Audio of Kal Penn presser today:
WASHINGTON--Actor Kal Penn, who stumped around the country for the Obama presidential campaign, is going to leave Hollywood to work in the Obama White House, EW.Com is reporting. The White House confirmed to the Chicago Sun-Times that Penn--whose real name is Kalpen Modi-- is joining the Obama administration.
UPDATES 5:50 eastern
The audio posted is of a conference call with Penn conducted Tuesday to discuss the suicide of his character in Monday night's episode of "House." I can tell from comments on my blog that the suicide is very controversial.
Also, since there is so much interest in this newest White House hire, a bio of Penn is posted at the jump.
UPDATE 1:45 p.m. eastern
Penn is enrolled in a graduate certificate program in International Security at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University.
UPDATE 11:20 p.m. eastern
Penn will be working with the Asian-American and arts communities, said Shin Inouye, a White House spokesman. (Penn's parents are Indian-America.) His start date is not set. (end update)
Penn told EW: "I'm going to be the associate director in the White House office of public liaison. They do outreach with the American public and with different organizations. They're basically the front door of the White House. They take out all of the red tape that falls between the general public and the White House. It's similar to what I was doing on the campaign."
Chicagoans run the OPL: Top advisor Valerie Jarrett oversees the operation, run by Tina Tchen, the chief of the Office of Public Liasion
below, release from Penn's publicist......
KAL PENN (KALPEN MODI)
Born and raised in New Jersey, Kalpen Modi was a student of the (public) International Studies and Performing Arts High Schools in the Garden State's Freehold Regional High School District. After extensive arts training in the New York City area, and with the NJ Governor's School of the Arts, Modi went on to graduate with a BA in Sociology & Specialization in Theater, Film, and Television from the University of California, Los Angeles.
A product of the public school system on the high school and collegiate levels, Kalpen has experienced first-hand the benefits of an arts education at every level of educational development, and contributes his success in large part to these opportunities during such pivotal years of his life.
His first notable acting roles were in the Lions Gate comedy "National Lampoon's Van Wilder" and New Line Cinema's "Harold and Kumar go to White Castle". After those comedic stints, Kalpen sought to diversify his artistic portfolio, working on the Fox show, "24", the NBC drama, "Law and Order, SVU", the Warner Bros epic, "Superman Returns". He won accolades for playing Gogol Ganguli in Fox Searchlight's critically-acclaimed dramatic adaptation of Pulitzer-winner Jhumpa Lahiri's novel, "The Namesake", for director Mira Nair.
Kalpen most recently played Dr. Lawrence Kutner on the Golden Globe nominated Fox drama, "House".
In addition to his film career, Modi is active in the nonprofit world, producing a documentary on malaria eradication in Ethiopia, and serving on an advocacy Board of the American Red Cross.
Kalpen made more than 175 stops across 26 states as a surrogate for President Barack Obama during the campaign, and also served on the Obama Campaign's Arts Policy Committee.
In 2008, he was an Adjunct Lecturer at the University of Pennsylvania, where he taught a semester-long interdisciplinary course in Asian American Studies, Film, and Sociology. He is enrolled in a Graduate Certificate Program in International Security at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies at Stanford University.
below from EW.com for the full story....http://ausiellofiles.ew.com/2009/04/house-exclusive.html
Part I: Kal Penn
I understand it was your decision to leave House. True?
KAL PENN: Yes. I was incredibly honored a couple of months ago to get the opportunity to go work in the White House. I got to know the President and some of the staff during the campaign and had expressed interest in working there, so I'm going to be the associate director in the White House office of public liaison. They do outreach with the American public and with different organizations. They're basically the front door of the White House. They take out all of the red tape that falls between the general public and the White House. It's similar to what I was doing on the campaign.
Will you actually be working in the White House?
PENN: This particular office is in the executive building. The White House has two buildings: the actual White House and an old Navy building called the Old Executive Office.
Are you there as long as Obama's in office?
PENN: A lot of that stuff is up in the air. This is a relatively recent development.
Safe to say you're taking a huge pay cut?
PENN: Oh, yeah. There's not a lot of financial reward in these jobs. But, obviously, the opportunity to serve in a capacity like this is an incredible honor.
How long has this been in the works?
PENN: 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. But probably from the time I was a kid, I really enjoyed that balance between the arts and public service. I went to a performing arts high school, but I still took a bunch of those dorky political science classes. 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. And in '06 I started this international studies program at Stanford, where they actually let you do most of the course work online. So it was something I could do while I was acting. And I thought this might be the right time to go off and do something else. The ultimate irony, of course, is that I love being on House. There's not a smarter group of people that I've been surrounded by in television. So I thought about it for a very long time before I went and talked to David and Katie.
What was that conversation like?
PENN: We had a very long discussion. And I remember David saying, "Are you telling me that you're unhappy with the show and that you want to leave so you can go off and do a different show?" And I was like, "Not at all. I'm actually saying the exact opposite, which is I'm having an incredible time, but there's something aching in me to do something completely different and take a break from the acting thing for a while." And with their blessing, we were able to work it out.
Are you retiring from acting?
PENN: Not necessarily. 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.
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