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. Patrick Era

    I wish him and his family the very best. I hope one day I will be offered an opportunity to serve my country in particular, and mankind in general! President OBAMA I am living!!

    April 7, 2009 03:48 pm at 3:48 pm |
  2. Trace

    I was wondering why he left the show in Mid-Season!! Well, a position in the Obama administration is worth it so now I get it.

    April 7, 2009 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  3. Elle

    This is awesome – here's a guy who is giving up "fame and fortune" for public service and the chance to make a difference. Very admirable!

    April 7, 2009 03:51 pm at 3:51 pm |
  4. Vic

    Good for you Kal! I am proud of you on several levels. I have grandparents who were freedom fighters and Gandhians as well and I share the same passion for public service too. Unfortunately, I just don't have the resources you do to jump into public service at the drop of a hat. I have a son who goes to college see. I will do my part from the outside and one day muster up the courage to give it all up for public service.
    Although I did not support Obama in the primary, I am a total supporter of his now and he have come to grow immensely fond of him and his policies lately. Make sure you think of others' before your own self interest and you will do just fine in politics. Good luck buddy.

    April 7, 2009 03:52 pm at 3:52 pm |
  5. G. Clare

    While I vigorously applaud the public service Kal Penn wishes to do and franky, I like him very much as an actor. But has anybody seen Harold and Kumar go to White Castle or Harold and Kumar escape from guantanamo bay? I really think he's funny and I liked him in House, but those films - particularly the last one - don't necessarily support the morals and ethics the Obama administration has been touting. I know other actors have certainly made the leap, but don't think many of them were in "no bottoms" parties on the big screen. Maybe I just don't remember them.

    April 7, 2009 03:54 pm at 3:54 pm |
  6. Matthew

    I think that this is awesome. I think Penn would be a more likely candidate as the first Indian-American President than Jindal anyday.

    April 7, 2009 03:55 pm at 3:55 pm |
  7. Noah

    So cool. Kal Penn is going to be a great addition to the Obama Administration. Kumar!!!! I'm sad he isn't going to be in movies for a while but good for him following his passion.

    April 7, 2009 03:57 pm at 3:57 pm |
  8. Sean Deason

    He went from White Castle to The White House! 🙂 Not too shabby Kal! Congrats!

    April 7, 2009 03:59 pm at 3:59 pm |
  9. Krush

    Just what we need, another actor in politics.

    April 7, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  10. Willy Brown

    You'll regret leaving House.

    April 7, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  11. New Yorker

    Just another ploy to keep the support of the young and naive.

    April 7, 2009 04:00 pm at 4:00 pm |
  12. C W

    I watched "House" last night and was totally flabbergasted as to why Kal Penn would have left such an interesting character on such a successful show.

    Great to know he's chosen to serve his country!

    April 7, 2009 04:01 pm at 4:01 pm |
  13. Homero

    If he was thinking that House was a mean boss, wait until Obama puts him to work!!! (Just kidding) all the best!. I will miss him in House M.D.

    April 7, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  14. Realistic Democrat

    Great!!! Actors and actresses have their heads up in the clouds more than anyone. They lead the most unrealistic lives possible. Way to pick a man or woman OF THE PEOPLE...

    April 7, 2009 04:02 pm at 4:02 pm |
  15. Daniel Lebetnstein

    This shows the kind of people Obama is bringing into government. Penn knows that he can make more shooting one episode of House next season than he'll make in the who year working for the government. He really wants to make a difference. I hope others join.

    April 7, 2009 04:03 pm at 4:03 pm |
  16. Rob Farrelly

    I think it is great that President Obama is getting people involved from all different backgrounds, including Hollywood. Some might say this just adds to Obama's Pop/rock star persona, but I think it is more a matter of his ability to inspire. Mr. Penn an actor, but just like anyone else in this country, a citizen looking to see our country achieve and to be successful. I would hope stories like this would bring everyone together to work towards a common goal.

    April 7, 2009 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  17. Jeff

    Good for him, sad to see him go on House but I think he'll do well.

    April 7, 2009 04:05 pm at 4:05 pm |
  18. Laura

    I'm glad to know what happened to Penn. I was disturbed to see his character had committed suicide last night on House. I wish him the best, however, he can't go back to House.

    April 7, 2009 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  19. Kumar

    Good going Mr. Penn. Youths like you are the essence of America. At this juncture of great transformations happening to America and the whole world, it would be great watching how the Obama era turns history for the betterment of the human race. People like you will be elements in effecting such transformations. Its good to know that we can still have hope for the future!!

    April 7, 2009 04:06 pm at 4:06 pm |
  20. Dante in Madison

    That's hilarious! You know, he can probably reach a lot of young people and get them motivated to do more public or community service. Good for him.

    April 7, 2009 04:08 pm at 4:08 pm |
  21. Jeff

    Marie, he's been teaching Asian American Studies at Columbia University.

    April 7, 2009 04:09 pm at 4:09 pm |
  22. Perusing-through

    Wishing you Kal Penn success in your new endeavors and I truly hope this leads to greater opportunities in politics. I watched you on Larry King and I think you have the 'Right Stuff'.

    April 7, 2009 04:10 pm at 4:10 pm |
  23. Jon

    I for one will be able to sleep easier at night with the knowledge that an actor is now part of the executive branch.

    April 7, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  24. gl, Pittsburgh

    You got to love this President for reaching out to everyone. I know you Republicans are just dying inside. You go Prez/Celer.

    April 7, 2009 04:11 pm at 4:11 pm |
  25. naygie

    Penn seems like a guy with good character. Outside been an obama supporter, HE'S EDUCATED! and not out of the phony republican university in who knows where and surely his daddy's name didn't pass him through Yale! Congrats to Penn, he will make us and his heritage proud.

    April 7, 2009 04:12 pm at 4:12 pm |
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