Ken Jeong describes his role in the 2009 blockbuster The Hangover as “the most obscene love letter to a spouse one could ever have.” He peppered his dialogue with bits of Vietnamese as an inside joke with his wife Tran.
Ken met his wife while they were both practicing medicine at the same hospital in Los Angeles. Ken had always done comedy on the side. He even performed midnight improv while he was working up to 100 hours a week during his medical residency. But after he and Tran married, he quit medicine to pursue acting full-time. Then, a year later, Tran was diagnosed with aggressive stage III breast cancer. They had twins who were a year old. And Ken had just gotten an offer to play an Asian mobster in a Las Vegas buddy movie.
Tran encouraged him to take the part. “You’re kind of burning out right now,” she told him. And he channeled his anger about her illness into his character’s comedic rage.
Seven years later, he talked to me about raising a family in the shadow of cancer and how his careers in comedy and medicine have converged in unexpected ways.
Posted by On TV | Posted on March 28, 2015| Posted in
Allison (wife) – Suzy Nakamura (“Go On”)
Molly (daughter) – Krista Marie Yu (“The Thundermans”)
Dave (son) – Albert Tsai (Bert on “Trophy Wife”)
Hector (HMO nurse) – Jonathan Slavin (“Better Off Ted”)
Damona (HMO receptionist) – Tisha Campbell-Martin (Gina on “Martin”)
Pat Hein (HMO boss) – Dave Foley (“Newsradio”, “Kids in the Hall”)
Posted by On The Big Screen | Posted on February 17, 2015| Posted in
A quirky, true-to-herself protagonist, a hot boy next door and an evil popular girl compose the roller coaster ride of humor that is The DUFF.
When Bianca (Mae Whitman, Parenthood) a senior who coasted through high school with two close friends, realizes that those friends only used her to better their reputations by having her as their DUFF (Designated Ugly Fat Friend), she begins a quest to un-DUFF herself with the help of her popular football player neighbor, Wesley (Robbie Amell.)
While the basic storyline is a good one, the overly witty dialogue and strange product placement (social networks like Instagram and Snapchat are mentioned several times) make The DUFF seem like a kitschy attempt to relate to its audience.
The film has genuine bits of humor, however, thanks to Whitman and her awkward attempts to talk to boys at the mall. Whitman’s performance is fantastic; her character was genuine and relatable, and the choices she makes throughout the film are reflective of the modern teenage girl.
The real star of The DUFF is Ken Jeong (The Hangover), who plays Bianca’s newspaper adviser. He adds a different level of humor that ultimately lifts the film from the basic teen comedy to one that people of all ages can enjoy. Madison, the stereotypical mean girl prototype (Bella Thorne, Shake It Up) doesn’t have much depth, but she contributes to the drama in the movie.
While The DUFF has some authentic moments, it won’t be immortalized as a teen classic. The movie’s underlying message, however, is one that should be celebrated across Hollywood and beyond – while there will always be those who are prettier and smarter than you, you should never let that discourage you.
More ‘The DUFF’ reviews:
The best of the lot is Ken Jeong as Mr. Arthur, her favorite teacher, who gives her an assignment to write about what prom means to her. Ugh.
Jeong is so much more likable here than the screeching, profane Jeong of “The Hangover.” Toned down, he is actually funnier.
—The L.A. Times
A remarkably restrained Ken Jeong as the school’s most inspirational teacher. Restrained, yes, but the unpredictable and outrageous Jeong still tosses in a few naughty asides to juice things up.
—The Toronto Sun
It’s Ken Jeong who stands out. Jeong, who has made a sort of cottage industry for himself playing twisted characters in already deviant comedies, tones it down a notch here as an affable, goofy editor at the school paper.
–The Associated Press
Posted by On TV | Posted on February 10, 2015| Posted in
From The Hollywood Reporter:
The semi-autobiographical comedy was previously developed at NBC.
