The Sad But True Story Of The Real-Life Inspiration Behind The Character Turtle On ‘Entourage’
Vincent Chase has always taken care of his boys. Through the ups, downs, misdirects and missteps, the main focus of the Entourage story has been a the story of the solid friendships between Vince, Johnny Drama, E and Turtle.
Unfortunately the man Vinnie is modeled after, mega-star Mark Wahlberg, wasn’t as generous to one of his oldest and closest friends as his on-screen persona. A friend so close to the Entourage-producer that the character of Turtle was modeled after the real-life Wahlberg entourage member.
Before the alleged backstabbing, a little backstory — Donnie “Donkey” Carroll met on the corner of Savin Hill and Dorchester avenues on the outskirts of Boston, Massachusetts. When Wahlberg hit it (big) in the early 90s as a hip-hop star and underwear poster boy Marky Mark, Carroll ditched the streets and moved to Hollywood along with Wahlberg to pursue his supa-sta dreams. Donkey was Marky’s Turtle.
After failed attempts at getting his own music career off the ground — Carroll went by the name of Murder One— he came up with an idea for a reality show and book based on his 14 years of experiences being in the clique of one of the hottest up-and-coming actors in Hollywood.
Carroll told the Boston Herald in 2005:
“I told Mark I wanted to do a reality show about me,” he said. “I had an idea for a book, too. It was called `From the Hood to Hollywood, A Soldier’s Story.’ It was about a kid like me who grows up with a kid like Mark and ends up in Hollywood with him livin’ the life. But Mark said, `No one cares about that.'”
Within a few years of their conversation, Entourage was in production and Carroll’s life was about to hit the small screen. All of Wahlberg’s inner circle turned into fictional fodder for the HBO show. Johnny Chase, aka Drama, is based on Wahlberg’s “cousin” John Alves — a bodybuilder and washed-up actor whose minor acting credits include the 1998 Donnie Wahlberg flick Southie. Alves was also an extra in a Marky Mark workout video. Eric, or E, is based on Wahlberg’s buddy Eric Weinstein, an actor the Boston-native became close with on the set of The Basketball Diaries. Ari Gold is modeled after Wahlberg’s real-life manager Ari Emanuel. And Turtle, well, Carroll summed up just how close to reality the character is in this quote to the Herald — “I got paid $500 a week to hang out,” Donkey said. “I got paid to live his life.” That’s Turtle.
Unlike all the other men mentioned above, Carroll was in no way compensated for the use of his likeness and life story in Entourage. Alves gets paid as a consultant on the show and Weinstein even got a producer credit. Carroll got nothing. Nothing except a paper saying he’d keep his mouth shut.
Donkey said back before the show debuted, Wahlberg had him sign a release that read, in part: “As you are aware, there is a character in the program presently named ‘Turtle.’ Although the character is intended to depict a fictional person, the name is similar to your nickname and the character may exhibit certain characteristics that are similar to yours or be involved in certain events that are similar to events that you may be involved in.”
Donkey says he was not paid to sign the release but that Wahlberg promised he would “be taken care of.”
And this is where Donkey Carroll’s life takes the saddest turn — in a true Hollywood twist, Carroll passed away in 2005, reportedly of an asthma attack. He collapsed in his fiancee’s arms and died in the hospital emergency room. He was 39.
As of 2012, Wahlberg still hadn’t made amends with Carroll’s family. His sister, Debra, was tossing around the idea of a tell-all book back in 2012 about her brother story and Wahlberg’s real-life role as a Hollywood villain.
She says Wahlberg backed out of the funeral “because he had a guilty conscience.” Instead, he sent flowers and left a voice-mail for her parents expressing his condolences, but claiming he couldn’t make the funeral because he “had family in town.”
The book was never published.
This weekend, Vince, E, Drama and Turtle will ride into theaters for one last good time. No matter what happens to the fictional leader of the four man band, his three best friends will likely stay devoted until the end. That sounds oddly familiar.
“I still love him like a brother,” Carroll admitted in his Boston Herald interview, “but it shouldn’t have to come down to this. He should do the right thing.”