We all know Ken Jeong for the almost scene-stealing, comedic supporting roles he played in The Hangover trilogy as the loud, flamboyant kind-of-protagonist mobster Mr. Chow, and, in Community, as the erratic, almost-insane Señor Ben Chang.
While he is well-known for his great talent in portraying ridiculously funny, mentally-unhinged Chinese characters, what is less known is the actor himself – Jeong is often overshadowed by the larger-than-life personalities of Mr. Chow and Señor Chang.
In a bizarre twist of fate, however, Jeong, who is actually a licensed physician (in addition to his comedic acting career) now finds himself playing a role in a sitcom that hits notes a lot closer to home – that of Dr. Ken Park, in the upcoming sitcom, Dr. Ken.
We sat down for a brief interview with Ken Jeong, and found out that truly, nothing is stranger (or funnier) than real life.
The Standard (TS): Hi, Ken! First and foremost, we’d like to ask you how the show was conceived. We’ve heard that you’re one of the show’s lead writers and the show’s creator. So how exactly did you come up with the show’s concept?
Ken Jeong (KJ): Well, I wanted to do a show based loosely on my life as a doctor in California, and also, as a married father of two. And that’s kind of where the similarities end. I wanted to have the characters a little bit different from reality, … I wanted to have that artistic freedom to go different places comedically, but I also wanted it [to be] inspired by reality, … to go places where didn’t go, in terms of emotional or life decisions.
TS: Well, you mentioned that the character you played is a little bit different from reality, and, that goes for your previous supporting roles, like The Hangover’s Mr. Chow and Ben Chang in Community. In Dr. Ken, however, you are the lead character, not the supporting character. How is the additional responsibility for you? How is it different from just playing a supporting role?
KJ: It’s definitely more responsibility in terms of the creative aspects of the show, not only as an actor, but also as a writer and executive producer. I wear many more hats on this show than I have on, not only Community, but any other project I’ve been on. I have so much responsibility … it’s really the most creatively gratifying year of my career, because of the opportunity that I’ve been given … I normally don’t get that opportunity. It’s been amazing. I think because of what you talked about, what you’re pointing on, Hangover and Community, I’ve been able to apply what I’ve learned from those projects, onto my own show. The Hangover, it changed my career overnight. It changed my life from black and white to Technicolor.
TS: So we’ve read that you are a licensed physician. How does the experience of being a doctor in real life translate into your role as Dr. Ken? Any similarities or differences?
KJ: It’s different in the fact that in real life, I’m way more serious and respectful to my patients. I was very serious as a doctor, and a lot of people were surprised when they found out I did stand-up comedy as a hobby at that time.
TS: Drawing on that real-life inspiration, what makes Dr. Ken stand out from your average TV sitcom?
KJ: One thing that makes us stand out is that, because I was a real physician, I’m able to apply real-life experiences into the show that other writers could not do, unless they have that kind of background. It’s really rare that a performer actually has that background is able to apply that in, not only in writing, but in his own performance.
TS: Finally, do you have a favorite episode from the show’s production?
KJ: Absolutely. We did one episode dealing with Ken’s favorite patient, a comedian. His cancer has returned, and he’s dying. It’s a very delicate, and moving episode of how a physician addresses the terminal, basically how to help a dying patient. It was so emotionally moving – every day we performed it or rehearsed it, I was crying every day – it was a very emotional episode.
Dr. Ken premieres April 17, Sundays 7:30 p.m. on Sony Channel seen on SKYCable Channel 35, Cignal Digital TV Channel 60, Destiny Cable Channel 62, and Cable Link Channel 39.
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