ABC has picked up to pilot Dr. Ken, a semi-autobiographical comedy starring the Hangover and Community star. The comedy stars Jeong as a frustrated HMO doctor juggling medicine, marriage and parenting — and succeeding at none of them.
The multicamera comedy was previously developed at NBC in 2013 and hails from The Internship writer Jared Stern, ABC Studios and Sony Pictures Television — which has a history of finding new homes for its programming, including Community. The comedy will be produced by studio-based Davis Entertainment’s John Davis and John Fox (The Blacklist), marking the duo’s second pilot order of the season. (They also have NBC drama Endgame.) Jeong, a licensed physician, will star and co-executive produce. Mike O’Connell and Jeong will also write and co-exec produce. Mike Sikowitz will also exec produce.
Dr. Ken marks a return for Jeong to ABC, where last he co-starred in comedy pilot Spy two years ago. Additionally, Jeong currently stars in MTV’s comedy pilot Ken Jeong Made Me Do It, which remains in contention.
For ABC, Dr. Ken marks its 13th comedy pilot order of the season, off one from a year ago. It’s also the second pilot to land at ABC after being developed for a previous network (joining drama Runner from Fox).
Semi-autobiographical fare continues to be in high demand as broadcast networks look to proven voices with a strong sense of direction. For its part, ABC also has Detour, based on Weezer frontman Rivers Cuomo’s life, as well as its Johnny Knoxville entry; Fox has Studio City (writer Krista Vernoff); NBC has Go Jerrod Go (Jerrod Carmichael) and Heart Matters (Dr. Kathy Magliato); and CBS has its Tommy Johnagin comedy.
Medical programming was one of the biggest trends this past development season. Dr. Ken joins other medical-themed fare this pilot season including ABC’s The Advocate, CBS’ Code Black and LFE as well as NBC’s Heart Matters, all dramas.
Community, meanwhile, will return to Yahoo Screen in March. Its future beyond its upcoming sixth season remains unclear. Jeong becomes the latest member of the Community family to book a follow-up role and second at ABC, which also has Chev & Bev, a comedy pilot starring former regular Chevy Chase. Meanwhile, co-star Yvette Nicole Brown exited in a bid to care for her father and, because of its regular filming schedule, joined CBS’ The Odd Couple; Donald Glover, who exited two years ago, is shooting a pilot for FX; and Gillian Jacobs will star in Netflix’s Judd Apatow comedy Love, which landed at the streamer with a two-season order.
A U.S. Dramatic Special Jury Award for Collaborative Vision was presented by Winona Ryder to:
Advantageous / U.S.A. (Director: Jennifer Phang, Screenwriters: Jacqueline Kim, Jennifer Phang) — In a near-future city where soaring opulence overshadows economic hardship, Gwen and her daughter, Jules, do all they can to hold on to their joy, despite the instability surfacing in their world. Cast: Jacqueline Kim, James Urbaniak, Freya Adams, Ken Jeong, Jennifer Ehle, Samantha Kim.
Posted by On TV | Posted on January 29, 2015| Posted in
Senior Film and Media Reporter @BrentALang
“Advantageous,” a brainy new science-fiction film that debuted this week at the Sundance Film Festival, represents a major departure for Ken Jeong.
The comic actor best known for letting it all hang out in “The Hangover,” reveals himself in a whole different way. Jeong plays Han, a restaurant owner who is plagued by guilt after his affair with his wife’s sister results in a child. It’s a small, but pivotal role, and one he plays straight.
“I’m in exploration mode,” said Jeong, who did double duty as a producer on “Advantageous.” “Comedy will also be my first love, but it’s natural for every comedic actor to want to expand their range and see if they can do it.”
Jeong isn’t turning back on the roles that made famous. He’ll return to Greendale Community College as Señor Ben Chang, a former Spanish teacher with a tenuous grip on reality, in “Community.” The cult hit was cancelled by NBC last year, but was given a reprieve when Yahoo opted to produce a sixth season of the critically adored, but low rated series. It debuts on March 17.
