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Kal Penn

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Title: Kal Penn  
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Subject: A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas, Lawrence Kutner (House), Ray William Johnson, Asian Americans in arts and entertainment, John Cho
Collection: 1977 Births, 20Th-Century American Male Actors, 21St-Century American Male Actors, American Actor-Politicians, American Hindus, American Male Film Actors, American Male Television Actors, American People of Gujarati Descent, American People of Indian Descent, American Politicians of Indian Descent, Living People, Male Actors from New Jersey, Male Actors of Indian Descent, New Jersey Democrats, Obama Administration Personnel, People from Freehold Township, New Jersey, People from Marlboro Township, New Jersey, University of California, Los Angeles Alumni, University of Pennsylvania Faculty
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Kal Penn

Kal Penn
The photograph of Kal Penn
Kal Penn as Associate Director of the Office of Public Engagement
Associate Director in the White House Office of Public Engagement
Assumed office
April 8, 2009
President Barack Obama
Personal details
Born Kalpen Suresh Modi
(1977-04-23) April 23, 1977
Montclair, New Jersey, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Alma mater University of California, Los Angeles
Occupation Actor, film producer, civil servant
Religion Hinduism

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 Dr. 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.[1] This necessitated that his character, Lawrence Kutner, be written out of the TV series House.[1][2] 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.[3] 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.[4] In July 2011, he again left the White House to accept a role in the hit television series How I Met Your Mother.[5]


  • Early life 1
  • Career 2
    • Acting career 2.1
    • Political interests 2.2
    • Other activities 2.3
  • Filmography 3
    • Film 3.1
    • Television 3.2
  • See also 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Early life

Penn was born in Montclair, New Jersey, part of an Indian family. His mother, Asmita, is a fragrance evaluator for a perfume company, and his father, Suresh Modi, is an engineer.[6][7] Both of his parents are Gujarati immigrants from India.[8] He has stated that stories of his grandparents marching with Mahatma Gandhi for Indian independence were a significant influence on his interest in politics.[9]

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 attended UCLA, where he double majored in film and sociology.[10]


Acting career

Penn's feature film debut came in 1998 in Express: Aisle to Glory. He has since appeared in American Desi, National Lampoon's 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?"[11]

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.[12]

In fall 2007, Penn joined the cast of the Fox medical drama House as a fellowship applicant.[13] 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.[14]

Beside 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,[15] nor does he eat meat.

Penn was recurring on How I Met Your Mother for the seventh season of the show,[16] 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.[17] On May 10, 2013, it was announced that Penn would join the cast of We Are Men.[18]

In 2014 he was cast and acted in a Ravi Kumar film "Bhopal- A Prayer for Rain" about the greatest Industrial disaster in the world involving Union Carbide.

Political interests

A man giving a speech. He wears a white blouse with a dark label pin. In front of him, there are two microphones.
Kal Penn speaking at a rally for President Barack Obama at the University of Maryland's Nyumburu Cultural Center.

Penn was an advocate for 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.[1][21][22] In his new role with the Obama administration, Penn served as a liaison with the Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities.[23] He had gone back to using his birth name, Kalpen Modi.[24]

Having made a commitment before his employment at the White House, Penn amicably left his post as Barack Obama's associate director of public engagement on June 1, 2010, to return to his acting career.[3] He returned to office on November 15, 2010, following completion of A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas.[25]

In February 2012, it was announced that Penn would be a co-chair for the re-election campaign of President Barack Obama.[26] 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.[27] Penn's speech at the convention encouraged young people to register to vote and defended Obama's record.[28][29]

On November 18, 2013, President Obama appointed Penn to serve on the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities.[30] On February 28, 2014, Penn served as the Master of Ceremonies for the White House Student Film Festival.[31]

Other activities

In 2008, Penn served as a visiting lecturer in Asian American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.[10][32] His course was titled "Images of Asian Americans in the Media."[33] In 2010, Penn wrote an article in the Huffington Post, responding to a Time Magazine article, which he said had contained racist comments against Indian immigrants in New Jersey.[34]

In 2014, Penn was working on a graduate certificate in international security from Stanford University.[1][10][35][36]



Year Title Role
1998 Express: Aisle to Glory Jackie Newton
1999 Freshman Ajay
2001 American Desi Ajay Pandya
2002 Hector Kendal Cunningham
2002 National Lampoon's Van Wilder Taj Mahal Badalandabad
2002 Badger Sanjay
2003 Cosmopolitan Vandana's Fiancé
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
2004 Homeland Security Harrison
2005 Dancing in Twilight Sam
2005 Son of the Mask Jorge
2005 A Lot like Love Jeeter
2005 Sueño Raj
2006 Man About Town Alan Fineberg
2006 Bachelor Party Vegas Z-Bob
2006 The Namesake Gogol / Nikhil Ganguli
2006 Superman Returns Stanford
2006 Deck The Halls Amit Sayid
2006 National Lampoon's Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj Taj Mahal Badalandabad
2007 Epic Movie Edward
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


