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. JP

    I can already see the next movie...

    Harold & Kumar Go To White House

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

    Good for you! I loved you on House but this serves a better purpose. Good Luck and see you on the big screen in the future.

    April 7, 2009 02:46 pm at 2:46 pm |
  3. AlaskaSteve

    And his qualifications are....? Barack, stop the blatant political pandering! You are making the same, politically motivated, crony-ist style appointments that your predecessor (he who will not be named) did. Knock it off and prove that you are smarter!

    April 7, 2009 02:48 pm at 2:48 pm |
  4. nick

    This is a true Democrat and American, leaving a great paying career to do a civil service job .....for something he believes in. Congradulation and good luck Mr.Penn.

    April 7, 2009 02:49 pm at 2:49 pm |
  5. Sangeeta Luthra`

    Good for you – Kal Penn! ! You make South Asians proud. It is really great to have South Asians representing our true values (Gandhian values) social justice, humanism, humility to the world. When I see 'conservative' South Asians like Bobby Jindal, I am embarrased and humiliated by their values, politics and their lack of respect for other people.

    April 7, 2009 02:53 pm at 2:53 pm |
  6. statetheobvious

    Oh.... so this is the real reason why Cutner died yesteray on house!!! explains everything. I wish someone will inform Dr. Gregory House about this so that he can stop chasing ghosts... and trying to solve his murder... because it was obviously a suicide.... lol.

    But I think Penn should persue politics... I was never impressed with him as an actor

    April 7, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  7. JohnB

    Just amazing! If Penn had thought about it a bit, he'd have stayed and earned a larger salary acting so he could help pay for the huge budgets Obama is planning. After all, we're all working for Obama once the tax man arrives.

    April 7, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  8. I love "House"

    I hated to see him leave "House" the way he did last night, but best of luck to him. Who wouldn't take this job?

    April 7, 2009 02:54 pm at 2:54 pm |
  9. Gayle

    I admire Mr. Penn for following his heart, ( I was not surprised by this announcement) I wish him well in his new chosen path and I am sure President Obama's administration will make good use of his time!

    April 7, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  10. Tony

    I know why this guy is there – he is not that good of an actor.

    Did he pay his taxes. If not, he passed the litmus test.

    Good to go!

    April 7, 2009 02:55 pm at 2:55 pm |
  11. Dee

    Mr. Penn, Congrat's!

    April 7, 2009 02:56 pm at 2:56 pm |
  12. Allen

    How sad for Kal. He must of been hit in the head or something, to make such a terrible choice in life.

    April 7, 2009 02:57 pm at 2:57 pm |
  13. Terry - California

    This is good. There will be many more people, especially young people, joining the ranks of the Obama Administration, for the sole purpose of supporting the administration from the Grass Roots of this nation. We have not seen such a commitment from young Americans since the Kennedy Era.

    April 7, 2009 02:59 pm at 2:59 pm |
  14. Tom

    No! say it isn't so, no more HArold and Kumar movies!!
    Just another empty suit in a long line of worthless appointments.
    Please tell me that this one at least tried to pay his taxes.

    April 7, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  15. Martha

    Pay Backs no doubt! Here comes Hollywood. Just what we need in the White House. Lord Help Us All.

    April 7, 2009 03:01 pm at 3:01 pm |
  16. Andy

    Takes an actor to know an actor !!!

    April 7, 2009 03:06 pm at 3:06 pm |
  17. Alex

    Kumar can now really go to Guantamo Bay....:)) But seriously, very admirable to leave an acting career for a calling like this. Good for him!

    April 7, 2009 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  18. TJMAXX

    Kal Penn is a really, really good actor. It's too bad that politics will ruin him.

    April 7, 2009 03:07 pm at 3:07 pm |
  19. Josh, Charlotte, NC

    What qualifications did Kal Penn meet in order to work under Obama's administration? Evidently people have it MADE it their famous...there are so many other choices that Obama could have made besides a HOLLYWOOD ACTOR who doesn't experience the "real world!"

    April 7, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  20. jim Scheinle, Santa Fe, NM

    After revewing the curriculae of the minorities and women included in Obamas team, I wonder if he has not sacrificed quality for political correctness.

    It does not suffice that these nominees have qualifications, the should have the BEST, compared with ALL candidates available.

    Obama is not the only one: the Attorney General Gonzalez named by
    GW Bush (now with an aditional scandal regarding Sen. Stevens) is a glaring example.

    Of course, the media has not the gut to signal this fact.

    April 7, 2009 03:08 pm at 3:08 pm |
  21. AH

    It is good to see a young person turn to public service. Leaving the money and fame behind makes this decision even more commendable.

    April 7, 2009 03:09 pm at 3:09 pm |
  22. Ali

    I wondered why they killed him off on House last night. Now we know. Just hope he hasn't killed off his career. Politics is even more precarious than acting. In fact, some would note that the two are basically the same.

    April 7, 2009 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  23. Susan in Sunnyvale, CA

    Fantastic, Kal Penn! I love "House", but this is a way better gig. Best of luck to you.

    April 7, 2009 03:10 pm at 3:10 pm |
  24. bco

    From House to White House!

    We'll miss you on this excellent show- you are demonstrating very admirable convictions to leave the show to serve our President and our country.

    Best of luck to you

    April 7, 2009 03:13 pm at 3:13 pm |
  25. Alexander

    Mhh, Maybe he'll be able to mimick some differential diagnosis skills and transfer that to the political arena 🙂 J/K, if he's driven and passionate, then I guess good for him. I wonder how he'll exit the 'House' show...

    April 7, 2009 03:14 pm at 3:14 pm |
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