Ken Jeong Interview For Michael Bay’s ‘Pain & Gain’
Michael Bay’s ‘Pain & Gain’ is based on the unbelievable true story of three personal trainers in 1990s Miami who, in pursuit of the American Dream, get caught up in a criminal enterprise that goes horribly wrong. Daniel Lugo (Mark Wahlberg) is a regular bodybuilder who works at the Sun Gym along with his friend Adrian Doorbal (Anthony Mackie). Sick of living the poor life, Lugo concocts a plan to kidnap Victor Kershaw (Tony Shalhoub), a regular at the gym and a rich, spoiled businessman, and extort money from him by means of torture. With the help of recently released criminal Paul Doyle (Dwayne Johnson), the “Sun Gym Gang” successfully gets Kershaw to sign over all his finances. But when Kershaw survives an attempted murder by the gang, he hires private investigator Ed Du Bois (Ed Harris) to catch the criminals after the Miami Police Department fails to do so. The likes of Rebel Wilson, Yolanthe Cabau, Tony Plana, Keili Lefkovitz, Rob Corddry, Ken Jeong and Bar Paly also star in the action-comedy-crime film. ‘Pain & Gain’ lands in cinemas on April 26th in the US and May 3rd in the UK.
Can you remember your first discussion with Michael Bay about ‘Pain & Gain’? Was it something he spoke to you about on ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’?
Ken Jeong: He asked me to join ‘Pain & Gain’ not too long after ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’ had come out. We were at a party and Michael said to me, “I’ve got a part with you in mind.” And he described ‘Pain & Gain’ and described my character and I was like…. actually, even before he described I knew I was in (laughs). He’s a genius and I had so much fun working with him on ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon.’ I would do anything for Michael, working on ‘Transformers: Dark of the Moon’ was a true career highlight for me. And honestly, I never thought I’d have the honor of doing a huge sci-fi franchise like that. I was honored he asked me, and I had such a blast doing this.
‘Pain & Gain’ is something he’s been eyeing to do for some time now, and it’s not something people may expect from him….?
Ken Jeong: Yeah. He’s made this movie because he loves the material and because it was a project that he was truly, truly passionate about. That, to me, was inspiring because of the fact that ‘Pain & Gain’ was Michael’s passion project. To be a part of something that he was in out of pure love, coming off of this incredibly massive blockbuster franchise, that was inspiring to me. In my own career I want to follow my heart like Michael has, you know? It was wonderful to see him work on this film.
People think of Michael Bay having these big action movies, but what people don’t talk about is his intimacy with the camera. So when I think of Michael I think of his outstanding relationship with the camera and for purveying the tone. I knew that on material like this he would bring his unique vision to this script. So when you combine this great material, so darkly comedically rich, and then you bring his cinematic eye to this… I knew it would be something special.
You character in the film, Jonny Wu, how was it researching for him and fleshing him out? I can imagine you watched a lot of motivational speakers?
Ken Jeong: I did (laughs)! Jonny’s a motivational speaker who inspires Mark Wahlberg’s character to be a doer… and sure enough, mayhem ensues (laughs). He’s kind of an amalgamation of different motivational speakers. I did look at some motivational speakers online, on Youtube, on things like that. And I did kind of add my own spin on it. I was only on set for a few days, but my time on set was wonderful. I’d always wanted to work with and meet Mark Wahlberg, I was such a huge fan of his – and now he’s just one of my favourite people (laughs). He’s such a good man, and the same can be said for Dwayne and Anthony. These are incredible actors who are also great people. It was an honor to be a part of this super talented cast.
How was working with Mark Wahlberg in particular? For me, he’s had some brilliant comedic performances, especially of late…
Ken Jeong: To watch Mark’s performance was so great. He’s so honest and earnest. And Mark, he’s like a kid absorbing it all in. Just to see his face while he’s taking it all in, he’s furiously scribbling notes while I’m talking to him about the scenes – every little thing, and he’s hanging on every word. He just knocks it out of the park, he’s so precise. He’s authentic, you know? He’s as authentic as you get. And now from his last couple of movies, people have really got to see how great a comedic actor he is too. I always knew him as a wonderful dramatic actor that can bring an authentic intensity to his roles. But his gift for comedy is sizable - I really want to work with him again. He really made me laugh on set and in the film. Mark Wahberg, Anthony Mackie and Dwayne Johnson completely nailed it, and then you’ve got Ed Harris, Tony Shalhoub, Rob Corddry…. everyone’s so good in this. It was an honor to be a small part of.
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