His name may not be on the marquee just yet, but if you’ve laughed at a movie in the last two years, you can probably thank Ken Jeong.
Since getting his big break as Katherine Heigl’s OB/GYN in “Knocked Up” in 2007, the actor has stood out in over a half-dozen big-screen comedies and TV appearances – and now, he’s AccessHollywood.com’s latest Rising Star.
In just a few years, Ken’s already had a diverse group of roles, from a sword-wielding LAIRE king who battles Chris Mintz-Plasse and Paul Rudd in “Role Models,” to the naked gambler who blackmails Bradley Cooper and his crew in “The Hangover.” Other credits include the recently released, “The Goods: Live Hard, Sell Hard,” and smaller stints on “The Office” and Starz’s “Party Down.”
Coming up this Labor Day weekend, he’ll rejoin Cooper in “All About Steve,” and appear later this year in Vince Vaughn’s “Couples Retreat.” He also landed a leading role in NBC’s new Thursday-night comedy “Community,” where we caught up with him.
“I’m just so grateful getting work, that’s all I want to do, just keep working,” Ken told AccessHollywood.com. “The last two years have been such a trippy, surreal life. I’m just so happy doing one of these things, so I just can’t believe my fortune.”
While many celebs start their path toward fame in their teens or even earlier, Ken spent his formative years studying medicine. In fact, at age 40, Ken is AccessHollywood.com’s oldest ever Rising Star.
“I did theater in college and couldn’t really pursue it as much as I wanted to because I was pre-med,” he explained, adding that he began his comedy career doing stand-up on the side while attending medical school in North Carolina.
While conducting his residency in New Orleans, he won the Big Easy Laff-Off, a stand-up contest judged by NBC president Brandon Tartikoff and Budd Friedman of LA comedy institution the Improv. Ken moved to LA, practicing medicine for seven years and continuing with stand-up until earning the notice of Judd Apatow – and the rest is history.
“Judd Apatow gave me my big break in ‘Knocked Up’ and [my career is] really because of those guys,” Ken said. “I’ve been very grateful to Judd, he really just plucked me out of the blue.”
And while he’s done a number of films since, Ken still remembers his first day on the set of the Apatow-directed film.
“I was so intimidated, I was so scared of everyone,” he said. “I still remember my first day vividly, it was with Seth Rogen and Katherine Heigl and I was just amazed — they just allowed me to be nuts, they just allowed me to go crazy. I still get goose bumps to this day.”
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