Pain & Gain is about to hit cinemas on August 8th with a stella cast including Mark Wahlberg, Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Rebel Wilson and the hilarious Ken Jeong who you may know from Transformers 4 and TV’s Community. We have a very nice Q&A with Ken for you to take a read of, check it out below.
Q; Hi Ken. What was it like shooting Pain and Gain?
A: It was great. This is the continuation of a dream for me. I worked with Michael Bay on Transformers 3. I saw him at a party a year and a half ago. He asked me if I’d be interested in doing this movie. He described the movie, described the part and I said ‘I’m in.’ When I read the script I knew it would be epic because I knew how Michael works with the camera. I knew it would look amazing and the tone would be superb. It’s exactly what I thought it was. I saw it two days ago and both me and my wife loved it. It’s epic. It’s another masterpiece from Michael Bay and it’s a passion project come alive.
Q: Your character is very interesting – how was it playing such an impassioned, over the top and let’s be honest, slightly nutty motivational speaker?
A: As soon as I knew I was going to be playing Johnny Wu, I went onto You Tube and researched a lot of motivational speakers, some good, some horrible, but they all had something in common. They all genuinely believed what they were talking about, even if it was something empty, stupid and just generic. Whether it was a good motivational speaker or a bad one, they truly believed every word they said. I also watched Tom Cruise’s epic speech in Magnolia. To me, that’s the gold standard. There was a lot of inspiration around me just to motivate me.
Q: How was it working with Michael Bay again?
A: I love Michael. He is one of a kind and he’s one of my favorite people to work with. I appreciate his cinematic genius. Even in Transformers, he could do things with a camera I have never seen anyone else do. He does incredibly innovative things and I learn a lot from working with him. Michael knows what he wants. He’s very specific and he’s very fast. For me, Pain and Gain is still a big budget movie, but for him, this is a very low budget movie and he had to work twice as fast as he normally does. Having said that, he always works fast. He doesn’t like to leave people waiting. He doesn’t like actors to wait. He is all about energy. It’s so important and I think some people forget that. Michael preaches that to his crew and his cast and we are all believers in that.
Q: What is something we don’t know about Michael Bay as a director?
A: Michael loves it when you improvise and a lot of people don’t know that about him. He wants you to bring something to the table.
Q: How much improvisation was there with your character Johnny Wu in Pain and Gain?
A: There was some improv, but honestly the script was so strong. I did it anyway (laughs). The true pleasure for me was improvising with Mark (Wahlberg) and having him react so earnestly. My favorite improv was me standing up in the chair and I asked him ‘What do you want to be when you grow up?’ We did one take where Mark earnestly shouts ‘I want to be like you Johnny Wu!’ He said it so excitedly, like a five-year-old kid. We had to cut because I was laughing so hard. It was so funny.
Q: You and Mark have great chemistry in those scenes.
A: Mark is fantastic. For me, just to have the opportunity to meet and work with him was amazing. I just love him, he’s the best. He truly knocks it out of the park. Look at every actor you have associated with this – Dwayne Johnson, Anthony Mackie, Tony Shalhoub, Ed Harris, they’re all thoroughbreds. This movie is so well cast.
Q: Michael seems like someone who is very clear with his vision, particularly on this film which is so close to his heart.
A: On the first day on set, Michael said to us he just wanted us all to enjoy acting. He wants actors to act. A lot of people associate Michael with the big pictures like Transformers, but what people will come away from this movie is Michael’s knowledge of the camera, Michael’s intimacy with the camera. It’s not about how big it is. It’s about how close his relationship is with the camera. He maintains this tone throughout the movie that just keeps your heart racing. It never lets up which is what you want in a movie like this.
Q: Pain and Gain deals a lot with the idea of the American dream, albeit one that goes horribly wrong here.
A: Exactly. This is the perversion of the American dream. It’s a cautionary tale of what happens if you take something the wrong way so completely. It’s kind of like taking something the wrong way so strongly. Pain and Gain should be subtitled Strong and Wrong.
Q: What was your American dream?
A: I honestly think the American dream is universal – meaning you just want to be happy in your every day life. I think everyone wants that, no matter if they live in Tokyo, Paris, London or Sydney. Those parameters though are always shifting. That includes myself. You think ‘Well, if I had this much, I’d be really happy or if I just had this, then I’d be complete.’ This movie deals with the idea that ‘If I get my body just a little bit bigger, I’d be happy’ or ‘If I was just a little bit richer, I’d be happy’, ‘If I was a little bit better looking, I’d be happy.’ It’s easy to neglect the pot of gold that is in front of you in your present life and I think that’s something universal we’ve all done. We’ve all made those mistakes. This movie is a reminder we need to stay in the present, stay engaged and be grateful. It’s easier said than done though. Trying to be happy in the moment takes work.
Q: Your career is going from strength to strength. Are you good at being able to see the pot of gold which is in front of you?
A: I don’t take for granted any of this. As a former doctor, all I ever wanted to be in my life was a working actor. It wasn’t about being rich and famous, it wasn’t about being any of that. To this day, still my goal is to be a working actor. I’m very grateful that I got this kind of recognition later in life.
Q: Do you think that helps you cope with fame better – rather than hitting your stride in your late teens or early 20s?
A: Definitely. I’m happily married with two kids. My wife is a doctor and she encouraged me to pursue this dream, to quit my job as a doctor and be an actor full-time. A lot of this success I owe to my wife. Neither my wife nor I can truly believe this is happening. To sit on a panel with Mark Wahlberg a couple of days ago, my wife and I were driving home afterwards and I said ‘Can you believe I was just up on a stage sitting next to Mark Wahlberg and Michael Bay?’ It still blows my mind. The Hangover changed my life. I always remember a great quote from Keith Richards who said ‘When I listened to Chuck Berry, my life changed from black and white to technicolor.’ That’s what The Hangover was for me. My life changed from black and white to technicolor. If it wasn’t for The Hangover, I wouldn’t have gotten to work with Michael Bay and I wouldn’t have done Transformers or Pain and Gain. To be part of Michael Bay’s career family is an unexpected bonus. I would do anything for him. I was so honored to be even a small part of this movie because there is no such thing as a small part in a Michael Bay movie.
Q: What did you do to get so hyped up as Johnny Wu? Did you have 10 cups of coffee before each take?
A: I kind of always do (laughs). I was just going through my everyday routine as a creature of habit.
Q: With everything that has happened with your career, you sound like someone who is very happy with their lot in life.
A: You know what? Even if this were all to end tomorrow, I’d still be happy. It is unbelievable to me how much my life has changed in four years. I can’t believe any of this is happening to me.
Q: And you know you can always go back to being a doctor, right?
A: That’s right. I can always go back. Not that I want to (laughs). I remember when I was filming Knocked Up, I was still working as a doctor. That was the first big film role I had and after that movie came out, I started getting more movies and I knew acting was what I truly wanted to do.
Q: What is the best advice you have ever received?
A: My Dad once told me ‘Any move you make, you need to make sure your family is on the same page. It’s always about family.’ So when I made the decision to quit my job, with my wife’s support, I was a little worried about what my Dad would say. When I told him about my plans he wisely asked ‘What does your wife think?’ I said ‘She told me to quit.’ He goes ‘Well, you have your answer because your wife is your family and if she is okay with it, then so am I.’ It was the most loving thing a father can do for their son, to have that trust. That gave me all the confidence in the world.
Pain & Gain opens on August 8th, click here to check out the trailer.