Masked Singer Panelist Ken Jeong May Now Be Reality TV’s Biggest Star


When Fox introduced final month that its new singing competitors “I Can See Your Voice” would launch this fall behind Season 4 of smash hit “The Masked Singer,” it shocked virtually everybody. Whereas most packages had been nonetheless investigating how and when to get again into manufacturing through the pandemic, “Voice,” which debuts Sept. 23, had already wrapped a complete stealth shoot by early August.

The community’s secret weapon? Ken Jeong, the comic who often is the most ubiquitous face on Fox this season. Jeong is the centerpiece of what Fox has now jokingly dubbed “Kensday,” a Wednesday lineup that features each “Masked Singer,” the place he serves as a panelist, and “I Can See Your Voice,” which he hosts. 

As the remainder of Hollywood now will get again to work, Fox credit Jeong’s doctor bona fides for giving them a little bit of a head begin. By now, just about everybody is aware of the star’s background as a real-life physician — Jeong even toplined the ABC sitcom “Dr. Ken,” impressed by his earlier profession. The comic’s involvement in each “Voice” and “Masked Singer” gave forged, crew and different stars a little bit of consolation understanding that the protection protocols on set had been ok for him.

“Ken is absolutely robust on something COVID-related as a result of he needs to guard his household and everybody else,” says Craig Plestis, an govt producer on each exhibits. 

Jeong hung up his stethoscope almost twenty years in the past, after “Knocked Up” and “The Hangover” turned him right into a family identify. However the star says his medical background has been reawakened a bit this yr in mild of the coronavirus. 

“It was actually probably the most surreal expertise filming something in my profession,” Jeong says of “Voice.” “I had to enter host and comic mode on digicam, after which off digicam, I had to return to being a health care provider and actually simply type of suppose medically, consider security. I’d take my very own steps as properly, and I actually suppose that helped set the tone.”

On set, Jeong says he befriended the occupational well being reps from WorkCare, who had been there to manage common COVID assessments, implement social distancing and regulate the completely different zones the place crew was stationed. “It was vital to me that not solely the lead abilities had been protected however each single crew member was protected,” he says. “It truly is so scary on the market, and straightforward to slide. I used to be the one actually saying, to not be a Debbie Downer, however that now we have to complete safely.” (They did simply that; the present wrapped with none optimistic COVID assessments.)

Past COVID, Jeong was already tackling a brand new problem with “I Can See Your Voice.” Though he has fronted awards exhibits and been a visitor host for discuss exhibits resembling “Ellen” and “The Late Late Present With James Corden,” this represents the primary time Jeong has served as a daily TV emcee. Plestis says Jeong was his first decide for the brand new present.

“Ken is my good luck allure; he’s Fox’s good luck allure,” Plestis says. “He’s new to the internet hosting gig, however he took cost and he owned it.”

Like “The Masked Singer,” “I Can See Your Voice” relies on a South Korean format (on this case, from leisure firm CJ ENM). On the Fox present, a star panel — together with Cheryl Hines, Adrienne Bailon-Houghton and a rotating roster of visitor stars — assists a contestant who’s been tasked with determining who’s singer amongst a gaggle of performers. After sifting by way of clues, asking questions and witnessing lip-sync challenges, the contestant makes their choice, who then duets with a well-known musician. With a $100,000 prize on the road, the contestant then learns whether or not their chosen singer really
has expertise.

Jeong says his mom, a “Masked Singer” fan who satisfied him to affix that present, can be an “I Can See Your Voice” viewer and once more suggested him to take the job. Whereas “Masked Singer” is a little bit of a lark, with celebrities competing for a trophy, there are actual stakes and the potential for a life-changing prize for the gamers on “I Can See Your Voice.” 

“There’s been one second particularly on an upcoming episode of ‘I Can See Your Voice’ that is perhaps one in all my favourite moments of my profession,” he says. “I get choked up eager about it — one thing I had no thought was potential on a recreation present.” (Sorry, no spoilers!) 

Jeong says the most important inventive problem on the brand new present was discovering the appropriate tone, however he was impressed by seeing how “The Masked Singer” developed right into a pop cultural phenomenon by way of the same feel-good method to actuality TV. Heading into Season 4, the hobnobbing amongst Jeong and fellow panelists Jenny McCarthy Wahlberg, Nicole Scherzinger and Robin Thicke is nearly as a lot of a draw because the costumed celebrities themselves.

“The chemistry is simply off the charts,” Jeong says. “We simply know one another’s rhythm so properly. Nobody else can most likely discuss to Robin Thicke like I can. We’ve a really distinctive bond.” 

McCarthy Wahlberg says the byplay has naturally developed over time. “So I feel that’s what you’re seeing and what we really feel,” she says. I’m completely OK screaming at Ken that he’s an fool. And I really like him, however as a result of our friendship is so tight now, we really feel a lot extra freedom to only have enjoyable with one another, and none of us take it severely.”

“The Masked Singer” got here at an ideal time for Jeong, who was nonetheless nursing the injuries over the cancellation of “Dr. Ken” after two seasons. Not solely was “Dr. Ken” about his life, but it surely was a deeply private affair: He’d run scripts by his spouse, Tran, who’s additionally a doctor, and even forged his daughter Zooey in a recurring position. 

“I used to be devastated,” says Jeong, who was additionally an govt producer on the present. “If anybody needs to know who I’m as a human being or what I take into consideration my household, simply watch outdated episodes of ‘Dr. Ken.’ As a result of that to me is creatively, probably the most fulfilling factor I really feel like I can go away my mark on. And when that went, that notably stung.”

After six seasons of “Neighborhood” adopted by his all-consuming two years on “Dr. Ken,” Jeong says he’s undecided when he’ll be able to return to scripted episodic TV. “I don’t know if I’ll ever have the ability to replicate that,” he says. “Do you need to create one other ‘Dr. Ken’? I don’t know, as a result of I created one and that received canceled. To undergo that once more, I don’t need to do this except I’m 100% positive, and 100% passionate of what I’m doing.”

Jeong’s nonetheless lots busy, and instantly bounced again with components on “Loopy Wealthy Asians” and “Avengers: Endgame” earlier than hitting the unscripted jackpot with “Masked Singer.” 

“Folks simply swarm to him; he’s so approachable,” says Fox various leisure president Rob Wade. “He’s received an exceptional work ethic and an awesome morality. He’s been an enormous rock all through this complete COVID state of affairs not solely as a result of he’s a health care provider but additionally as a result of he’s human being.”

Even now, Jeong nonetheless marvels on the profession path that led to Kensday. “It was not a objective of mine to buckle down, work arduous in faculty, go to med college, be a health care provider, do my residency for 3 years, work full-time as a doctor, so I may stop all of it and accurately guess the Unicorn is Tori Spelling,” he quips. “I by no means thought that may be potential in life. However someway that occurred. And I’m a greater individual due to it.” 


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