Kal Penn

Kal Penn

Birth name: Kalpen Suresh Modi
Born: April 23, 1977
Age: 42
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Kalpen Suresh Modi (born April 23, 1977), known professionally as Kal Penn, is an American actor, comedian, producer, and former 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. Penn has taught at the University of Pennsylvania in the Cinema Studies Program as a visiting lecturer.

In April 2009, Penn joined the Obama administration as an Associate Director in the White House Office of Public Engagement.[2] This necessitated that his TV character, Lawrence Kutner, be written out of House.[2][3] 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.[4] 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.[5] In July 2011, he again left the White House to accept a role in the television series How I Met Your Mother.[6]

In 2016, he began playing Seth Wright in the political drama Designated Survivor[7] and served as host of the game show Superhuman.

Penn was born in Montclair, New Jersey, to Gujarati Indian immigrant parents.[8] His mother, Asmita, is a fragrance evaluator for a perfume company, and his father, Suresh Modi, is an engineer.[9][10] He regularly visited Gujarat as a child during vacations, which he fondly remembers, and he can speak some Gujarati.[11] He has stated that stories of his grandparents marching with MK Gandhi during the Indian independence movement were a significant influence on his interest in politics.[12]

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) as a Theater major 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.[13]



Acting career

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:

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?[14]

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.[15]

In fall 2007, Penn joined the cast of the Fox medical drama House as a fellowship applicant.[16] 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.[17]

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,[18] nor does he eat meat.

Penn had a recurring role on How I Met Your Mother for the seventh season of the show,[19] in which he played Kevin, a therapist and later boyfriend of Robin Scherbatsky. Starting May 1, 2013, Penn hosted Big Brain Theory: Pure Genius on the Discovery Channel.[20] In 2013, Penn joined the cast of We Are Men.[21]

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. Penn played Detective Fontanelle White[22] on the CBS comedy-drama Battle Creek, which was cancelled during its first season.

In October 2016, Penn began a regular role in the ABC drama series Designated Survivor as Seth, a White House speech writer who originally worked under the previous president's administration.[7] Penn also served as a political consultant for the series. The show was renewed by Netflix for a third season which will air sometime in 2019.[23]

Kal Penn has expressed some interest in working in Indian cinema, particularly in Gujarati cinema.[11]

Political activities

Kal Penn speaking at a rally for President Barack Obama at the University of Maryland's Nyumburu Cultural Center.

Penn was an advocate for Barack Obama's presidential campaign in 2007 and 2008 and a member of Obama's National Arts Policy Committee.[24] He appears in the Barack Obama-supporting video "Sí Se Puede Cambiar" by Andres Useche[25] 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.[2][26][27] In his new role with the Obama administration, Penn served as a liaison with the Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities.[28] He had gone back to using his birth name, Kalpen Modi.[29]

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.[4] He returned to office on November 15, 2010, following completion of A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas.[30]

Penn was a co-chair for the re-election campaign of President Barack Obama.[31] On September 3, 2012, he hosted the September 6 coverage of the 2012 Democratic National Convention in Charlotte, North Carolina.[32] Penn's speech at the convention encouraged young people to register to vote and defended Obama's record.[33][34]

On November 18, 2013, President Obama appointed Penn to serve on the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities.[35] On February 28, 2014, Penn served as the Master of Ceremonies for the White House Student Film Festival.[36]

Penn publicly supported Bernie Sanders for the 2016 Democratic nomination.[37]

In August 2017, Penn and the other members of the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities resigned in response to President Donald Trump's remarks on the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.[38]

Other ventures

In 2008, Penn served as a visiting lecturer in Asian American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania.[13][39] His course was titled "Images of Asian Americans in the Media."[40][41]

In 2014, Penn was working on a graduate certificate in international security from Stanford University.[2][13][42][43]

On January 2, 2017, Penn won the "MasterChef Celebrity Showdown" and donated the entire $25,000 cash prize to UNRWA, a United Nations relief and human development agency which supports Palestinian refugees.[44]

On January 28, 2017, following a racist comment from a user on Penn's Instagram, Penn crowd-funded a fundraiser for Syrian refugees and raised $517,646 in less than 24 hours.[45] This occurred during President Donald Trump's Executive Order 13769 which banned immigration to the United States from Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Iran, Iraq, Libya, and Somalia regardless of visa status.[46]



Year Title Role
1998 Express: Aisle to Glory Jackie Newton
1999 Freshman Ajay
2001 American Desi Ajay Pandya
2002 Hector Kendal Cunningham
2002 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 Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj Taj Mahal Badalandabad
2007 Epic Movie Edward
2008 Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay Kumar Patel
2008 Harold & Kumar Go to Amsterdam 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
2014 The Sisterhood of Night Gordy Gambhir
2015 The Girl In The Photographs Peter Hemmings
2016 Better Off Single Brice
2017 Speech & Debate James
2017 Once Upon a Time in Venice Rajeesh
2017 The Layover Anuj
2018 The Ashram Nitin


Year Title Role Notes
1999 Brookfield Kumar Zimmerman TV movie
1999 Buffy the Vampire Slayer Hunt Episode: "Beer Bad"
2000 Sabrina, the Teenage Witch Prajeeb Episode: "You Can't Twin"
2000 Spin City Buddy Episode: "The Spanish Prisoner"
2001 Angel Fez Boy Episode: "That Vision Thing"
2001 ER Narajan Episode: "The Longer You Stay"
2001 NYPD Blue Solomon Al-Ramahi Episode: "Baby Love"
2001 The Agency Malek Episode: "Rules of the Game"
2003 All About the Andersons Dinesh Episode: "Pilot"
2003 Tru Calling Steven Episode: "Haunted"
2003 The Lonely Island Fred Episode: "Regarding Andy"
2006 The Danny Comden Project Max TV movie
2007 Law & Order: Special Victims Unit Henry Chanoor Episode: "Outsider"
2007 24 Ahmed Amar 4 episodes
2007-2009, 2012 House Dr. Lawrence Kutner Main role (seasons 4-5); guest (season 8)
2011-2012, 2014 How I Met Your Mother Kevin 10 episodes
2013 The Big Brain Theory Host 8 episodes
2013 We Are Men Gil Bartis 7 episodes
2015 Battle Creek Detective Fontanelle White 11 episodes
2015 The Big Picture With Kal Penn Host 12 episodes
2016 New Girl Tripp 2 episodes
2016 Deadbeat Clyde 13 episodes
2016-present Designated Survivor Seth Wright Main role
2016-2017 Superhuman Host

[ Source: Wikipedia ]

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