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. Carol Lynn

    I'm SO impressed! Go Kal!

    April 7, 2009 03:16 pm at 3:16 pm |
  2. Delise

    Good for Kal. America needs more people like him.

    April 7, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  3. Jeffer -N.M.

    I'll miss Kal on "House". I was stunned to see his character killed off last night. But I think its a good decision for him, and now that I know the rest of the story, I'm happy.

    April 7, 2009 03:17 pm at 3:17 pm |
  4. Chris

    I am a bit concerned with how much focus he's spending on Public Relations though....

    He seems a little too focused on convincing people that he's right, and maybe not enough on listening to other views....

    Sounds a bit familiar actually. lol

    April 7, 2009 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  5. robert

    Are they about to kiss?

    Obama making out with Hollywood and the media.

    April 7, 2009 03:19 pm at 3:19 pm |
  6. bigbob

    How can this be? who will make my favorite stoner movies now?
    I'd vote for him though!

    April 7, 2009 03:20 pm at 3:20 pm |
  7. Lynn

    Well...I USED to like him!

    April 7, 2009 03:22 pm at 3:22 pm |
  8. Free Thinker

    another wonderful Hollywood mind to help run the country into the ground!

    April 7, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  9. Nicholas

    I had watched House the other evening and wondered what was going on. This is an interesting move for Penn. I wonder how his participation in politics will influence the failed "drug war" as much of his acting has been a spoof off it. It's time to consider decriminalization at the very least and get people into treatment if they want it. Any cost-benefit analysis will show that treatment is far superior to the criminal "justice" system socially, biologically, mentally, and financially.

    April 7, 2009 03:23 pm at 3:23 pm |
  10. Wowza

    Kumar is joining the Obama administration?! Who's next Neil Patrick Harris as Attorney General?

    April 7, 2009 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  11. Mike

    Hugh Laurie for Surgeon General!!
    proud of u Kal, although we loved u on the show

    April 7, 2009 03:26 pm at 3:26 pm |
  12. Ridgeway

    Perfect another actor in the administration. Hmmm? I wonder if he's paid his taxes?

    April 7, 2009 03:27 pm at 3:27 pm |
  13. Ajay Jain, Garland, TX, USA

    Its about time an Asian of Indian descent was in the Obama ADMINISTRATION.

    April 7, 2009 03:30 pm at 3:30 pm |
  14. FrankinPhilly

    Good for him! I hope he does very well in that role.

    April 7, 2009 03:31 pm at 3:31 pm |
  15. jpg

    I should have campainged for B.O. Then I could get a new job too!! Other than being an actor what credentials does Penn have to fill this payed position other than passion?

    "Penn will be primarily involved in dealing with Asian American and Pacific Islander communities and the arts community. "

    Sounds pretty vauge. Will he be dealing with the poverty issues and immigration or with pretty pictures on innercity walls??

    April 7, 2009 03:32 pm at 3:32 pm |
  16. Pat Omaha, NE

    Good for him!! I respect someone who follows their conscience and hopes to help make a difference in the world. His understanding of the situations will help bridge some gaps and educate all of us!

    April 7, 2009 03:35 pm at 3:35 pm |
  17. Tony

    So that's why he shot his face off last night, or his character did anyway. Definitely not a fan of Penn's politics (he supports Obama after all), but I love his acting work. Oh well... But I do appreciate that he's sticking with politics full time as opposed to trying to impose his beliefs through his acting, a lesson that many other in Hollywood should follow.

    April 7, 2009 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  18. Chaun

    I don't really care for Obama or his admistration. But it is refreshing to see an actor do more then just support a candidate or party they really don't know anything about. I'll miss him on house, but good luck to him.

    April 7, 2009 03:38 pm at 3:38 pm |
  19. Brian

    Is it just me or is Obama administration star struck? First Sanjay Gupta, now Kai Penn...surely there are more qualified to fill these positions. I voted for Mr. Obama, but beginning to wonder...

    April 7, 2009 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  20. nicledoux

    Is there at least a White Castle near the White House?

    April 7, 2009 03:40 pm at 3:40 pm |
  21. Frank

    I guess he didn't want to act anymore?

    April 7, 2009 03:41 pm at 3:41 pm |
  22. proud army navy mom

    Congratulations, Mr. Penn. I wish you much success in your new position. Our country is depending on you to do a great job.

    April 7, 2009 03:44 pm at 3:44 pm |
  23. david

    good for him. love this guy. hopefully he will utilize his talent to do some good for this country.

    April 7, 2009 03:45 pm at 3:45 pm |
  24. Kal Penn Fan

    wow. he's come a long way since Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle!

    April 7, 2009 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
  25. Ron In California

    He discovered you can get richer in Government that in Hollywood. I will say I will miss his character on House. I hope his character doesn't go missing in the Whtie House

    April 7, 2009 03:47 pm at 3:47 pm |
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