Ken Jeong Previews 'Fresh Off the Boat' Star Randall Park's 'Dr. Ken' Cameo

·Writer, Yahoo Entertainment

Fresh Off the Boat and Dr. Ken may take place in different cities and different time periods, but that’s not stopping the stars of the shows from appearing on the other.

The ABC comedies both feature predominantly Asian casts, which was unheard of until Fresh Off the Boat debuted last year. Then, last fall, the network debuted Dr. Ken, which stars The Hangover star Ken Jeong as a fictionalized version of himself. Since then, the shows have had several cast crossovers — Dr. Ken’s TV son, Albert Tsai, has appeared several times on FOTB, while that comedy’s youngest kid Ian Chen recently did a cameo on the Dr. Ken.

Now, the dads are getting involved. Randall Park is guesting on Friday’s Dr. Ken as a new friend of Ken, while Jeong will stop by Fresh Off the Boat’s May 24 finale.

Jeong chatted with Yahoo TV about Park’s crossover, plus teased his show’s finale, in which art will imitate life again.

Can you describe this week’s episode, and the role that Randall plays?
Alison, my TV wife played by Suzy Nakamura, is encouraging me to get out of the house more, because I really don’t get out and have much in terms of hobbies. Like, I feel the need to highjack her book club when she’s at the house with her friends. And one of the ladies in the book club says that her husband, played by Randall Park, runs a Korean’s men’s professional organization — they do a lot of civic projects, a lot of community building around Koreatown. I feel like it’s a little too square for me, and I’m about to leave the meeting, but it turns out to be a big front to just play poker, gamble, watch basketball games. It’s just an excuse to get away from the house and their wives. It’s a lot of fun, and great to have Randall on the show.

And it’s funny — Gary, the character played by Randall, his wife is played by Randall’s real-life wife, Jae. Randall and Jae are good friends of me and my wife in real life, so it was not only great to have him on, but his wife, too.

Related: ‘Dr. Ken’: Ken Jeong Talks ‘Diversity Revolution,’ Guest Star Margaret Cho, ‘Functional Day Drinking’

How did Randall’s cameo come about?
Randall is a good friend of mine, and also Melvin Mar, one of the executive producers of Fresh Off the Boat. And we’d already had a crossover with Dr. Ken and Fresh Off the Boat where my TV son, Albert Tsai, was already recurring on Fresh Off the Boat. He was on last season and had a guest appearance this season. So, we’re all good friends, and the whole cast has come by the set of Dr. Ken to hang out. We were just kind of casually talking and I told Randall that I’d love to have him on the show. And then Melvin Mar was like, “We’d love to have you on our show.” And I was like, “Totally!” It really spun out of friendship and the mutual respect we have for each other. I just filmed my episode of Fresh Off the Boat last week and had a blast.

Both shows feature Asian American casts, which is very rare on television. Is this a way of supporting and promoting each other’s shows?
I think it’s really more because we’re all friends and know each other, and there were parts on those episodes that fit our talents. I think it happened all organically, and I don’t think either show is intentionally or consciously trying to send a message. We’re just a bunch of talented people who like working with each other. That’s how you see it happen on other projects — you would see Will Ferrell have a cameo in Wedding Crashers or something like that, and then see Ben Stiller have a cameo on a Todd Phillips movie. It just so happens that these shows feature Asian Americans.

On Fresh Off the Boat, you’ll be playing Randall’s brother. And Gary could pop up again. Do you think you’ll guest on each other’s shows in the future?
Yeah, schedule permitting. Of course, I would love that. Randall is welcome any time he wants. I love our energy, we really mesh well together. I really love acting with him — I think this is our third time working together, we just kind of finish each other’s sentences.


Now that the first season is almost over, have you reflected on how the show has evolved since the pilot? Are there things you’d like to improve or emphasize if you get another season?
Creatively, it’s been the most fulfilling year of my career. It’s been amazing because not only am I an actor on the show, I’m one of the executive producers, and I take that role very seriously. I am involved in every decision-making level on the show. What I like about our show, you can’t really typecast us, like “Oh, it’s an Asian show!” or “Oh, it’s a medical show!” My own personal life is just a trampoline for the ideas that come out. At this point in the game, they have their own Dr. Ken universe, and what has evolved, and what I wanted, is that it’s a great ensemble.

I think it’s one of the best multi-camera shows around, and I really take pride in our work ethic and the talent we have — we have Dave Foley, we have Tisha Campbell-Martin. We have experienced actors and new faces on the scene. I love how effortlessly we’ve all blended in. In that way, Dr. Ken is kind of a misnomer, because it’s not just about me, it’s about the ensemble.


Speaking of those new faces, your kids on the show are terrific.
Thank you! Krista Marie Yu, who plays my daughter Molly, is just a gem. She just lifts the words off the page. And Albert Tsai just won a Young Entertainer’s Award just a few weeks ago, for best young supporting actor in a TV series. He’s only 11! I remember telling Albert, “Don’t worry about fame or fortune, that will come organically. However long the show is on, if you come out of this show a better actor, that’s time well spent.” That’s how I would talk to my own kids — I’m the father of two 8-year-old daughters — just come out of it as a better actor and everything else will just fall into place. And that’s what he’s proceeded to do. He has this innate comic timing that you can’t teach. He brings the funny so hard, and especially in front of an audience? That’s harder to do than single camera. It’s nerve-wracking to do it in front of 300 people. He really shows up and steps up his game. I’m so proud of Albert, because of how young he is and how mature he is and how intelligent he is. He does a TV father proud.


So, what can you say about how the season winds down?
The season finale takes a page out of my own life. I try stand-up for the first time, based on my real-life background, before I became known for movies and TV, when I was doing stand-up and working at an HMO at the same time. Ken does open mic at the Laugh Factory, and that was all true. My character’s best friend is played by Jeffrey Ross, the roast master general, and he plays my old college friend who inspires me to try stand-up. It’s totally based on my real life, and that was what was so eerie about doing that episode. The set designers made a replica of the Laugh Factory club and it was so real. It was just like performing there. In fact, we’re going to do a special show at the Laugh Factory on April 20 — just a get-together of the Dr. Ken cast and crew. The show’s really come full circle.

Dr. Ken airs Fridays at 8:30 p.m. on ABC.