April 7th, 2009
06:31 PM ET
3 years ago

Actor Kal Penn joining the Obama administration

Actor Kal Penn, shown in this file photo greeting Obama just days before his inauguration, will be joining the White House Office of Public Liaison.
Actor Kal Penn, shown in this file photo greeting Obama just days before his inauguration, will be joining the White House Office of Public Liaison.

WASHINGTON (CNN) – Actor and longtime Obama supporter Kal Penn is joining the Obama administration, the White House confirmed to CNN Tuesday.

The actor will be part of the White House Office of Public Liaison, which is run by Obama senior adviser Valerie Jarrett. Penn will be primarily involved in dealing with Asian American and Pacific Islander communities and the arts community.

Read more on EW.com

Penn's new gig was first reported by EW.com, which shares parent company Time Warner with CNN.

Penn told EW.com that the new position comes after some soul-searching.


There was "'something aching in me to do something completely different and take a break from the acting thing for a while'" Penn said he told the executive producers of the TV series "House" when he explained his decision to get involved with politics full-time.

The actor also said his interest in politics has deep roots. "I've been thinking about [moving into politics] for a while. I love what I do as an actor. I couldn't love it more. . . . .probably from the time I was a kid, I really enjoyed that balance between the arts and public service."

"It's probably because of the value system my grandparents instilled in me. They marched with Gandhi in the Indian independence movement, and that was always in the back of my head. So the past couple of years I thought about it a little more."

But Penn also is leaving the door open to returning to acting at some later point. "Who's to say where any path leads? I still have a passion for it. But for the time being, I won't be acting," Penn told EW.com

Penn endorsed Obama's White House bid in late 2007, and was a frequent campaign surrogate on the trail last year.

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soundoff (266 Responses)
  1. Barry

    With a whole White House full of actors, it can not possibly get worse with another in the group. Maybe he will get a lead roll and be able to use a teleprompter as well for all his speaches. The situation that America faces today calls for real leaders and not the actors we have put in place. Lord help America survive the next four years until we get these characters out of office and get true leaders in place.

    April 7, 2009 05:50 pm at 5:50 pm |
  2. vet in texas

    Kal Penn – Actor
    Ronald Reagan – Actor
    Fred Thompson – Actor
    Arnold Schwarzenegger – Actor...........

    Any questions........

    April 7, 2009 05:53 pm at 5:53 pm |
  3. Paul Davis

    This is an excellent appointment – someone who obviously has the credentials and the desire to serve his country in a way he feels most comfortable and the President seems to like him as well.

    We need more ordinary folks up there – good luck – it is a fresh new look.

    April 7, 2009 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  4. Babe

    Hey guys, he's taking what is basically a PR job, and who better than an actor to liaise with the public. This is not an actor making policy decisions – the Republicans are more into that. Lest we forget Reagan and what kind of revolution he brought to his country.

    April 7, 2009 05:54 pm at 5:54 pm |
  5. KLK

    Ronald Reagan was an actor…....Yep, and so was the Governator. LOL!!!

    April 7, 2009 05:55 pm at 5:55 pm |
  6. Deby

    Before you whine about having another actor in the White House, maybe you should find out a little more about his background and qualifications. He's a graduate of UCLA and is working on a master degree in international security at Stanford. Sounds like the guy for the job.

    April 7, 2009 05:56 pm at 5:56 pm |
  7. CFoster

    I think it is sad how some people are putting down Obama's choice. I guess if you are and actor and turn to politics you can only be in the GOP. Look at Reagan who has become the GOP's version of God on earth, he was an actor. Then we have Arnold who is also part of the GOP and before he became govenor he did not have much public office experience. The GOP is just a buch of cry babies who think they know best and expect us to go blind and deaf while forgetting about the past 8 years of crap..

    April 7, 2009 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  8. Richard

    Dumbest move ever. The odds of getting cast into a pilot that makes it to series is 1 in 100,000. Why would you risk missing out on a lifetime of residuals expecially if your show runs in syndication later on to work for The Great Teleprompter Reader. Makes no sense.

    April 7, 2009 05:58 pm at 5:58 pm |
  9. Brian

    OK, all you Republican haters screaming "Reagan was an actor:"

    This has nothing to do with Kal Penn. I like Kal Penn, I think he's a great actor and has an interest in world politics, which is great. But how necessary is a "Liason to Hollywood," when TurboTax Timmy is answering the phones at the department tasked with beating this little financial crisis we are in.

    This administrations' priorities are in the wrong place, from Leno to him calling us arrogant on his international trip, to the umpteen trillion dollars of our grandchildrens' money they are spending. It just looks bad, and for a guy so image concious, I don't get how he can make so many missteps, other than he is not ready for this job.

    April 7, 2009 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  10. Jo

    I find it interesting that the negative comments on this page show how people assume that the actor and the role are the same people. Perhaps they should think about what makes a person.

    Now if Ronald Reagan was that great (which I don't believe), how is that different than Mr. Penn. Reagan was an actor who got started working in politics. He reversed any progress made in civil rights movement back 50 years. Yet many people believe he was a great president.
    So here we are 30 years later, still dealing in racism and fear of the so called minority.

    People need to figure out how to be productive not negative if they want others to listen to them. Productive is not necessarily positive, but it is showing an alternative path. So far most comments I see are tearing down. Not one of you looked to see if Mr. Penn had any other qualifications before you sent your comment. Think people!

    April 7, 2009 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  11. Michelle

    OMG! Not Kumar! Wow!

    April 7, 2009 06:00 pm at 6:00 pm |
  12. April

    Wow, he definitely took a paycut for this.

    And to quote Doc Brown in Back to the Future after Marty tells him who the president is in 1985, "Ronald Reagan...the actor?!?!?"

    Republicans really need to stay quiet on this one.

    April 7, 2009 06:01 pm at 6:01 pm |
  13. JSteezy

    Sounds like a perfect setup for "Harold and Kumar go to Washington"

    April 7, 2009 06:02 pm at 6:02 pm |
  14. Mike Dallas

    The original 3 interns on House were better than this set!

    April 7, 2009 06:03 pm at 6:03 pm |
  15. Kim

    Right! As if Regan was not enough!!!

    April 7, 2009 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
  16. Richard L

    Listen to the Republicans complain about Hollywood people.

    The Republicans are the ones who ELECTED:
    Actor Ronald Reagan
    Actor Fred Thompson
    Actor Clint Eastwood
    Actor Arnold Schwarzenegger
    Actor Sonny Bono
    Actor Fred Grandy (of "Love Boat")

    Just the usual hypocrisy.

    April 7, 2009 06:05 pm at 6:05 pm |
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