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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Filed under: Obama administration • Popular Posts
soundoff (266 Responses)
  1. Brandon

    Great he's going to get everyone high on weed and force them to eat white castle to stimulate the economy.

    I'm sorry but he should have stayed in acting. Just because your a supporter or "huge" supporter doesn't qualify you to work for him.

    I'm an Obama supporter, were is my job?

    April 7, 2009 05:19 pm at 5:19 pm |
  2. Judy Zukoski, Barnesville, PA

    Good to see someone following their heart.....and good to have an intelligent, passionate person in this position.

    April 7, 2009 05:20 pm at 5:20 pm |
  3. Jimmy the Greek

    Glad to see America can afford all of Obama's appointments. It's not like we're dealing with a financial crisis or anything!!

    When's the next White House Party???

    Why did Obama ONLY take 500 support staff to Europe??

    We'll anxiously await the appointment of a Norweigan-Cuban Czar to be a liason to that large ethnic group too.

    April 7, 2009 05:21 pm at 5:21 pm |
  4. Shari, NY

    Wasn't Arnold Schwarzenegger an actor turned governor?

    April 7, 2009 05:22 pm at 5:22 pm |
  5. Barb, Nevada

    What a relief! I was afraid he was off to make another Harold and Kumar movie. I will miss him on House but glad to know that he made the decision to serve his country. All the best to him.

    April 7, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  6. joe

    nice we need regular people to run this government

    April 7, 2009 05:23 pm at 5:23 pm |
  7. Jon L.

    Personally, I think Penn has moved to a much better "House" with this. I have found Mr. Penn to be quite an interesting person outside of his acting profession. I wish him well in his new post and hope that he finds the experience as personally rewarding as I'm sure his presence in the Office of Public Liaison will be to the administration.

    April 7, 2009 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  8. april Baker

    Bravo for Mr. Penn. This is such a wonderful thing he is doing. I admire his movies. I liked him as an actor, and this makes me respect him even more. If I had this opportunity, I would take it in a heartbeat!

    April 7, 2009 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  9. Haha

    An actor for President.....wait, that was the Republicans with Reagan.....

    Just because someone is an actor does not mean that's all they can do or have interest in.

    April 7, 2009 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  10. magella

    Kal Penn is my teenage son's favorite actor. Not just because of Harold & Kumar, but also The Namesake, which is a fine movie about an Indian family's assimilation into U.S. culture. Penn's commitment to help the president for the next four years shows that he is a person of substance and not just about the money he seems able to make easily in Hollywood. He is smart, articulate, and a great role model for young people who might not have considered public service otherwise.

    April 7, 2009 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  11. Mark

    Interesting when people (mostly Repub) shout "What are his qualifications, this ACTOR!" without actually researching people's qualifications.

    Kal Penn – Double majored in Film and Sociology at UCLA, has taught at University of Pennsylvania on images of Asian cultures in media. Seems good for a public liaison reaching out to the groups mentioned.

    Rush Limbaugh (who most Repubs love for "truth") – Flunked out of college after two semesters, never went back

    Out of that, I'll go with the actor. After all, so many of you Republicans loved that one aging actor in the 80s...

    April 7, 2009 05:28 pm at 5:28 pm |
  12. jgobb

    its not that he's an actor, that's just a job... we were all something else at one point or another as far as jobs go... its that he's the actor who played "Kumar" from the "Harold & Kumar" series... how seriously can we take him? Not to mention the two National Lampoon movies he did...

    April 7, 2009 05:29 pm at 5:29 pm |
  13. Swanky Agent 007

    Ok. I'm absolutely stunned. Are you serious?!

    April 7, 2009 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  14. Karen S Crow

    Ok ... what are his qualifications? Anyone know?

    Show me some qualifications .... former reporter ... journalism major ... something other than actor.

    April 7, 2009 05:32 pm at 5:32 pm |
  15. University of Pennsylvania graduate

    Kal Penn was actually a Professor at the University of Pennsylvania last year, teaching in the South East Asia studies department. The article doesn't mention this, but he has the credentials and the interest!

    April 7, 2009 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  16. Fani

    Some of the comments on this thread are nasty.
    I see nothing wrong in this. Kal is an American and is serving the President and his country.
    Kudos to him.

    Other actors have done that too viz. Reagan, Schwarzenneger to name a prominent couple.

    Oh ! and Kudos to Obama. He's shaping up to be the best President ever.

    April 7, 2009 05:33 pm at 5:33 pm |
  17. Mama for Obama

    I trust Obama completely. Anything he does is alright by me.

    April 7, 2009 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  18. Sea.gem

    It isn't a switch...Obama is an actor also...watch his speeches, he morphs into the ideals of whomever he is speaking to...

    April 7, 2009 05:35 pm at 5:35 pm |
  19. chelle

    How do you naysayers know he has no substance???? You are up on his complete resume?? Many many actors are extremely well educated, as is Kal Penn. Simply because someone is an actor, it doesn't follow that they are uneducated and a dimwit!!! Could you possibly rely more on steretypes?? This is a man who is smart, articulate, of Asian descent, well known, educated in the area he is to deal with. Yeah – what a terrible choice!!!

    April 7, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  20. jason

    When are we going to wake up and see that we do not need a bunch of yuppie actors in Washington? They know nothing of how everyday people get through the day. This is just a sign of what is important to this administration that they are more concerned with image than anything.

    April 7, 2009 05:38 pm at 5:38 pm |
  21. tk in IL

    I guess real experience doesn't mean anything in Washington nor the Administration anymore. Only "celebrity" status.

    April 7, 2009 05:40 pm at 5:40 pm |
  22. Susan

    Haven't seen this week's House yet. Didn't know he was killed off.
    Too bad. But he picked a good place to land!

    April 7, 2009 05:42 pm at 5:42 pm |
  23. NYC REPUB

    The youth of this country are/will change Ameriica for the better.....Yes We Can!!

    April 7, 2009 05:43 pm at 5:43 pm |
  24. JJ

    The objections to him holding this position are unfounded. He was an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania–lecturing on the very topics with which he will be dealing. As someone noted, "he's not running FEMA". Bush already showed us that it takes an experienced person like the commissioner for the International Arabian Horse Association for a job that important. But unlike Brown, he's staying his realm of expertise. If both an Ivy League university and the Obama administration find him qualified, then he probably is.

    April 7, 2009 05:44 pm at 5:44 pm |
  25. Maggie

    Tha is all we need. Another actor in the White House.

    April 7, 2009 05:45 pm at 5:45 pm |
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