Kal Penn as Associate Director of the Office of Public Engagement
|Born||Kalpen Suresh Modi
April 23, 1977
Montclair, New Jersey, U.S.
|Alma mater||University of California, Los Angeles|
|Occupation||Actor, film producer, civil servant|
|Associate Director in the White House Office of Public Engagement|
April 8, 2009 – July 2011
Kal Penn (born Kalpen Suresh Modi; April 23, 1977) is an American actor, producer, and civil servant. As an actor, he is known for his role portraying Lawrence Kutner on the television program House, as well as the character Kumar Patel in the Harold & Kumar film series. He is also recognized for his performance in the critically acclaimed film The Namesake. Additionally, Penn has taught at the University of Pennsylvania in the Cinema Studies Program as a visiting lecturer.
On April 8, 2009, it was announced that Penn would join the Obama administration as an Associate Director in the White House Office of Public Engagement. This necessitated that his TV character, Lawrence Kutner, be written out of House. Penn resigned his post as Barack Obama's Associate Director of Public Engagement on June 1, 2010, for a brief return to his acting career. He filmed the third installment of the Harold & Kumar series, A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, and subsequently returned to the White House Office of Public Engagement as an Associate Director. In July 2011, he again left the White House to accept a role in the hit television series How I Met Your Mother.
Penn was born in Montclair, New Jersey. His mother, Asmita, is a fragrance evaluator for a perfume company, and his father, Suresh Modi, is an engineer. Both of his parents are Gujarati immigrants from India. He has stated that stories of his grandparents marching with Mahatma Gandhi for Indian independence were a significant influence on his interest in politics.
He attended Marlboro Middle School in Marlboro Township, New Jersey, and played baritone saxophone in the jazz band there. Penn attended The Fine and Performing Arts Academy (a magnet program) at Howell High School for freshman year; he transferred to Freehold Township High School for sophomore, junior, and senior years; both schools are part of the Freehold Regional High School District. He was active in the schools' theater productions and competed on the Freehold Township forensics team. He graduated from UCLA in 2000, and double majored in film and sociology.
Penn's feature film debut came in 1998 in Express: Aisle to Glory. He has since appeared in American Desi, Van Wilder, the final episode of The Lonely Island, Malibu's Most Wanted, A Lot Like Love, Dude, Where's the Party?, Love Don't Cost a Thing, Superman Returns, Epic Movie, The Namesake, the Harold & Kumar series, and an uncredited appearance in Deck the Halls.
Penn says that he derived his acting name, Kal Penn, as a lark: "Almost as a joke to prove friends wrong, and half as an attempt to see if what I was told would work (that anglicized names appeal more to a white-dominated industry), I put 'Kal Penn' on my resume and photos." His audition callbacks rose by 50 percent. He has stated that he prefers his birth name and uses "Kal Penn" only for professional purposes.
In January 2007, Penn appeared in the first four episodes of the sixth season of 24 as Ahmed Amar, a teenage terrorist. Penn says he nearly turned down the role due to personal ethics, stating: "I have a huge political problem with the role. It was essentially accepting a form of racial profiling. I think it's repulsive. But it was the first time I had a chance to blow stuff up and take a family hostage. As an actor, why shouldn't I have that opportunity? Because I'm brown and I should be scared about the connection between media images and people's thought processes?"
Also in January 2007, he appeared in the spoof comedy Epic Movie as well as the television show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. In May 2007, Penn received the Asian Excellence Award for Outstanding Actor for his performance in The Namesake.
In fall 2007, Penn joined the cast of the Fox medical drama House as a fellowship applicant. E! reported that Penn had signed on as a regular on the show along with Olivia Wilde and Peter Jacobson and this was confirmed in the plot of the episode "Games". Penn continued with the series through to the episode "Simple Explanation", which aired April 6, 2009. He made an additional appearance as Lawrence Kutner on the fifth season finale, "Both Sides Now", that aired on May 11, 2009. However, due to his new job at the White House, Penn could not be present for the filming of this episode. The clip of him saying "Too bad it isn't true" was taken from a previous filming. Penn returned to the show for the series finale.
In addition to his role on the TV series House, he is best known from his role in Harold & Kumar, as Kumar Patel, a cannabis smoker who goes with Harold Lee (John Cho) to White Castle for a hamburger. Unlike his character, he does not smoke marijuana, claiming it is not for him, nor does he eat meat.
Penn was recurring on How I Met Your Mother for the seventh season of the show, in which he played Kevin, a therapist and later boyfriend of Robin Scherbatsky. Starting May 1, 2013, Penn hosts Big Brain Theory: Pure Genius on the Discovery Channel. On May 10, 2013, it was announced that Penn would join the cast of We Are Men.