“‘Community’ is such a miracle show,” said Jeong. “This is actually my favorite season we’ve ever shot, I think maybe because of some of the subtext. We’re survivors and we’re doing this again and that’s a part of it.”
Just because the series is free of broadcast censors, don’t expect a major overhaul to the absurdist formula that made it a favorite with the Twitter set. There will still be pop culture and meta-references aplenty.
“Just because we’re on Yahoo, it’s not like it’s a raunchy comedy now,” said Jeong. Creator Dan Harmon had some interesting advice for the cast and their new backers, Jeong reports, “He said, ‘I want it to be exactly what it was. Almost the same length. Maybe more British.’”
It wasn’t Jeong’s work on the small-screen that landed him his “Advantageous” role. Co-star Jacqueline Kim said she recommended Jeong to director Jennifer Phang after seeing him play demented and frequently naked gangster Leslie Chow in “The Hangover” while on a plane trip. Given his talent for making people laugh, she knew he’d be up to the challenge.
“That’s the hardest acting to do — comedy,” said Kim. “To be funny, you have to be a master of so many things, and have a deep understanding of human beings.”
For his part, Jeong said he was impressed by the way that “Advantageous” used its futuristic setting to explore topics of gender disparity and body image issues. The film focuses on a woman who undergoes a dicey cosmetic procedure in order to provide for her young daughter.
“As a parent of twin girls, I’m intimately aware of the pressures of having them thrive in society and in school right now,” said Jeong. “They’re universal themes.”
“Advantageous” is a work of almost daunting ambition. The futuristic world that director and writer Jennifer Phang and Kim, who co-wrote the script in addition to starring in the film, create is positively Darwinian. The one percent are still doing just fine, but the rest of society is rocked by bombings, political unrest and crippling unemployment levels.
“I’m looking at a future where the economy is more fractured,” said Phang. “The class divide is growing wider and the diminishment of the middle class has continued. It’s a time when there are more desperate people and more affluent people than ever before.”
Parallels to this current era of uncertainty are clearly intentional.
By Kim Voynar
In the exquisitely crafted film Advantageous, director Jennifer Phang (Half-Life) explores a not-too-distant future where technology has advanced to the point that the need for human workers is diminishing. Consequently, only those with the most desirable attributes, highest connections and right looks have a shot at success, while the rest are presumably relegated to the rungs of the unseen lower classes. Jacqueline Kim, who also co-wrote and co-produced, plays Gwen Koh, the popular spokesperson for the Center for Advanced Health and Living, whose comfortable life with her daughter and confidence in herself are shattered when the Center decides that the beautiful-but-40ish Gwen is too old to be the branding face of their youth-preserving technology.
At the same time, Gwen’s daughter Jules (Samantha Kim) is hoping desperately to be accepted into one of the most prestigious schools; the pressure is immense, and Jules’ entire future depends upon which school she gets accepted into – and whether her mother can afford to give Jules the advantages she needs to succeed. Gwen’s position on the social ladder, already precarious in an tech-based economy when women are being told to stay at home and leave the jobs for the men, is further jeopardized when a recruiter informs her that there’s an unspecified “flag” on her resume from a former employer that’s preventing her from getting another job. Desperate to provide her daughter the advantages she will need to survive, Gwen agrees to become the first “client” for the Center’s newest youth-enhancing procedure, the details of which Phang keeps deliberately vague until near the end of the tale, making Gwen’s situation that much more poignant.
It can be a dicey proposition to weave social commentary into a narrative story without crossing the line into storytelling as agitprop, but Phang and Kim handle the issues their script addresses with a careful hand. It’s surely not coincidental that it’s the women in Phang’s future world who take the brunt of the economic impact of technological advances on the job market resulting in fewer jobs for human beings. It’s her view of the social value of women being tied inexorably to youth and beauty, though, that’s painfully pertinent in a year when the dearth of women receiving Oscar nominations has been of note, along with things like Gamergate and outspoken, intelligent women like Lena Dunham and writer Lindy West being attacked almost daily through social media with alarming vitriol.
