Ken Jeong on ‘Community’, ‘Hangover 2’ and ‘Transformers 3’
Ken Jeong started out on the second episode of Community as Senor Chang, the Spanish teacher. This year, Chang’s lost his teaching credential and now wants to join the study group. Poor Chang just never quite gets to be part of the gang, but in real life Jeong is cool with that. He kept calm and relaxed after a panel for the Television Critics Association, unlike his riled up TV persona.
CraveOnline: How long are they going to leave Chang hanging?
Ken Jeong: I think comedically, it’s just heaven to always want something and not be able to get it, whatever that is. Having that Wile E. Coyote kind of challenge of it is so much fun. I always like it, like the Pop and Lock episode, he gets so close. He gets them to do a break dancing contest and if they win they get to be in the study group, only to lose yet again. It’s just all these things, he comes up short. I think comedy, in some aspects, some aspects of comedy are about pain and the stress of getting to somewhere. That’s why we have comedy I think. I think Chang’s story arc reflects that.
CraveOnline: When did you discover that this angry guy persona worked really well for you?
Ken Jeong: It was Knocked Up. It was Judd Apatow. He said playing the surly OB GYN in Knocked Up that I’m funniest when I’m angry. It basically gave me a career after that. Now it’s just how to different levels or different shades of it. That’s the great thing about Community is it always challenges me to do yet another shade. It’s so great that I was a teacher last year and then doing a complete character switch this year. How many actors can say within two years, they’re not playing the same type of job and status. They’re not typecast. It’s amazing.
CraveOnline: Is it exhausting to work yourself up to that state?
Ken Jeong: No, I think it’d be more exhausting to do the same thing over and over. I remember in Hangover, Bradley Cooper said in between takes, I’m just different. I just found a way to channel whatever intensity I have into my work and it allows me in a way to be more relaxed off camera and off screen. So if anything, it charges me up. I never get exhausted doing it. No. I just get a kick out of it.
CraveOnline: Do you get to play D&D?
Ken Jeong: Yes. That’s all I can play but yet.
CraveOnline: What class of character is Chang?
Ken Jeong: All I can say is I get to participate. It’s so funny and it’s just so funny. That’s all I can say.
CraveOnline: With Hangover 2, does knowing how big a hit the first one was make it harder to preserve the spontaneity or innocence?
Ken Jeong: No, the script was so tight. It reminded me of coming back on the second season of Community where everybody’s character was established. It was actually easier to write for. It was actually easier to explore. I feel like now, on this show, the writers are confident, Dan’s confident, the performers are all confident. It was the same thing with the second hangover. It was actually easier because everything’s been established and there was a looseness. There was actually a looseness about it that everyone was like it’s the same level. It was exactly the same level of fun and all the guys, Zach, Ed and Bradley, are exactly the same as they were working with in the first movie. So it was like a second season, that kind of exciting season mentality.
CraveOnline: Is doing it quickly a good way to capitalize on the energy of the group?
Ken Jeong: Absolutely, I think that had a lot to do. I think it’s genius. It’s so fresh on everybody’s minds right now, the first one. Still, even if I wasn’t in it, I love that movie so much and I’m a huge fan of Todd’s anyway. The fact that we’ve already wrapped the second one, Todd worked so hard. He was doing three movies back to back to back. God, he’s in the zone right now. His touches and there’s just great chemistry with Todd and the actors. It’s just great. It’s like a coach in a well defined team of players and everyone knows their roles and everyone plays it very well. I love that smooth ship mentality of any ensemble. Community’s the same vibe. It’s the same thing. Trust me. I’m just a huge fan. I love those guys. Zach Galifianakis, funniest man alive.
CraveOnline: Do you get a cool role in Transformers 3?
Ken Jeong: Yeah, it’s a small role in Transformers but yeah. I had an out of body experience working on that one because I just couldn’t believe I was [there]. Still, that was not a thing where oh, I’m going to be a part of a blockbuster franchise like Transformers 3 or even now Hangover 2 for that matter. So I can’t believe I’m a part of these franchises in any way. It was amazing. Michael Bay is brilliant and it’ll blow your mind.
CraveOnline: I’ve been on Michael Bay sets including Transformers 1. He keeps things so riled up, I see how it can be misconstrued, but it’s high energy.
Ken Jeong: He doesn’t like things to wait and neither do I. You want to keep moving, you want to keep the pace, you want to keep the energy. That I respond to because Todd’s like that too. Because you want that comedic energy to stay fresh. Especially on movies when there’s huge budgets and huge effects, you worry about spontaneity being lost. Yeah, Michael Bay just kept everything going.
CraveOnline: Do actors ask you for medical advice?
Ken Jeong: Every single one I’ve ever worked with. And I have to keep it confidential I guess. Still bound by that, geez. Just when I think I’m out, they pull me back in.
CraveOnline: Sandra Bullock accepted her Razzie but dared them to really watch All About Steve. What do you think looking back on that film?
Ken Jeong: Oh, it was one of the greatest experiences I ever had. I got to meet Bradley Cooper out of that. We did that before The Hangover. Sandy Bullock is possibly one of the sweetest people I’ve ever met. Not just in the show business but in life. She called me, All About Steve was the second or third movie I’d done, at least a movie where I had a bigger part, like I was in it, I was there filming. I was in it the whole stretch of filming. She called me midway through shooting out of the blue just saying, “You’re doing a great job. Just keep it up. We’re just so lucky to be working with you.” I kept that message for a long time because it really just kept me going. That was right around the time when Knocked Up came out. I was just beginning my career really. So just having that positivity and she’s just so supportive.
CraveOnline: But do you like the movie?
Ken Jeong: I love the movie. It had a lot of heart. It was just so sweet. The chemistry between me and Bradley and Thom, because all my scenes are with them and Sandy, we always said we should all do our spinoff. It’s almost like from The Fugitive, U.S. Marshalls. I would say that on the set, “Hey, we should just break off with out CCN station and be like US Marshalls. That’ll be ours, CCN.” We’d say that all the time. The chemistry was really, really good and Bradley is just one of my close friends now as a result.