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. Pat, Columbus, OH

    Was wondering why Dr. Cutner was written out of House. Congratulations, Kal! Heard you speak at Columbus State Community College last fall. You did a fabulous job working with Howard Dean et al in support of President Obama.

    April 7, 2009 01:49 pm at 1:49 pm |
  2. an american first

    Public Service – here I come, says Kal Penn... I like this guy. I can totally see him running for Congress one day.

    People who hate politics and use that as a negative term also need to look at examples like this one. He is going to take probably an 80% pay cut to serve us – the people.

    April 7, 2009 01:50 pm at 1:50 pm |
  3. Mr.EZ

    Well done Kal! You've always seemed like an intelligent and stand-up guy, and while it's a shame to lose you on the screen, I can't help but wish you well on the good works you'll be doing for America.

    April 7, 2009 01:52 pm at 1:52 pm |
  4. Monica

    There was so much rumor going 'round about last night's episode as they literally killed off his character. We all loved Dr. Kutner and even to a larger extent, we all loved watching Kumar rising to his potential as a doctor (with White Castles to guide the way)....but good for you Kal. Make your mark in political history and wishing you the best future (in acting or not).

    April 7, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  5. Don, NY

    I love how they kill him off on "House" and then make this announcement the very next day...

    April 7, 2009 01:53 pm at 1:53 pm |
  6. DUTCH/ BAD NEWZ, VA

    Good luck Kal.

    April 7, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  7. Brian

    so THAT'S why his character died on House lol...

    April 7, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  8. Ben

    Ugh. I just lost all repsect for the guy.

    April 7, 2009 01:59 pm at 1:59 pm |
  9. Chase

    Where's the spoiler alert? Not everyone has watched last night's House yet.

    April 7, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  10. dave

    This my friends is a good American.... the type of "Change" we can believe in. When someone turns down fame and fortune to serve for the betterment of our country.... I feal hope... and I feal inspired. Great story CNN!

    April 7, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  11. Lisa P

    Wow! Guess that explains developments in last night's episode of House. Very surprised by this. Love his acting; hope politics goes as well for him 🙂

    April 7, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  12. meggan

    I think it's great the Obama administration is reaching out to the Asian and arts community so publicly. Both are critically important to the continued development of the US, and both have been overlooked for a long time.

    President Obama's ability to think outside the box is what is going to turn us back into a nation of problem-solvers instead of the whiners and finger-pointers we've been for the past 8 years.

    April 7, 2009 02:00 pm at 2:00 pm |
  13. Sleazy-Z

    Talk about a waste to time and talent. I hope he saved up for the career pay cut.

    April 7, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  14. mr.noremac

    I would rather he stayed on the tv series

    April 7, 2009 02:02 pm at 2:02 pm |
  15. phoenix86

    He should have stayed with House. Although House is a fictional doctor, he does no harm. Obama is a fictional president who is doing a great deal of damage.

    However, since Obama is all theater, Penn is well suited for any role in this adminstration.

    April 7, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  16. Bill

    Way to go Kal, we love you man. Now get out there and put your wits to good use.

    April 7, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  17. Nazli

    As an Asian American, I am proud to have a President who values the quality and richness of this diverse nation – because we are one people under the same sun.

    April 7, 2009 02:03 pm at 2:03 pm |
  18. Greg

    Now I don't feel as bad about them killing Kutner off. I wish him the best of luck.

    April 7, 2009 02:04 pm at 2:04 pm |
  19. Denise

    More quality people in the Obama administration! Keep the good times rolling, Prez. We love you.

    April 7, 2009 02:05 pm at 2:05 pm |
  20. Katy

    An actor? Having an actor as frontman for Asia/Pacific political issues is interesting. What's next, is Obama going to have comedian's warm up the crowd before he speaks?

    If a person of substance quit his/her job to work for Obama then it would be newsworthy. This story is just a sad reflection on the U.S. (again).

    April 7, 2009 02:07 pm at 2:07 pm |
  21. Jason

    Wow...when we watched the show last night and they killed him off, I joking said to my wife that Penn must have taken a job on an NBC show and that's why Fox killed him off so quickly! Then I read the above story today. I suppose I was close. To those at Fox, I'm not sure which is worse...working for the Obama administration or NBC!

    April 7, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  22. max

    Now that's passion. I feel the same way about Obama

    April 7, 2009 02:08 pm at 2:08 pm |
  23. Perusing-through

    CONGRATULATIONS KAL PENN. Wishing you success in your new endeavors and I truly hope this parley into even greater opportunities; especially if it is politics. I watched you on CNN's Larry King and I think you have the 'Right Stuff'.

    April 7, 2009 02:09 pm at 2:09 pm |
  24. Harold

    TOO FUNNY!!! Kumar is going to be on the OBAMA staff!! hahah!!! I wonder if they'll have White Castle Tuesdays for lunch.

    April 7, 2009 02:10 pm at 2:10 pm |
  25. adam

    good for him.
    its a drag he's leaving the series, he's one of the brighter sparks in a season that's been a bit of a downer.

    April 7, 2009 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
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