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. right wing white people on CNN

    represent asian americans well, Kal under the Obama admin.

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

    So that's what he's doing. I found his departure from "House" sudden to say the least. Hope he does well.

    April 7, 2009 02:11 pm at 2:11 pm |
  3. John

    Nothing like having the modern day poster-child for dope smoking in your administration...

    Why not get Cheech or Chong to work for you...

    April 7, 2009 02:14 pm at 2:14 pm |
  4. Lauren

    Kumar working for the White House?? LOL!!! Wonder which constituents this move is aimed at...

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

    Good for you Penn. Make us proud.

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

    Well first of all, best of luck to him and congrats on the new job. But did they have to suicide him? Gez talk about a shocker outta left field.

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

    Kumar Goes to Washington

    The Obama payroll is littered with people in charge of programs where they have exhibited no past experience, expertise or concrete results.
    This fits the Obama mold of what? Stimulus? Affirmative action?
    Inability to priorotize?

    April 7, 2009 02:18 pm at 2:18 pm |
  8. Kevin

    Maybe he thinks that working for the annointed one will lead to bigger acting roles than working with Hugh Lowrie.

    April 7, 2009 02:21 pm at 2:21 pm |
  9. Angela TX

    Leaving House for the White House. You're still in house. Good luck Kal.

    April 7, 2009 02:22 pm at 2:22 pm |
  10. mjr17

    Well, I am not a fan or supporter of our current president. But Mr Penn, as a fan of yours, I respect and admire your decision to take your life in a dramatically different direction in pursuit of a dream. Not many successful Hollywood actors would give up a lucrative career to go work in politics. Best of luck to you.

    April 7, 2009 02:23 pm at 2:23 pm |
  11. ashley

    This is the dumbest thing ever. (sighs). I enjoyed him on HOUSE and other movies that were not suitable for children...but working for the government....I dont think so.

    April 7, 2009 02:25 pm at 2:25 pm |
  12. Brian

    Sorry, I can't take this at all serious after those Harold and Kumar movies. They're funny movies don't get me wrong, but what is Obama thinking hiring an actor? Obama's credibility and integrity just hit a new low with me. Our President folks, the biggest celebrity in the world. One term President.

    April 7, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  13. NY republican

    I'll miss Dr. Kutner on the FOX show "House". Last night's episode was very touching. The character was great comedy relief as well as being dramatic, a "real life" type of character. Mr. Penn is a VERY good actor. Both actor and character were suited to each other in a way you don't find in TV much any more. Best of Luck Mr. Penn you will be missed by House fans!!!!!!

    April 7, 2009 02:26 pm at 2:26 pm |
  14. @ NYC

    Kal Penn is AWESOME! All the best to you Kal and hope you have a bright future in your new profession.

    April 7, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  15. Gabby

    Will miss him on House.

    Admire his decision. More should be this involved with our political process.

    Good luck!

    April 7, 2009 02:27 pm at 2:27 pm |
  16. Now What

    A sequel to "Harold & Kumar go to White House" is soon expected...

    April 7, 2009 02:29 pm at 2:29 pm |
  17. Michael

    Great job Kal Pen. Go gor it, I wish I could do it.

    April 7, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  18. Darla Stipanovich

    I was completely slack-jawed last night to see Kutner taken out of my favourite show! But I knew that Mr. Penn had a longer resume than acting, although he's so good at that. I commend him for following his heart and for following someone with such great passion and vision. Well done, sir, and good luck!

    April 7, 2009 02:30 pm at 2:30 pm |
  19. CP

    I was so upset last night watching "House", and his character killed himself. I thought what is he going to do now?? I'm so happy that he is going to do what he is passionate about. Congratulations, and good luck and we'll miss seeing you on "house".

    April 7, 2009 02:34 pm at 2:34 pm |
  20. l. westbrooks

    I will say this much... he has had the proper training as an actor to go into politics. Is there really a difference? No!

    April 7, 2009 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  21. Rony

    Yes!! Kal Penn is my hero!! Finally an Indian person will be part of the White House!

    Obama/Biden 2008/2012

    April 7, 2009 02:36 pm at 2:36 pm |
  22. JK Ashburn, VA

    Just what this administration needs, another empty suit who reads scripts well. When will we be seeing adult supervision here?

    April 7, 2009 02:38 pm at 2:38 pm |
  23. Robert

    He's already been to White Castle and Guantanamo Bay. I guess this is the logical next step. Is Harold going too?

    April 7, 2009 02:43 pm at 2:43 pm |
  24. Takeshi

    Good for him

    April 7, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
  25. Patricia in Las Vegas

    Mr. Penn spoke at our state democratic convention. He was very articulate and insightful. Good luck Mr. Penn!

    April 7, 2009 02:44 pm at 2:44 pm |
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