In Phang’s imaginary future, it’s pretty much the same-old, same-old: As men grow older and wiser, they morph into handsome “silver foxes” without losing stride on the career or social desirability fronts. As women grow older and wiser, though, their perceived worth diminishes while those aging men chase after younger, newer versions to upgrade to. Phang’s tale imagines a reality where a woman could choose to “upgrade” herself to a younger and thereby more desirable version. You don’t have to be a woman working in the film industry to relate to (or fear) such a thing, though Hollywood is perhaps closer to the future we see here than anywhere else and, sadly, populated by a lot of women who would quite likely line up around the block to take advantage of it.
Script-wise, Phang and Kim do an excellent job here of honing things down to the marrow of the theme without much superfluous flotsam getting in the way of the storytelling. Phang as a director excels at the art of “show, don’t tell,” and she’s clearly directed her actors to follow that lead; the broad strokes of the story structure are inked in black here, but it’s the performances that flesh out the bones of that story with the deeply moving, layered performances that emphasize the complexity of these characters and, by extension, ourselves. Jacqueline Kim as Gwen emotes the quiet strength and determination of a mother determined to protect her daughter no matter the cost, and in later scenes when she’s holding back revealing the full truth to her daughter, the agony of her decision reads in her face like a blurry road map to a mother’s heart. Samantha Kim (no relation) is by turns sweetly plaintive and filled with adolescent fury as the daughter who doesn’t understand the sacrifice her mother makes for her until it’s too late. Ken Jeong surprises here with an excellent, quietly dramatic turn, and Jennifer Ehle as Gwen’s boss, who’s in charge of the Center’s latest technological miracle, delivers a nuanced performance that walks the line between being slightly sinister and genuinely sympathetic to Gwen’s plight.
It’s worth noting that the special effects in Advantageous that set the tone for a near-future world are quite well done, particularly for a sci-fi film that presumably didn’t have a huge Hollywood budget. Much like Phang’s previous film Half-Life, or one of my other favorite indie sci-fi films, Shane Carruth’s Primer, a lot of thought was clearly given to how to define this world and this technology on an indie budget without looking cheap; there’s no duct tape under the hood showing here. The technological advances shown here are, for the most part, maybe next or perhaps next-next generation, which smartly avoids any need to get too fancy with the props and SFX. Phang plays this more as a human story than a technological one, keeping her story tightly lensed on her characters as they navigate this world where humans are increasingly redundant, skewing the supply-demand that determines who gets in and who’s out, and it’s so well done that I’m still thinking about this film days after seeing it. Through this mother and her daughter, proxies for any of us, she asks us to ponder what about us defines our individual worth and humanity.
Click the link for the film.
Our latest film, from actor Ken Jeong, tells the story of how a 5-foot-5 premed student played a crucial role in Notre Dame’s undefeated football season
by Grantland Staff on January 7, 2015
Welcome back to our 30 for 30 documentary short series.
Reggie Ho never dreamed of playing football in college. Growing up in Hawaii and of Chinese descent, he always imagined he’d be a doctor like his father. He enrolled at Notre Dame as a premed student and didn’t think much of playing football until he decided he needed a more well-rounded life. He was the placekicker on his high school football team and decided to walk on to Notre Dame’s. At 5-foot-5 and 135 pounds, Ho was one of the smallest players in a major college football program — and suddenly became a celebrity on and off campus. As a walk-on, Ho didn’t receive any financial support from his school: a pure student-athlete. He did it for the love of the game and for the love of Notre Dame. After the 1988 season, the walk-on walked off the field. Ho continued his premed degree, but no longer played football. Yet he was a crucial part in Notre Dame’s most recent undefeated season.