×

Ken Jeong Says He’ll Never Leave ‘Community,’ No Matter What

Aside from playing the crazy Señor Chang, Ken Jeong is known for being, as he calls it, a “lifer” on “Community,” sticking with the show from its beginning to its current state, in season six on Yahoo Screen. Jeong spoke to Variety about dealing with the show’s cancellation on NBC, cast changes and why he’ll never leave the cult favorite.

You’re six seasons in. Are you still enjoying it?
This has honestly been my favorite season out of all them because there’s a new lease on life. There’s a new freshness to it. We still have most importantly Dan Harmon and Chris McKenna and all the great writers from last year. Table reads are my favorite part of this whole experience for me. We get to read the scripts for the first time. It’s fun going to a Dan Harmon table read, to discover the words for the first time. The quality is still so sharp, after six seasons, after over 100 episodes. I’m just in awe of how Dan and the whole writing staff work. I’ve never been part of anything so consistently brilliant.

Does it feel different on Yahoo?
It doesn’t feel like because we’re on Yahoo now, I can do “Hangover” stuff and be nude. But we don’t have the same constraints. I’m not privy to any notes, but for me it feels like the respect of the vision of the show appears to be stronger than ever. I can’t say enough great things about Yahoo and (chief marketing officer) Kathy Savitt. She deserves all the credit for giving us more love than we have ever had, ever.

How did you feel when the show was cancelled?
I was devastated. Not being able to be with your friends — that was the first thing that came to my mind. Words can’t express my love for everybody. When you’re working with your friends it doesn’t feel like it’s work. Of course in TV all things end, but I felt the show had gotten better last year. There were more quality stories to tell, and I’ve been proved right. We still have a lot more to offer. I’ve already had several moments this season personally for my character that are my favorite of the series.

And when you were picked up?
I was ecstatic. I didn’t think it could be a possibility. You hear all the time, of course, the studio will shop it around. But as time went by, I assumed they’re passing. For us to come back is another miracle.

The show is full of miracles. I feel like we’re bucking the rules of television just by existing. I feel like we’re defying the rules of conventional TV. Any TV expert or agent or manager, no one would have predicted this. We’re a complete anomaly. It’s inspiring to me because nothing ever feels phoned in on this show, from the writing to the performances, as well as to our props department and our set decorator. I don’t think they get enough credit.

Have you ever been asked to do something that you felt was too outrageous?
You’re talking to the guy from “The Hangover,” so that pretty much answers that question. It’s been an amazing ride of how the Chang character still stays fresh to me as an actor. That’s what I love the most.

It’s always exciting. You never know what’s going to happen. It’s exactly what I feel I’m about as a comedian. It’s rare for a TV show to do that, the amount of care they give to the lines of dialogue to all the characters.

Do you always get all the jokes?

At the table read, there was a point where I whispered to someone, “What does that mean?” and I missed my beat. A lot of people in comedy don’t give up their egos to ask what does this joke mean. There’s a lot of ego involved where you don’t want to look dumb. I have no problem as does every one in the cast asking, “Where are you trying to land with this joke?” and admitting I’m sorry I’ve been saying it wrong. Some of us are Oscar winners. Some of us are Emmy winners. Some of us are movie stars. But we all let go of our egos and have a good time. We all grew up together. You can only develop this level of trust and camaraderie after being together for six years through the highs and lows. We’ve survived so much.

How do you feel about the cast changes?
There’s always a character vacuum, absolutely. I definitely have missed them all. At the same time you’re also happy for them because they’re doing what makes them happy. Keith David and Paget Brewster have fit in like a glove from day one. There are some lines he says, he just has that gravitas. And Paget shot something yesterday that has been one of the funniest things I’ve seen all season.

Will you stay with the show?
I’ll never leave “Community,” no matter what. You’re either a lifer or you’re not. I’ve just learned so much. If we come back, I’ve got so much to learn. This show has been a huge influence on me and what I’ve done in my other projects. On set on the second “Hangover” movie, Todd Phillips looked at me and said, “I don’t know what happened between the first two ‘Hangover’ movies, but you’ve just gotten better. You were kind of a newbie and you’re a pro now.” I’ve had no formal training in acting. This has been my school.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • The Mentalist

    #NotWorthLess: 'I Was Great and Deserve to Be Paid the Same'

    Women writers, producers and assistants across Twitter turned the hashtag #NotWorthLess into a trend Wednesday, shining a light on issues of pay inequality in the entertainment business. Sparked by screenwriter Adele Lim’s recent decision to walk away from the “Crazy Rich Asians” sequel in protest of being paid less than her male co-writer, dozens of [...]

  • does self-described "family brands" business Hasbro

    With Hasbro Acquisition, Is eOne Planning to Offload Family-Unfriendly Properties?

    Hasbro’s $4 billion acquisition of eOne in August instantly put the Canadian toy giant in the league of major entertainment and content companies thanks to eOne’s arsenal of IP assets in music, television and film. But does the self-described “family brands” business that’s home to The Game of Life and My Little Pony align with [...]

  • Mariah Carey Tracee Ellis Ross

    Mariah Carey, Tracee Ellis Ross Celebrate Biracial Heritage at “Mixed-ish” Premiere

    Mariah Carey and Tracee Ellis Ross embraced their “ish” at Tuesday night’s series premiere event for ABC’s “Mixed-ish” by reflecting on how their biracial identity makes working on the new show even more personal. “I’m just so thankful that this show exists,” Carey told the assembled crowd during a Q&A with series creator Kenya Barris. [...]

  • THE BACHELORETTE - "The Bachelorette: Season

    'The Bachelor': ABC Reality Boss Talks Ratings Success, Diversity Backlash

    Last night, Peter Weber was unveiled, perhaps unsurprisingly, as the next Bachelor during the season finale of “Bachelor in Paradise.” Weber’s selection coincided with a season-high rating for “Paradise,” and caps a solid ratings summer for the “Bachelor” franchise. As ratings have been in decline across the board this summer, “The Bachelorette” and “Bachelor in [...]

  • Raising Dion

    TV News Roundup: Netflix Releases 'Raising Dion' Trailer

    In today’s TV news roundup, Netflix releases “Raising Dion’s” trailer and announces a number of premiere dates for its original series. DATES Netflix announced the premiere dates for several of its new and returning original series: Season 2 of “Carmen Sandiego” will launch Oct. 1; Deon Cole’s standup special “Deon Cole: Cole Hearted” will launch [...]

  • Jim Parrack

    '9-1-1: Lone Star' Adds 'True Blood' Alum Jim Parrack

    Fox’s “9-1-1: Lone Star” continues to round out its main cast. Jim Parrack has joined the upcoming drama in a series regular role. He joins previously announced series leads Rob Lowe and Liv Tyler. In the series, Lowe stars as Capt. Owen Strand, a sophisticated New York fireman who, along with his adult son, re-locates [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content