In 2014 he was cast in Ravi Kumar's film Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain, a film about the Bhopal gas tragedy, considered by many to be the world's worst industrial disaster. Most recently, Penn played Detective Fontanelle White  on the CBS Comedy-Drama Battle Creek (TV series), which was cancelled during its first season.
Penn was an advocate for Barack Obama's presidential campaign in 2007 and 2008 and a member of Obama's National Arts Policy Committee. He appears in the Barack Obama-supporting video "Sí Se Puede Cambiar" by Andres Useche and appeared with comedian George Lopez on January 18, 2009, at "We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial".
In early 2009, Penn was offered the position of Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement in the Obama administration, which he accepted. This necessitated his character Lawrence Kutner being written out of the TV series House. In his new role with the Obama administration, Penn served as a liaison with the Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities. He had gone back to using his birth name, Kalpen Modi.
Having made a commitment before his employment at the White House, Penn amicably left his post as President Barack Obama's associate director of public engagement on June 1, 2010, to return to his acting career. He returned to office on November 15, 2010, following completion of A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas.
In February 2012, it was announced that Penn would be a co-chair for the re-election campaign of President Barack Obama. On September 3, 2012, Obama for America released a video featuring President Obama and Penn which announced that Penn would host the September 6 coverage of the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina. Penn's speech at the convention encouraged young people to register to vote and defended Obama's record.
On November 18, 2013, President Obama appointed Penn to serve on the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities. On February 28, 2014, Penn served as the Master of Ceremonies for the White House Student Film Festival.
|1998||Express: Aisle to Glory||Jackie Newton|
|2001||American Desi||Ajay Pandya|
|2002||Van Wilder||Taj Mahal Badalandabad|
|2003||Love Don't Cost a Thing||Kenneth Warman|
|2003||Malibu's Most Wanted||Hadji|
|2003||Dude, Where's the Party?||Mohan "Mo" Bakshi|
|2004||Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle||Kumar Patel|
|2004||Ball & Chain||Bobby|
|2005||Dancing in Twilight||Sam|
|2005||Son of the Mask||Jorge|
|2005||A Lot like Love||Jeeter|
|2006||Man About Town||Alan Fineberg|
|2006||Bachelor Party Vegas||Z-Bob|
|2006||The Namesake||Gogol / Nikhil Ganguli|
|2006||Deck The Halls||Amit Sayid|
|2006||Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj||Taj Mahal Badalandabad|
|2008||Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay||Kumar Patel|
|2011||A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas||Kumar Patel|
|2013||Triumph: The Lowell Pomerantz Story||Jordan Tichenor|
|2013||Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain||Motwani|
|2013||Dementamania||Christian Van Burden|
|2013||Black Nativity||Amit Sayid|
|2014||The Sisterhood of Night||Gordy Gambhir|
|2015||The Girl In The Photographs||Peter Hemmings|
|2016||Speech & Debate|
|1999||Buffy the Vampire Slayer||Hunt||1 episode|
|2000||Sabrina, the Teenage Witch||Prajeeb||1 episode|
|2000||Spin City||Buddy||1 episode|
|2001||Angel||Fez Boy||1 episode|
|2001||NYPD Blue||Solomon Al-Ramahi||1 episode|
|2001||The Agency||Malek||1 episode|
|2003||All About the Andersons||Dinesh|
|2003||Tru Calling||Steven||1 episode|
|2003||The Lonely Island||Fred||1 episode|
|2006||The Danny Comden Project||Max|
|2007||Law & Order: Special Victims Unit||Henry Chanoor|
|2007||24||Ahmed Amar||4 episodes|
|2007–2009, 2012||House||Dr. Lawrence Kutner||37 episodes|
|2011–2012, 2014||How I Met Your Mother||Kevin||10 episodes|
|2013||The Big Brain Theory||Himself||Host|
|2013||We Are Men||Gil Bartis||7 episodes|
|2015||Battle Creek||Detective Fontanelle|
|2015||The Big Picture With Kal Penn||Host||12 episodes|
|2016||New Girl||Tripp||1 episode|
|2016||Designated Survivor||Seth||Season 1|
- "Why do Indian-Americans flock to the Democratic Party?". 6 September 2012. Retrieved 24 May 2015.
- Ausiello, Michael (April 7, 2009). "'House' exclusive: The shocking story behind last night's big death". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- "It'll be the White House for Kal Penn now". Rediff.com, April 7, 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- Roberts, Roxanne; Argetsinger, Amy (June 22, 2010). "Kalpen Modi, aka Kal Penn, aka Kumar, leaves the White House, returns to showbiz". WashingtonPost.com. The Washington Post. Retrieved June 23, 2010.
- "Kalpen Modi Returns To White House Job After Leaving To Film 'Harold & Kumar' Sequel". The Note blog. ABC News. November 15, 2010. Retrieved 2010-11-17.
