The doctor is in… again! We talked to Dr. Ken executive producer, star, and real life doc, Ken Jeong, about what to expect for Season 2 of his ABC medical comedy (spoiler alert: get ready for a lot more family time and an epic ghost story) as well as whether his TV alter ego has a future in stand-up comedy.
What’s the theme for Season 2?
I think the theme is family. Allison, my wife, [Suzy Nakamura] will be working with me at the HMO, at Welltopia, the HMO where Dr. Ken works, and so there’s a bit of a shift in paradigm, if you will. This season just really tackles not only his working with his wife but also living with her. And that’s based on my real life — my real-life wife is also a doctor, [and] we met at the HMO where we worked and we ended up getting married. So, it really is even more true and more of a slice of life than ever this season. And on the theme of family, you’ll also have my character’s father, played by Dana Lee, he will be living with the family. So it really is exploring the family dynamic of the Parks.
Damona (Tisha Campbell) and Pat (Dave Foley) have had an on and off romantic relationship. Will they figure things out this season?
There will be a definitive answer that will be explored this year so you definitely will see, because there was a whole will-they-or-won’t they — or not really a will-they-or-won’t they, because they did — but you’ll definitely see them evolve. I definitely have them, and I don’t mind sharing this with you, exploring other relationships. I think that’s important for the growth of the characters on the show.
And Dave (Albert Tsai), your TV son, will get his first girlfriend. What is she like?
Yes, she’s played by my real life daughter Zooey, and she basically plays Dave’s stalker that lives next door. I think it’s in the third episode that we will explore that. She’s been on Jimmy Kimmel with me and we did a music video for a Laura Marano where she played my assistant director. So yeah, the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.
You had a sad storyline last season with “Dicky Wexler’s Last Show,” which focused on one of Dr. Ken’s long-term patients who had terminal cancer. Do you plan to make us cry again this season?
First of all, thank you for mentioning the Dicky Wexler episode. That’s not only my favorite Dr. Ken episode last season, but it’s probably one of my most favorite things I’ve ever done in my career. It was one of those episodes where everything really effortlessly and organically came together. The case, it felt so real, something that not just me but a lot of doctors have been through in caring for a patient when there’s no cure. It was a very emotional episode. I don’t want to really top that because in many ways that was such an apex… What I want to do is explore more heartfelt moments, and they may not necessarily be with a patient case, it could be with family.
We have something planned for [Ken’s dad] DK that is kind of a jaw-dropper… It really explores Ken’s relationship with DK and why DK is even there in the first place this season. So the reason of him living with us will be explained. That is, to me, what will help deepen not only the show emotionally, but all the characters as well. And it has a ripple effect not just with the Park family but also with the HMO. We have a specific reason why [he moves in].
Are the actual storylines based on your real life experiences as a doctor?
Yes. The show is loosely based on my life, pre-Hangover if you will. A lot of times I’m referencing my own life. What if in real life Ken Jeong didn’t do The Hangover, then he would maybe be doing a little bit of stand-up comedy on the side. I had a good life prior to this, so I always reference that side of me. Like just right now we’re shooting an episode where Ken and Allison are solving a patient case together and it’s definitely inspired by how [my real wife] Tran and I would always sidebar each other with the discussion of medicine. I was even telling Suzy today, “The way you’re talking and the way we’re doing the scene is exactly what Tran would do.” It gets really surreal at times, especially last year in the season finale with me doing the stand-up comedy, there was a lot of stuff that was definitely based on real life, and how Allison, my TV wife, was supportive of me doing comedy… it definitely mimics and parallels Tran being very supportive of me doing acting full-time.
Yes, I want to ask you about the season finale and your character doing stand-up. Will we see more of that this season?
Yeah, that will definitely be addressed right at the top of the season premiere… I don’t want to shake up the universe so much where you see him basically open up for Brian Regan [laughs]. I think you want him as close to life as possible and I think that comedy will always be a part of his life in some shape or form, but first and foremost he’s a father, he’s a doctor, he’s a son, so it’s just exploring deeper things other than just comedy ambitions. But having said that, comedy is a huge part of the character of Ken and in many ways. Ken’s always, whether it referencing a comedy show or not, there’s always that subtext, “I crushed the Top 5 at the Laugh Factory.” What I like is it adds an extra layer to the Dr. Ken character, it just makes my character more complex.
Is there anything else you can tell us about Season 2?
I’m just excited to share more family stories on Dr. Ken the second year. Specifically, there’s a Halloween episode that we’re doing that is a full-on Korean ghost story. We are really tackling more cultural aspects of my life as well. So it’s loosely based on an ancient Korean ghost story, but [in the] Dr. Ken universe. There’s elements of unique cultural ghost stories to share, plus almost a little bit of that “Treehouse of Horror” kind of vibe you get from The Simpsons. So we’re doing a very outside of the box Halloween episode that really departs from the Dr. Ken formula that I’m really, really excited about… It’s basically DK telling Dave and Ken a story… and the Korean word for ghost is “gwisin” and he’s like, “I ain’t afraid of no gwisin.” [laughs]. There’s really going to be some great stuff, I’m so excited for this year.
The second season of Dr. Ken premieres Friday, Sept. 23 at 8: 30 p.m. on ABC.