Ken Jeong to Movieline: 'The Last Two Years of My Life Have Been Surreal'
Last week, Jeremy Piven introduced his WWE Raw guest co-host and The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard co-star Ken Jeong to a packed arena as "the Asian gentleman from The Hangover." Piven could have easily continued his credits: "You might also recognize him as the Asian gentleman from Knocked Up, the Asian gentleman from Step Brothers, the Asian gentleman from Pineapple Express and the Asian gentleman from Role Models." Ken Jeong is the busiest "Asian gentleman" in Hollywood, with today's The Goods premiere, future releases All About Steve and Couples Retreat, not to mention his upcoming NBC series Community. Last week at NBC's Television Critics Association event, Movieline sat down with the doctor-turned-actor, who readily discussed his time in the ring with Piven, his upcoming series with Chevy Chase and being naked in a trunk for The Hangover.
You joined Community's cast fairly recently. How is work on the show going?
It's great. I just started last week. It was the second episode last week. They had done the pilot months ago and I had seen the pilot like three times and had loved it. And that was before I was in contention for anything. Once I found out there was a role on the show for me, I pretty much begged for it. I really loved that role and it was really in my wheelhouse of acting moves and comedy moves and I just had a blast. I was a little nervous because I hadn't met anyone on the cast prior to that but everyone was just so nice. Chevy is an icon and to have that instant chemistry is pretty rare. On your first day, to already be comfortable acting-wise on and off camera, it was not unlike doing a movie together with Apatow and Todd Phillips, it was the same kind of attention to quality.
Did you read the pilot after The Hangover was released?
It was after The Hangover. Actually last month, I was doing another movie with Brendan Frasier and Brooke Shields for Summit Entertainment, it's a family movie called Furry Vengeance. A lot of the negotiations happened while I was shooting the movie and I had read the script and read my part and knew I had to do it.
Did you have any idea The Hangover was going to be so huge? When you did the scene where you jump out of a trunk naked, were you thinking that for years down the line, people might remember you for that part?
I had no idea. I think everyone's different but in comedy, I try to do my scene to make the director and the other actors laugh. If I can make them laugh and we have the same sensibility, then I'm on the right page.
At this point, WWE's "The Miz," one of the wrestlers who squared off against Piven and Jeong, joins the conversation.
THE MIZ: If it isn't the guy who almost got me banned from World Wrestling Entertainment. How's your head?
JEONG: Oh, my head is fine.
THE MIZ: You should have seen him back in the locker room. He was in the locker room, shouting to someone on the phone, "This is the greatest thing! I have no idea what happened!" Were you talking to your wife?
JEONG: I was talking to my parents. I wanted to let my parents know - because I looked hurt on TV, I think I really sold it.
You did. It really looked like you were down for the count.
It's like anything, wrestling or acting, you get that little grain of truth and you sell it. And Carlito, I remember, was whispering, "Are you OK?" and I whispered "I'm selling it." I pretended to be passed out, even when the camera wasn't on me. I just made sure, Masters had picked me up like I was passed out and I remember going on some online chat room when I got back and people were saying, "He was really hurt. That's not cool." It was all a sell.
How excited were you to get into that ring?
It was a childhood fantasy. I grew up in North Carolina and I grew up on wrestling. and I got to actually meet Ricky Steamboat. I told my dad because he took me to a Steamboat-Flair match when I was a kid so it was amazing. And WWE is such a class act, the star treatment we got and they treated me better than I deserved.
How bizarre is that you can share wrestling stories now?
Oh, trust me, the last two years of my life have been so surreal so that just adds more to the sublimeness.
You were a doctor and now you're in the highest grossing R-rated comedy.
It really -- yeah, I can't -- [jokingly] $300 million internationally, whatever. Just beat up Beverly Hills Cop, whatever. I don't know. I don't keep track of these things.
I don't like numbers, but Community will probably get an 85 share if that's possible. I think 85% is a safe bet. I don't want to brag about all of this stuff -- Teen Choice Award nominee [for Choice Movie Villain], whatever. It is what it is. It's OK. But WWE, I'll tell you, it was so surreal.
The Miz circles back.
THE MIZ: Some guys really get it and you guys did. Jeremy was like "Let's go off the top rope. Can you throw me?"
JEONG: Jeremy and I were having discussions the night before about moves and about psychology. We got so into it, and those vignettes, we would ask [the director] to do several takes because we weren't happy with it. But that live crowd man, I've never experienced it in my life.