Year Title Role Notes
1999 Brookfield Kumar Zimmerman
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 ER Narajan 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 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

See also


  1. ^ a b c d Ausiello, Michael (April 7, 2009). "'House' exclusive: The shocking story behind last night's big death". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
  2. ^ "It'll be the White House for Kal Penn now"., April 7, 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
  3. ^ a b Roberts, Roxanne; Argetsinger, Amy (June 22, 2010). "Kalpen Modi, aka Kal Penn, aka Kumar, leaves the White House, returns to showbiz". (The Washington Post). Retrieved June 23, 2010. 
  4. ^ "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. 
  5. ^ "Kal Penn to leave White House again". Click blog. July 14, 2011. Retrieved 2013-06-14. 
  6. ^ Chivukula, Som (April 12, 2002). "Article: Kal Penn's do's and don'ts". India Abroad. Retrieved 2010-04-02 – via  
  7. ^ Yuan-Kwan Chan (October 16, 2007). "Happy Birthday, Asian American Arts Alliance". Retrieved 2011-02-28. 
  8. ^ Chhabra, Aseem (April 22, 2005). Kal Penn: Hollywood's Desi No1!. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
  9. ^ "Kumar Goes to the White House (airdate April 10, 2009)" (Flash video). The Rachel Maddow Show. MSNBC. Retrieved 2011-02-28. 
  10. ^ a b c Actor Kal Penn to Teach at the University of Pennsylvania. University of Pennsylvania Office of University Communications, 2007-03-26. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
  11. ^ Yuan, Jada (2007-03-04). "The White-Castle Ceiling". New York magazine. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
  12. ^ "Asian Excellence Awards – Winners (archive)". May 2007. Archived from the original on 2008-02-13. Retrieved 2011-02-28. 
  13. ^ House' gets a new group of trainees"'". CNN. Archived from the original on 2007-08-16. Retrieved July 18, 2007. 
  14. ^ Hibberd, James (March 22, 2012). House' finale scoop: Kal Penn in talks to return"'". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved March 22, 2012. 
  15. ^ "Kal Penn Does Not Smoke Marijuana".  
  16. ^ "THIS JUST IN: Kal Penn joining How I Met Your Mother".  
  17. ^ "Kal Penn, host of the Discovery Channel's The Big Brain Theory : Discovery Channel". March 13, 2013. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  18. ^ 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. Retrieved 2013-06-07. 
  19. ^ Penn, Kal. "Open Letter to Two Undeclared College Superdelegates". The Huffington Post, May 11, 2008. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
  20. ^ Joshi, Monika (February 4, 2008). "Actor Kal Penn roots for Obama". Retrieved 2009-04-07.
  21. ^ "It'll be the White House for Kal Penn now". April 7, 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
  22. ^ "Kal Penn Leaves House for the White House". April 7, 2009. Retrieved 2011-02-28. 
  23. ^ House' actor Kal Penn joins White House team"'". AP. April 7, 2009. Retrieved 2013-06-14. 
  24. ^ Choudhury, Uttara (July 8, 2009). "You can call me Kalpen Modi". DNA (Daily News & Analysis). Retrieved 2009-08-18.
  25. ^ "Kalpen Modi Returns To White House Job After Leaving To Film 'Harold & Kumar' Sequel". November 15, 2010. Retrieved 2011-02-28. 
  26. ^ "Obama campaign announces co-chairs". Politico.Com. February 22, 2012. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  27. ^ "Watch the 2012 Democratic National Convention Live on". YouTube channel. 2012-09-03. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  28. ^ Wing, Nick (2012-09-04). "'"Kal Penn Speech At Democratic Convention: My Four-Letter Word Is 'Vote. Retrieved 2012-09-08. 
  29. ^ "Kal Penn's DNC Speech". The Daily Conversation's YouTube Channel. 2012-09-04. Retrieved 2013-05-06. 
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^ Schwedel, Heather (2007-03-26)."Kal Penn to teach at Penn". The Daily Pennsylvanian. Retrieved 2009-04-07.
  33. ^ "Asian American Studies Program at University of Pennsylvania". Retrieved 2011-02-28. 
  34. ^ Penn, Kal (July 2, 2010). "The 'Hilarious' Xenophobia of Time's Joel Stein". Huffington Post.
  35. ^ Kal Penn to Address Class of 2014 at May's 175th Annual Commencement
  36. ^ Kal Penn ’00 | UCLA Alumni

External links

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