Ken Jeong has had many scene-stealing roles in his second career, including that star-making turn in The Hangover trilogy and as the anarchic Chang in Community.
And while many know that he was a real-life doctor specialising in internal medicine while doing stand-up comedy on the side before choosing acting full-time in 2006, what they may not know is that it was fellow Asian-American comic Margaret Cho who really encouraged him.
“I was inspired by Margaret. I got my start in comedy because of Margaret,” Jeong told news.com.au. “When I was in medical school and being her opening act at university inspired me to do this full-time. I would always ask Margaret, ‘Should I quit being a doctor? Should I quit medicine?’.
“I was so tortured, and I know I annoyed her. And she was so patient with me and so loving. It was just like a sibling – and it got me through my own internal confidence crises.
“Margaret really is a pioneer in so many ways. Every Asian-American comedian owes a debt of gratitude to Margaret. Also, when I developed my own show, Dr Ken, I had Margaret as my character’s sister for a reason.”
Jeong and Cho reunite this week in Netflix movie Over The Moon, an animated film which tells a modern story based on an ancient Chinese legend about moon goddess Chang’e and her significance to Chinese cultures that celebrate the Mid-Autumn Festival.
Jeong voices a mythical moon creature named Gobi, who plays guide to young heroine Fei Fei while Cho voices one of Fei Fei’s aunts.
The film drops on Netflix this week and also features the voice talents of John Cho, Philippa Soo, Sandra Oh, Kimiko Glenn and newcomer Cathy Yan.
Over The Moon is an often strange, often tender and often musical movie pitched at families, but for the Asian diaspora community, it’ll have extra resonance.
Cho told news.com.au that she signed on for the role because it was “a beautiful story” that moved her while Jeong identified the film as part of a wave of change when it comes to Asian-American representation in Hollywood.
“I think the script and the story was so novel, and then also finding it’s an all Asian-American cast – like my dear friend Margaret and then John Cho, Phillipa Soo from Hamilton, Cathy Yan who really is a centrepiece of this movie,” Jeong said. “So you have this incredible Asian-American talent and on the heels of Crazy Rich Asians, Searching, Tigertail and Always Be My Maybe, there is like a wave. And it’s really nice to have that wave extend to the world of animation.”
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Cho, who has been steadily working for almost 30 years, has been part of that wave when it was barely a trickle. She starred