Ken Jeong says his worst Masked Singer guess ever is coming this season: 'I was so embarrassed'
Kensdays are the new Wednesdays this fall on Fox.
Comedian and actor Ken Jeong is set to return as a panelist on season 4 of The Masked Singer. This will immediately be followed up with his new show, I Can See Your Voice, which will feature Jeong, actress Cheryl Hines, vocalist (and Masked Singer finalist) Adrienne Bailon-Houghton, and a rotating panel of celebrities who help a contestant try to tell the difference between good and bad singers — without ever actually hearing them sing.
Ahead of the Masked Singer season 4 premiere this Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET/PT and I Can See Your Voice's debut at 9 p.m. ET/PT, Jeong talked about what fans can expect from both series and how his experience as a doctor helped on set. Plus, he teases his worst Masked Singer guess yet (it was so bad he apologized off camera).
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: So, who came up with Kensday? Was that you?
KEN JEONG: It was me. I was like, you know, how can a narcissist in entertainment coin their own night of programming? Kensday, that's definitely better than Kmonday. It doesn't really have the same feel, you know? But no, all credit goes to Fox, and I'm just so grateful for them for having faith in I Can See Your Voice to air after The Masked Singer. It's a really good compatible kind of programming. And I say that without it being Kensday. It could be someone else's day and I'd feel that way.
What can fans expect from I Can See Your Voice? You're not guessing at all, right?
I'm not doing any guessing. And it's alleged that I really don't do any real guessing on The Masked Singer. So I don't think anything changes when you think about it on the technical level. I think with I Can See Your Voice, the main difference is on The Masked Singer, these are celebrity contestants and you want to find out who is the singer. On I Can See Your Voice, these are secret voices where you want to guess is it a good or bad singer. And you're trying to help this contestant win $100,000 determining if these secret voices are good or bad singers. And the goal is to eliminate any bad singers as much as possible until the final elimination, where if that last singer standing is a good singer, we can help that contestant win up to $100,000. So it definitely is a different format, but it's exactly the same tone as The Masked Singer in terms of blending the mystery with the music with the comedy. I'm very privileged to, in many ways, be the ambassador from The Masked Singer to help kind of purvey that tone.
On The Masked Singer, you always say, "I know EXACTLY who this is." Do you have a catchphrase for I Can See Your Voice yet?
I basically just shout out the title of this show over and over. So that's probably my catchphrase. I think my job really is to provide energy, and we have amazing comedians and musicians and friends of mine, like Robin Thicke and the Nicole Scherzinger, who are so funny because we know each other so well. They end up being the comedians on the show. One of my favorite moments is just Robin teasing me the whole time and I was like, "Who made you the funniest guy on the show? That's just not cool. How dare you." He, more than anybody else I knew, had such delight in just kind of ribbing me the whole time, it was just so much fun. So I like that kind of seamlessness of the two shows. In my head, I really view this as a seamless two-hour block. It's kind of like you come for The Masked Singer and then you stay for I Can See Your Voice.
There are a lot of Masked Singer alums on your new show. Was that planned from the beginning, or did it happen more organically?
I think it sort of happened that way. So as one of the EPs on this show, from my vantage point, I was just given kind of the best seat in the house, just watching the experts — showrunner James McKinlay, executive producer Craig Plestis, head of alternative entertainment at Fox Rob Wade — kind of format this. So for me, the development has just been one of the most enjoyable experiences of my career, just to watch the greats do it. But I do remember in development being like, "I have such a good rapport with everyone on The Masked Singer. I would like to bring everybody on." That's kind of how I am in development. Like when I developed Dr. Ken, I wanted to bring everyone from Community on, which I basically did as guest stars. I mean, if it's not broke, why fix it?
As a former physician, how did COVID-19 affect production for you on the shows?
The challenge of shooting not one but two shows during a pandemic is, it's overwhelming at times. As a former physician, knowing what I know, knowing that when you drive to work, production can be halted at any moment. On set I stressed that, for me, I want everyone to go home to their families and be healthy. It doesn't matter whether the show gets picked up or not picked up, or if the show gets canceled — it doesn't matter. We have to be safe. And I think everyone knowing that I meant that in a weird way was liberating, and then it's like, okay, we can work in a safe environment. We know Dr. Ken's on the case. And the people at WorkCare, the medical group that worked with us, I can't say enough great things about them. They really insured as safe a set as possible, whether it be testing zones or just the public health algorithm of it all. We basically had two shows in one —a medical production and then we had the actual show production. Yeah, I never thought I would have to draw on my experience as a doctor so strongly and so vividly. So it was kind of like on screen I was dumb, and off screen I was smart.
Speaking of that, what would you say is your worst guess on The Masked Singer?
Well, I have a worst guess coming up this season that I can't reveal. I was so embarrassed of my guess, I couldn't even cover it up with comedy. I was legit embarrassed and I panicked, and I just gave a guess that I was just so embarrassed about that even off set I apologized. I said, "This is not me acting a fool, I am being a fool." I was so embarrassed by it I actually drove home thinking, man, that was bad even for me. Off camera, even Robin was like, "Man, you're joking, right?" That kind of underlines the point that I've kind of learned how to cultivate to entertaining fashion, but on The Masked Singer, I'm not that good at the game. Honestly, I think I represent the viewer who is horrible at it but really appreciates the game.
What is your favorite costume this season?
There's multiple ones. The Snowy Owls is really great. For the first time ever we have two contestants in one. It was really adorable. And to me that was [great] and their performance — I just thought they were amazing. But you know, I want to shout out to Marina [Toybina], who just won an Emmy for Best Costume Design. I think it's no secret that Marina is the star of the show, she's designing all these costumes for these contestants. You watch the show for them and for the vision that Marina brings to it, and I really give [her and the team] a lot of credit.
So what can fans expect in season 4?
It's my favorite season of the show. I honestly think it's our best season yet. The competition on this show is by far the stiffest it has ever been. Even if you're not a fan of the show, you'll be blown away because the talent is really stacked this season, more than any other season we've had. I think that's very safe for me to say. It's very exciting. And then you combine that with the world that we live in, some of the songs took on deeper meaning to me, and that's the beauty of music. There were songs that were being sung by these amazing voices from the most talented season of contestants we've ever had. And really, for the first time, I personalized it to such a degree I just started getting emotional. Maybe it's the world we live in right now, living in a pandemic, but I think what surprised me on both shows this season is how emotional I've gotten, and I think it's precisely due to the world we live in. There's an episode of I Can See Your Voice where I just couldn't stop crying and it was so emotional. It's one of my favorite moments of my career.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Celebs compete in this reality-singing TV show while wearing elaborate costumes to conceal their identities. Can you guess the celebrity behind the mask?