Don't confuse "Entourage," HBO's new comedy series about a hotshot Hollywood actor from Queens, with Mark Wahlberg's life.
Wahlberg, after all, hails from Boston.
Otherwise, "Entourage" -- the brainchild of Wahlberg, who serves as the show's executive producer -- draws directly from his Hollywood experiences.
No, the show isn't about a bad-boy-rapper- turned-underwear-model-turned-serious- actor (for those who recall Marky Mark and the Calvin Klein campaign). Instead, it revolves around a newbie celebrity who welcomes his childhood buddies into his high-flying life.
"Watching Mark and his friends is a fun ride," said series creator and head writer Doug Ellin. "Just seeing the lifestyle he's been living, we felt it was something different that we hadn't really seen."
Ellin -- who has known Wahlberg for the past 10 years and witnessed the actor's successful leap to leading roles in "Boogie Nights," "Three Kings" and "The Italian Job" -- said he could "almost do a reality version" of Wahlberg's life but decided to go down the scripted comedy path instead.
"Entourage" revolves around the sexy but simple-minded Vince Chase (Adrian Grenier), a movie actor who becomes Hollywood's newest "it" boy. Along for the ride are his pals Eric (Kevin Connolly), Johnny "Drama" (Kevin Dillon) and Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), none of whom understand the business of show business but all of whom are enjoying its temptations.
They're partyers who seem constantly on the hunt for a good time (read: women), and they have a knack for spending Vince's cash. New tricked-out ride? No problem. A $10 million house? No worries, even though Vince has turned down a $4 million role.
Trying to get Vince some work is his harried and cutthroat agent Ari, played by Jeremy Piven and based on Ari Emmanuel, Wahlberg's real agent. Piven said inspiration for Vince's crew from Queens also comes straight from Wahlberg's life.
"Mark is one of these guys that has those guys in his life," Piven said. "He has these friends [from Boston] and is very loyal to them and has brought them along with him on this journey."
On the show, the four friends experience some unbelievable lavishness -- movie premieres, R-rated parties, recreational drugs and shopping sprees. But Ellin, who's been part of the Hollywood scene for the past decade, promises such extravagances are the real deal. "There's nothing in the show that hasn't happened," he said.
Piven concurred: "The old saying 'The truth is the easiest thing to remember,' I think in this case it is. Because there's nothing really stranger out here than the truth sometimes. You might as well portray it."
As Ari, the veteran agent who knows the art of the Hollywood deal, Piven plays half of the show's most interesting relationship. Ari often clashes with Eric, Vince's closest confidant and old friend.
In tonight's debut, the two argue over a script that Eric thinks is wrong for Vince but that Ari thinks will establish the actor's career.
"That's a recurring theme throughout all eight episodes," Connolly said about the conflict. "It makes for an interesting dynamic. This guy who's a legitimate agent has to sit there and take orders from a kid who a year ago worked in a pizza place."
In one memorable scene, Ari spits out the words "pizza boy" at Eric.
Piven said that the relationship between the two characters leads to some "explosive, fun, strange, tragic situations."
"You've got a guy like Ari who has really built up his company," Piven said. "And suddenly one of his clients is so lazy he really doesn't want to deal with the business end of it. He has to deal with this novice."
Though inexperienced, Eric is the most level-headed of the quartet. And he, like all of Vince's entourage, is dedicated to his friends.
"He's the guy whose job it is to hold it all together," Connolly said. "There's a lot of craziness that goes on, and Eric is the support beam that keeps it all together. It's a hard job keeping the maniacs in line."
The main maniac is Turtle, who drives around in a yellow Humvee with his pet Rott-weiler Ahnold (named after the California governor) and uses his friendship with Vince to score with the ladies.
"C'mon, sneak out with me. I'll show you where Vince eats breakfast," he brags without shame in hopes of wooing one woman. And it works.
Drama is Vince's half brother, an aspiring actor who doesn't share his handsome sibling's star quality or fabulous bone structure.
The role is played by Kevin Dillon, certainly no slouch in his field but who is the brother of a certifiable star, Matt Dillon. Ellin dismisses that the real-life relationship has anything to do with why Dillon was picked for the role.
"The first time Kevin opened his mouth we knew there was not a single person who would do a better job," Ellin said.
The name Johnny Drama was taken from a cousin of Wahlberg, though the similarities between the real person and the fictional character end there. "We just love the name so much," Ellin said of the choice.
Other names and faces on "Entourage" will be familiar: Luke Wilson, Jessica Alba, Jimmy Kimmel, Larry David and Val Kilmer lend some star power to the show. Ellin credits his writing team of Stephen Levinson, who also is Wahlberg's manager, and Larry Charles, who wrote for HBO's "Curb Your Enthusiasm," for securing the celebrities. "They just used their contacts," Ellin said. "Everyone has been pretty responsive."
The many cameos might make "Entourage" seem like a TV version of "The Player," the Robert Altman film about a sleazy agent who literally gets away with murder.
Ellin, who adores "The Player" but said the film was not his inspiration, quipped, "'The Player' is satirical. ['Entourage'] is spot on."