The unlikely star from Hangover talks about playing a practical tea-cher in The Duff and retaining his funny chops
EN Jeong shot to fame as the eccentric gangster Leslie Chow in The Hangover trilogy. He also drew our attention with his hilarious and irreverent role in the television sitcom, Community. The trained doctor will next be seen in The Duff, a teen comedy about Bianca Piper, played by Mae Whitman, who is labelled DUFF—Designated Ugly Fat Friend. Here Jeong doesn’t bring along his usual brand of crazy, but is a goofy teacher who guides Piper. Born to South Korean immigrants, Jeong started his career as a stand-up, while also training to become a doctor. A self proclaimed ‘nerd’, the 45-year-old is also working on a new medical sitcom, Dr. Ken—created and co-produced by him. More from the actor:
Tell us something about your role in the film?
My character’s name is Arthur. He is Malloy High School’s journalism teacher and a mentor/surrogate father to Bianca, whose real father is absent following a divorce from her mother, Dottie. My character sees the potential in Bianca. He is a good coach and mentor who knows that she can handle the challenges, so he pushes her even more.
You’re known for your crazy roles. What attracted you to this one? The story was both touching and comic. The script was so good and so funny —with laugh-out-loud moments from the get-go. What I loved about the characters is that they’re three-dimensional. Everyone’s got a layer of humanity to them.
When you do a comic role, what do you do to make sure it’s funny?
I never think about making it funny. I think of making it good. If it’s a comedy, you want to make it a certain tone of funny. That’s what you need a good director for, and Ari Sandel was very clear what he wanted out of my character. I have played twisted characters in already deviant comedies, but I’ve toned it down a notch here as the affable, goofy editor of the school newspaper and high school teacher who is also a former DUFF.
You have a great fanbase in India. Do you think it wil help your film?
I am very surprised to know that I have fan base in India. I don’t know about the positive effect on the box office, but I am very excited this film is going to release in India. If given a choice, I would love to be part of a Bollywood film. I have seen a couple of Bollywood films.
What do you prefer—
the small or big screen?
Well, it will not be fair to choose one over the other; not to me and not to my fans. The fact is that I do both because I love and enjoy both the mediums. Essaying the role of Chang in Community has a sense of comfort about it. I sometimes think of Chang as my alter ego. Movies are a different game all together. I work with a fresh group of people every time who expect me to bring something fresh to the table.
What are your future projects?
There is Killing Hasselhoff by Darren Grant and the children’s film Norm of the North by Anthony Bell, and action comedy Ride Along 2 by Tim Story. The Duff is scheduled to release on June 12.