Ken Jeong Casts His Vote In The #Plantersallorone Debate - Exclusive Interview

We double-dog dare you not to fall hard for Ken Jeong. You want Jeong to be your BFF, even when he's playing the part of the brilliantly over-the-top tyrant-gangster Mr. Chow in "The Hangover." Whether he's a questionably-qualified Señor Chang, barking Sesame Street Spanish at his students in "Community," or the loving if in-your-face father figure Wye Mun Goh in "Crazy Rich Asians," you need Jeong in your wheelhouse. It's just as impossible not to succumb to Jeong's magic in his latest escapade. We're talking about the Super Bowl ad that the actor and comedian undertook alongside best friend, Joel McHale, in partnership with Planters. 

Unlike McHale, Jeong is no chef. In fact, he once copped to Bon Appétit that he's capable of cooking up "the driest chicken nuggets on the planet." Hands down: McHale beats Jeong at the barbecue game, and Jeong ruefully admits it. Jeong, on the other hand, just might know how to eat mixed nuts better than anybody else — at least, he'll try his hardest to convince you of that. In this exclusive interview with Mashed, Jeong schools us on proper nut-eating habits and sitcom snacking, gets serious about his legacy, and explains why he's having the best time of his life, right now. 

Ken Jeong talks his Planters partnership and feud with Joel McHale

What character, if any, inspired your upcoming Super Bowl Planters commercial?

Oh, the character is ourselves. It's really great to have partnered with Planters through this Super Bowl ad with one of my best friends and more importantly, my frienemy, Joel McHale. What inspired us was our real-life relationship. Although we are best friends, we approach life differently and that's why this ad campaign really reflects us as people of ... how we eat our Planters Deluxe Mixed Nuts, either one at a time like me or all together — which is the wrong way — like my friend, Joel McHale.

You notoriously do not cook, but Joel McHale does, and I was wondering what the best and worst things he may have cooked for you are?

I cannot tell a lie. Joel is an incredible cook and he has never cooked anything bad for me or for anyone. He is actually an amazing chef and I've been over at his house for barbecues over the years and he's ... I hope you don't use this in this piece because I always get upset when I have to say something nice about Joel. He is a wonderful chef, a wonderful father, wonderful husband, wonderful guy, but please don't include any of that. Please? We need to keep our brand intact.

I'm wondering, other than Planters, what are you planning on combining with Planters for your game day snack essentials?

We have a nice spread at the Jeong family house on Super Bowl day. We have all the ... everything you want ... in it. Planters Deluxe Mixed Nuts are a big part of it. It's a real dynamic — do you enjoy your mixed nuts one at a time, or do you eat [them] by the handful? It is amazing to see how people, unconsciously, approach their snacking habits.

Now, is your household united over your Planters snacking habits?

Yes. Look, we're sophisticates. We eat one at a time and I have instructed and wired my family to do the same. It's so important to savor and cherish every bit of food that goes into our mouths. Absolutely.

Why Ken Jeong thinks sitcom food is the best food in the showbiz

Whose side do you think that the United States is going to be on, yours or Joel McHale's? One at a time or all in a fistful?

I think they're going to be on my side and if I'm looking at the online support that I've been having, everyone seems to be liking one at a time and I honestly believe that I am winning the all or one debate. I really do. I honestly believe that, and already, fans are joining in on the conversation and making fun of Joel, which is what I always like. It's been lovely to win the #Plantersallorone debate. And I'm going to win, of course.

Well, we wish you the best of luck in that debate!

Thank you. Very, very important. It's good to have an ally.

Do chicken wings form part of Super Bowl Sundays?

Oh yeah, absolutely. It's funny. My wife loves hot wings even more than me, so I remember I was on "Hot Ones," one of those with Sean Evans, they gave my wife a plate of hot wings and she loved that and she could handle the fight way more than me.

We saw that interview. Did it ruin hot sauce for you forever?

Well, I was actually very nervous. I didn't want to do that in the beginning and then my wife had convinced me, and then she actually came with me on the set. Somewhere in that video, you see me just saying, "Hi Tran, this is so painful, look how my mouth is on fire." 

There is a quote attributed to you on the internet that is, "Sitcom food is by far the tastiest of all showbiz food." Explain that quote, if it did it indeed come from you.

Maybe that happened on the day while I was filming something, eating food, because it can be plentiful on set. When you have to do takes over and over again, you do have to pace yourself and it must have been ... I think it was "Dr. Ken," on the set of my own show that I created. I believe that we were doing a Korean food episode and we had really delicious Korean food on set. I think it's attributed to that, from my memory. I remember being very, very happy that day.

What food did you have on set? Do you remember?

Oh, we had galbi, we had kimchi. I'm a very proud Korean American and we just had a classic Korean dinner, and it was authentic, and it was lovely. A lot of galbi, which is Korean marinated short ribs. 

Ken Jeong's favorite day of filming, ever

Right after your sitcom got canceled, you got a part in "Crazy Rich Asians," which we all know now was a huge hit, more than you ever expected. How do you feel about its impact and legacy now with more and more movies Asian American casts, like "Shang-Chi and The Legend of The Ten Rings," and "Raya and the Last Dragon?"

