Ken Jeong Shows His Serious Side in a 'Very Emotional' Dr. Ken Episode
When people think of Ken Jeong, they often recall his role in The Hangover franchise that started as that little naked guy who jumps out of the trunk. However, the actor and former doctor also has a very serious side, which he showed when speaking about tonight's Dr. Ken episode, "Dicky Wexler's Last Show," which focuses one of Dr. Ken's long-term patients, a comedian with terminal cancer played by George Wyner.
Now that Jeong's playing a doc behind the camera and not just in real life, he can also relay the emotions that come from treating patients who are nearing the end of their lives. The funnyman told us what to expect from the somber storyline and also explains why this is his favorite episode ever.
So what is "Dicky Wexler's Last Show" about?
Dr. Ken takes care of his favorite patient, a comedian named Dicky Wexler, upon finding out that his cancer has returned and gotten worse. And Julie (Kate Simses), the senior resident, reminds Ken to be more objective in his care and practice good medicine. He starts to almost break some of the rules like, ‘Oh, it’s Dicky. He’s strong enough. He can go.' It’s what happens when a doctor gets too close to a patient emotionally. Compassion is a good thing, but getting too emotionally involved can be a detriment to the patient. The lines are blurred.
Was it rough filming some of the more emotional scenes?
There were times at the table read that I just couldn’t stop crying. Even during parts of the run through, just scenes of Ken and Dicky in the hospital, even just talking—there were some takes where I just couldn’t stop crying. It honestly is not only my favorite Dr. Ken episode, it’s one of the favorite things that I’ve ever done in my career, just because of how personal the story was. In many ways, it’s a culmination of where my life and my career converge, and I feel like Dicky Wexler is that point.
Why is this your favorite episode?
Because it’s based on a couple of things. It’s based on real-life encounters with patients as a doctor, caring for patients with terminal cancer. That was a big part of what I did as a physician, taking care of terminal illness. That was a lot of my practice back in the day. I was in adult internal medicine. The way the script was written, and it was beautifully written by Erik Sommers, it just really captured a physician’s journey with a patient. I remember in med school I learned, “To heal is seldom, to cure is rare, but to comfort is always.” That, to me, was really what this episode was about. And also, on an even more personal note, my wife is a breast cancer survivor, seven years cancer-free. So needless to say it was a very emotional week.
Why did you choose to tell this story?
It was through Mike Sikowitz, our fearless showrunner. We had a meeting and wanted to do more patient cases, and I pitched that we should do something that’s real, caring for a patient through the end of life and what a doctor goes through. So that was my pitch, and Mike liked it and the writers’ room came up with that storyline. It takes a village in television, as you know. That’s what I loved about the episode; it was so personal but very universal. Everyone had a say in it. Everyone knows someone or knows someone who knows someone with cancer, so to me that’s what made it even bigger than I intended it to be. People who watched the episode and watched us film it were telling me that, ‘This is me, this is what I went through.’
How was it working with George Wyner?
George Wyner, I cannot say enough things about that man. From the table read, he just inhabited that character, knew that character, and I get choked up thinking about his performance. I’ve worked with George, too, in the past, and that was great, just working with a friend. There was already a trust element, a chemistry element that was there in rehearsal. Also, because we’re multi-camera, when we shot it, we basically only did two takes of the dramatic scenes. Keep in mind, we rehearsed it for four days prior, but once tape day happened, it was one of the quickest shoots we’ve ever had. It was also because everyone was so on point. It was like lightning in a bottle. You don’t need to overshoot it, overdo it, or sometimes the emotion goes away. I think that’s what made it feel really raw. It didn’t take really long to do it once we got it on its feet. It was just one of those things. It was one of the best days of my career.
What else is going on in the episode?
Ken’s wife Allison (Suzy Nakamura) goes through the humiliation she feels when a patient has left her practice for another therapist. She’s kind of going through, ‘Well, why did that happen?’ It’s a beautiful exploration into the mind of a therapist. We deliberately threaded those two storylines together. There’s also a great storyline about going to lunch with Clark (Jonathan Slavin) and going vegan. Everything threaded really well. It’s the perfect blend of hard drama and comedy.
Dr. Ken airs Fridays at 8:30/7:30c on ABC.