the status of Transformers 5? Have you heard anything about what’s going on?
WAHLBERG: I don’t. Just that Akiva [Goldsman] and those guys are starting to write and break stories, and stuff like that. But [Michael] Bay is in Malta shooting [13 Hours], and I’m in New Orleans shooting Deepwater. We’ll get together when he gets back.
Do you think he’ll still ultimately direct it?
Do you know what your schedule will be, after you finish Deepwater Horizon?
WAHLBERG: Pete [Berg] and I are talking about doing another movie, after the first of the year. And (directors) Sean Anders and John Morris are working on something right now, that hopefully we’re going to do in the fall with Paramount. That’s another comedy, more in the vein of Midnight Run meets Planes, Trains and Automobiles. I just did Daddy’s Home, with Will Ferrell and those guys, and we’ve been talking about doing this thing.
What do you enjoy about working with Pete Berg and his particular style of directing?
WAHLBERG: He’s a guy’s guy. He and I speak the exact same language. We know each other very well and we bring out the best in each other. He’s committed to getting real true stories right, making people proud, and doing it justice.
Will you pretty much do anything he wants to work with you on, at this point, or was it specifically the Deepwater Horizon story that made you want to get involved?
WAHLBERG: Well, I was involved with this one before Pete. We had a couple of hiccups, and then I decided that the movie was either going to sit on the backburner. And then, we all suggested that Pete would be a great fit for it, and he came in and jumped on board.
Your career seems to follow the pattern of, if you do a couple of comedies, then you go do a couple of dramas, and vice versa. Has that been intentional? Do you like alternating projects, in that way?
WAHLBERG: Yeah, I always want to switch it up and do the opposite of the last thing that I did.
Ted 2 is now in theaters.