- "Kal Penn to leave White House again". Click blog. Politico.com. July 14, 2011. Retrieved 2013-06-14.
- Chivukula, Som (April 12, 2002). "Article: Kal Penn's do's and don'ts". India Abroad. Retrieved 2010-04-02 – via HighBeam.
- Yuan-Kwan Chan (October 16, 2007). "Happy Birthday, Asian American Arts Alliance". Meniscuszine.com. Retrieved 2011-02-28.
- Chhabra, Aseem (April 22, 2005). Kal Penn: Hollywood's Desi No1!. Rediff.com. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- "Kumar Goes to the White House (airdate April 10, 2009)" (Flash video). The Rachel Maddow Show. MSNBC. Retrieved 2011-02-28.
- Actor Kal Penn to Teach at the University of Pennsylvania. University of Pennsylvania Office of University Communications, 2007-03-26. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- Yuan, Jada (2007-03-04). "The White-Castle Ceiling". New York magazine. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- "Asian Excellence Awards – Winners (archive)". azntv.com. May 2007. Archived from the original on 2008-02-13. Retrieved 2011-02-28.
- "'House' gets a new group of trainees". CNN. Archived from the original on 2007-08-16. Retrieved July 18, 2007.
- Hibberd, James (March 22, 2012). "'House' finale scoop: Kal Penn in talks to return". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved March 22, 2012.
- "Kal Penn Does Not Smoke Marijuana". The Insider. showbiznews.info. April 26, 2008. Archived from the original on 2008-07-14. Retrieved 2010-05-04.
- "THIS JUST IN: Kal Penn joining How I Met Your Mother". How I Met Your Mother. CBS official Facebook page. July 13, 2011. Retrieved 2011-07-14.
- "Kal Penn, host of the Discovery Channel's The Big Brain Theory : Discovery Channel". Discovery.com. March 13, 2013. Retrieved 2013-05-06.
- Ausiello, Michael (May 10, 2013). "Fall TV Scoop: CBS Picks Up 8 Series, Including Sarah Michelle Gellar's Crazy Comedy, Josh Holloway's Intelligence and Chuck Lorre's Mom". Fall TV Scoop. TVline.com. Retrieved 2013-06-07.
- "Interview: Interview: 'Battle Creek' star Kal Penn on 'House' reunions and pot differentiation". HitFix.com. February 27, 2015. Retrieved 2016-03-19.
- Penn, Kal. "Open Letter to Two Undeclared College Superdelegates". The Huffington Post, May 11, 2008. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- Joshi, Monika (February 4, 2008). "Actor Kal Penn roots for Obama". Rediff.com. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- "It'll be the White House for Kal Penn now". Rediff.com. April 7, 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- "Kal Penn Leaves House for the White House". Tvguide.com. April 7, 2009. Retrieved 2011-02-28.
- "'House' actor Kal Penn joins White House team". news.yahoo.com. AP. April 7, 2009. Retrieved 2013-06-14.
- Choudhury, Uttara (July 8, 2009). "You can call me Kalpen Modi". DNA (Daily News & Analysis). Retrieved 2009-08-18.
- "Kalpen Modi Returns To White House Job After Leaving To Film 'Harold & Kumar' Sequel". Blogs.abcnews.com. November 15, 2010. Retrieved 2011-02-28.
- "Obama campaign announces co-chairs". Politico.Com. February 22, 2012. Retrieved 2013-05-06.
- "Watch the 2012 Democratic National Convention Live on BarackObama.com". BarackObama.com YouTube channel. 2012-09-03. Retrieved 2013-05-06.
- Wing, Nick (2012-09-04). "Kal Penn Speech At Democratic Convention: My Four-Letter Word Is 'Vote'". huffingtonpost.com. Retrieved 2012-09-08.
- "Kal Penn's DNC Speech". The Daily Conversation's YouTube Channel. 2012-09-04. Retrieved 2013-05-06.
- "Kal Penn appointed to rejoin Obama team". TheHill. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
- "Students Are Stars at White House Film Festival". NBC News. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
- "Quirky caucuses pose organizational challenge for Sanders". Business Insider. Retrieved 2016-02-10.
- Schwedel, Heather (2007-03-26)."Kal Penn to teach at Penn". The Daily Pennsylvanian. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
- "Asian American Studies Program at University of Pennsylvania". Asam.sas.upenn.edu. Retrieved 2011-02-28.
- Penn, Kal (July 2, 2010). "The 'Hilarious' Xenophobia of Time's Joel Stein". Huffington Post.
- "Kal Penn to Address Class of 2014 at May's 175th Annual Commencement". DePauw University. Retrieved 5 March 2015.
- Kal Penn ’00 | UCLA Alumni
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