So, Ken Jeong, what do you think would happen if “The Hangover’s” daffy-but-dangerous Mr. Chow hit the town to party with “Community’s” maniacal misfit Senor Chang?
“Someone would get out of line,” suggests Jeong, who plays both characters with more than a hint of understatement. “Mr. Chow is what Senor Chang wants to be. Senor Chang is Chow without the power. Mr. Chow is an international criminal; Senor Chang washes his clothes in Joel McHale's dishwasher.”
In an exclusive sit-down with PopcornBiz, Jeong discussed joining Bradley Cooper, Zach Galifianakis and Ed Helms on the road to Bangkok for another round of hardcore hi-jinx in “The Hangover Part II.” He says that while audiences will get to see another side of Chow literally (and oh, man, he’s not kidding – even considering that we first met Chow popping naked out of the trunk of a car), he also got to show a new side of the character: less angry and more ready to party down.
“Even in the throes of wanting to kill Alan and everybody for kidnapping him, he just laughs his ass off,” says Jeong. “I just took that a step further for the whole second movie: it was like I was an Asian Rick James – 'It's a celebration, bitches! Be merry!'”
Jeong says he couldn’t wait to get back to the role that helped cement his comedy career.
“It's one of those things that was already a career milestone, and then to come back and do the second one and have an expanded role, to me that was just a priceless opportunity to take my career another notch, take my character another notch and then just to work with family again,” he says.
Even while earning a medical degree (yes, he’s a real doctor), Jeong longed to be a comedian, constantly honing his standup and improv skills before earning his big break as, appropriately, an irritable obstetrician in writer-director Judd Apatow’s “Knocked Up.”
“All I ever wanted to do in my life, before I became a doctor, was to be an actor,” he says. “A working actor, not a famous one – there's a difference. With 'Knocked Up' I became a working actor. 'Knocked Up' opened the door for me and 'The Hangover' burst it wide open. I have the heart of a character actor, where I just want to work and I just want to get better at it. I want to see if I can find some new moves.”
Jeong, who keeps his medical license up to date and is married to a fellow physician, says his knowledge occasionally comes in handy – and freakishly surprising – for his co-stars.
“Ed's friend was really sick in Bangkok, and I think the weirdest thing was that I'm talking like Chow – like 'Yeah, stupid!' – and then like, 'Hey, listen, Noah, what you have to do, buddy, is go to the ER. I'm worried about gastro neuritis, I'm worried about colitis, so you better get on some fluids. Make sure that you get some potassium because when you have the trots you're going lose a lot of K. What you have to do is make sure that you check your electrolytes so you don't get hypercalemic, which will lead to life-threatening cardiac arrhythmias.'”
“Then I went 'Toodle-oo, motherf***ers!' and they went, 'Oh, thank God! That whole doctor-speak was worse than you being naked,'” he laughs.
Check back with PopcornBiz soon for more from Ken Jeong on his upcoming film projects.