April 7th, 2009
06:31 PM ET
8 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. carlo

    That's called true public service. This guy didn't have to do this, and he will surely be giving up a lot of money to serve. Kudos to him.

    April 7, 2009 01:24 pm at 1:24 pm |
  2. Enlightened Voter

    President Obama's sensitivity to all persons is astounding.

    April 7, 2009 01:25 pm at 1:25 pm |
  3. Celebrity-in-Chief

    The line between entertainment and politics blurs yet further.

    April 7, 2009 01:28 pm at 1:28 pm |
  4. Capital Insider

    I can just see it now... "Kumar and Obama go to White Castle!" that would be an awesome spoof. I bet it will be done by SNL in a few weeks.

    April 7, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  5. Marie

    Great, now we have actors joining the administration. No offense, but I'd rather hear about what qualifications he has other than being an Obama supporter.

    April 7, 2009 01:29 pm at 1:29 pm |
  6. Pete

    Good for him! While I'm sad that there won't be a Harold and Kumar 3, this guy is clearly committed to what he believes in to walk away from easy wealth as an actor to actually serve his country.

    April 7, 2009 01:32 pm at 1:32 pm |
  7. Bill

    What's next? Sean Penn appointed as special envoy to Venezuela?

    They should send this guy to Treasury, I hear there are still a few openings.

    April 7, 2009 01:33 pm at 1:33 pm |
  8. Independent Voter

    Congratulations Mr. Penn!! I've enjoyed your work as an actor and look forward to you doing great things in the Obama Administration!

    God Bless President Obama, VP Biden and the First Families!

    April 7, 2009 01:34 pm at 1:34 pm |
  9. Ghost

    Harold and Kumar go to Washington!!!!

    April 7, 2009 01:36 pm at 1:36 pm |
  10. I'm a HOUSE Fan!

    I was wondering why he was killed off HOUSE, M.D.! At least I feel a little bit better about it. WOW!

    April 7, 2009 01:37 pm at 1:37 pm |
  11. wakeupamerica

    Great! We need advocacy and liaisons in bridging cultural and ethnic inclusion in this country. Kal is a hottie and he's very politically astute. Good to see a celebrity step up to do something meaningful.

    April 7, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  12. Paul

    Probably the most qualified individual in the Obama administration. Yeesh.

    April 7, 2009 01:38 pm at 1:38 pm |
  13. Susan, Macedon New York

    It's good news for Obama, but bad news for House fans. I really enjoy Penn on the show and will miss him as part of the ensemble.
    But I wish him good luck. He's a fine actor and should be able to return any time he wants.

    April 7, 2009 01:41 pm at 1:41 pm |
  14. Rama in VA

    Obama and Kumar go to White Castle III. I'm an Obama supporter but couldn't resist throwing a joke in. I'm glad to hear someone find a purpose with their already successful life.

    April 7, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  15. FGD

    Going to give obama some acting lesson so he read the telepromter, and get rid if the HMM and HAWS went asked a question.

    April 7, 2009 01:42 pm at 1:42 pm |
  16. Danny

    Good for him!

    April 7, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  17. ck

    Oh geez...

    Another person who's experience seems to only be that he knows how to "pretend" to be something else.

    WAKE UP AMERICA!!

    April 7, 2009 01:43 pm at 1:43 pm |
  18. barbara

    whta a waste of talent.

    April 7, 2009 01:44 pm at 1:44 pm |
  19. mike

    So it will be harold and kumar goes to washington , i will miss this cat being in the movies , he was funny.

    April 7, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  20. Abeni

    Congrats on your new adventure Mr. Pen!

    April 7, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  21. Don

    Maybe he will be a Muslim translater or maybe a good will ambassador to the Muslim nations. Hope he has his prayer run and Koran ready.

    April 7, 2009 01:45 pm at 1:45 pm |
  22. cecilia

    Oh my gosh – congratulations !!!! we were so shocked last night when Kal Penn's character died in last nights episode.
    We are all celebrating now upon hearing the news – What a career move – good for you

    April 7, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  23. Nick

    So, he's going from White Castle to the White House.

    Or... He's going from working with a white guy named House to working in the White House.

    April 7, 2009 01:46 pm at 1:46 pm |
  24. Obama Supporter

    Kal leaves one House for another. Way to go!

    April 7, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
  25. Dee

    Kutner lives! (Yay, Penn!)

    April 7, 2009 01:48 pm at 1:48 pm |
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