By Mike Miller
Updated November 16, 2016 10:21 AM

Honoring the Boston Police Department was at the forefront of Mark Wahlberg’s mind when he set out to make his new film Patriot’s Day.

The film tells the story of the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings and the city’s response in its aftermath. With three people killed and more than 300 wounded in the attack, it was imperative for Wahlberg and the filmmakers behind Patriot’s Day to tell the story with respect to those involved.

In the clip above, debuted exclusively on PEOPLE, the actor gives insight into his onscreen character, who is based off of several real heroes from the Boston Police Department.

“We wanted to honor the police who worked so tirelessly tracking these guys down,” Wahlberg explains in the clip. “There were many police officers who were instrumental in different parts of the investigation, so Tommy Saunders is actually a composite character.”

Patriot’s Day producer Scott Stuber adds, “As we started to realize how many different Boston police officers were in different places of importance, the most respectful thing we could do is to say that Mark was representing law enforcement. There was no one person everywhere.”

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“He cares about the city, he is Mr. Boston, everybody knows him and identifies with him,” says Ed Davis, Boston Police commissioner from 2006 – 2013.

Wahlberg and the filmmakers behind Patriot’s Day have been careful from the beginning to tell the story sensitively. Early promotional teasers for the film steered clear of explosions and carnage in favor of images depicting the community’s strength.

”It was very tasteful, and now I’m really looking forward to seeing the movie,” Lisa Baragiola, a survivor of the bombings told The New York Times of an early trailer. “I liked that they focused on people and not the bombing. It brought tears to my eyes.”

Patriot’s Day hits theaters Dec. 21.