Being a part of "Crazy Rich Asians" was one of my favorite things I've ever been a part of in my career, because in many ways, it may be the most important ... I remember when we were filming it, we ... knew we were doing something special in the moment, [and] we had a feeling we were doing something special that will have an impact. I remember one of my favorite days of filming anything, ever, was being ... In that last scene, the whole cast, we were all in Singapore, and some of us are meeting for the first time. To have, in the last scene of the movie, all of us doing an overnight shoot on the rooftop was really one of the most beautiful experiences I've ever had as an actor. Especially as an Asian American actor, the words can't express the amount of pride and amount of joy that is associated with my feelings for that movie.

You've got a new series, in development on Amazon prime, "Shoot the Moon." Can you tell me a little bit about your character and how you're preparing for that role?

Yes. It's still in development [and] being produced by Daniel Dae Kim. What I love about it right now is that it's an all Asian American and Asian Canadian production team and writer, that we're all working together on and it's a wonderful collaboration and I'm currently in the midst of developing it as we speak. It's directly inspired by my experiences on "Dr. Ken" and "Crazy Rich Asians." They had more representation both on and off the screen, [which] is really important to give [the show] its authenticity. I hope to do projects like "Shoot the Moon" for the rest of my life. It's something that I'm incredibly passionate about.

Can you describe your character in it?

Right now, it's based on the writer and creator of the project. We based [it] on his own life of what happens when you lose the Korean American dream of "having it all." Is it really your dream, and if it is, what do you really want? It's a really wonderful project and very rich in emotional scope and depth, and it's something that I'm really looking forward to developing.

Ken Jeong talks working with Michael Myers and Keegan-Michael Key

You're also working with Mike Myers and Keegan-Michael Key on a Netflix series. Is that right?

Yeah, it's a Netflix limited series called "The Pentaverate," and it will be coming out later this year. It was created by the genius mind of Mike Myers and it stars Mike in several different roles, as well as Keegan-Michael Key, and myself — an amazing cast. It was a career highlight for me because Mike Myers is not only a friend now, but he is really one of my comedy inspirations. One of the reasons why I do comedy at all is because of Mike, and a lot of comedic actors would say the same thing. Every day was pure joy working with one of my heroes and idols. It was really one hell of an impactive experience. I'm smiling if I think of it right now. Every day, you would go to work with a smile and you would leave with an even bigger smile. I remember me and Keegan, so many times we're pinching ourselves going, "I can't believe we're actually doing a Mike Myers project together." It's a lot of fun.

Can you give me your favorite behind-the-scenes story from filming that series?

Out of respect for the project, I think, as the saying of the actual series goes, "The Pentaverate must never be exposed." So, I'll definitely defer to Mike on that question.

Okay. Okay. What is your favorite movie of all time?

I'd say it is probably "Goodfellas" and I think a lot of people are surprised by that because they would think it would be a comedy. I feel like every time "Goodfellas" is on TV, or if it shows up in the background, it's that movie that you always stop what you're doing, and you admire the filmmaking behind it. It's the perfect film, in my opinion. It really broke a lot of ground and yet it was a high at the same time, as well as opening the doors for filmmakers in general and for fans of film such as myself.

Where Ken Jeong gets his inspiration

Who's one actor or director that you've never worked with, but you'd love to work with most in the past or the present?

I don't have that kind of mentality and I never did because I feel like the people I want to work with are the people I am working with. I feel that it's ... for me, you never know what inspired you on a set. Sometimes it might be, let's say, a big-name person, but sometimes it can be ... The inspiration can come in so many unexpected ways. It can come from a producer, a writer, [or] an actor who even has a cameo on a project. You draw inspiration from many different ways because a lot of people associate working with good names as inspiration. For me, one should always find inspiration from where your current surroundings are. I think that is the only way to really attract other people who share the same mentality and want to be inspired as well. I've never had that mentality, to be honest. I think that's probably why I've worked with a lot of people that I get inspired by. The list is long and lengthy of who has inspired me in my career.

How about roles that are still on your bucket list? You've said before that you want to do a period piece. Is there a role that you wish you could play in the future?

Well, not really. Honestly, I don't even think about that either. I feel like I am doing exactly what I want to be doing right now in my life. It's a very nice attitude to have. So much of life, in general, is focusing on the have-nots and the grass is greener on the other side. To me, I'm at a point in my ... maybe I'm just getting older, or maybe more wise and mature, but I'm having the best time in my life right now, because I feel like I've been able to do everything that I've ever wanted to do and then some.

For me, I've been so blessed ... and now I get to actually do an ad or even a Super Bowl ad with one of my best friends. Joel and I have been in the business for a while, and we've been ... we had our own separate ad campaigns, but to do a Planters brand Super Bowl ad with one of my best friends, that's something beyond my dreams. It's funny, I talk to Joel or connect with Joel almost every day. The whole time we were doing this, we were like, "I can't believe we are actually getting to do this together." It was so much fun and so easy because we've known each other for so long because of "Community." Yeah.

You can catch Ken Jeong and Joel McHale's Planters showdown during the Super Bowl. In the meantime, don't forget chime into the debate on Twitter with #PlantersAllorOne to tell the world how you eat your nuts!