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April 21, 2017

Oh, Mother!

She’s not a mom or a doctor, but she plays one on TV.

Ramin Zahed
  • Eric Vizents

When Suzy Nakamura was growing up in Chicago, she spent a lot of time watching comedies like The Carol Burnett Show. 

She loved to make her parents laugh, but it wasn’t until her mother took her to The Blues Brothers that she realized she might have a future in comedy.

“That movie had a lot of swearing and destruction of cars, but my mom just loved it,” she says. “She had no problem with it. I learned that day that if you do comedy, then it’s all okay!”

The actress, who plays Allison Park, the psychiatrist wife and mother on ABC’s Dr. Ken, developed her comic timing in the touring company of Second City. After moving to L.A., she landed guest-starring and recurring roles on The West Wing and Curb Your Enthusiasm. She met Ken Jeong, her TV husband, years ago when he was still a practicing doctor and doing sketch comedy on the side.

“We did a really bad sketch show together,” she recalls. “Then Judd Apatow reunited us in his movie Funny People, where we played husband and wife [the scene ended up being cut from the film]. I think that’s where Ken got the idea that we could be married on his show as well.”

As a high-profile Asian-American actress, Nakamura enjoys being part of a supportive community.

“While people should see characters like themselves on TV,” she says, “I think the success of the show has to do with the fact that we’re telling a universal story about a family and people at work — it’s not just because they are an Asian family.”

Another secret of success for Dr. Ken: “We have some fun episodes, but we also have shows where we are dealing with real-life issues. We get through it as a family.”

Not surprisingly, motherhood is key. “I do tend to give advice about life to my TV kids, even outside the show. I feel very maternal toward them. I have to keep reminding myself that I’m not their real mother!”

This article originally appeared in emmy magazine, Issue No. 3, 2017

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