Kumar goes to White House
Actor takes on a new role as Obama's arts liaison man
From White Castle to White House?
Actor Kal Penn's departure from the hit TV series House, where he played Dr. Harold Kutner, seems even more shocking in light of his next gig: exchanging acting for a job in U.S. President Barack Obama's White House Office of Public Liaison.
"The folks who know me the best have always known that I have these duelling passions, shall we say, the arts and public service," Penn said yesterday.
"It's not like I'm retiring from acting. I certainly intend to come back at some point. But right now, I just felt like my calling is in public service," added the actor, who was best known pre-House for playing weed-smoking womanizer stoner Kumar Patel in the subversive comedies Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle and Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay. (The second film featured a pot-loving George W. Bush lookalike, but Penn said a third Harold and Kumar is not now on his "radar.")
After two years on House, Penn's character exited in dramatic fashion Monday night by committing suicide.
Penn said he's heading to Washington next week to start apartment hunting but has no definite start date for his job, associate director of the agency he describes as the "front door" of the White House, with special responsibilities for liaison with Asian-Americans and the arts community.
Penn also noted that in going from a hit series to a public service job, his pay is likely to be anywhere from $41,000 to $91,000 (U.S.). "Obviously ... there's a huge pay cut," Penn said, noting he wonders if he can sublet or refinance his Los Angeles home.
House executive producers David Jacobs and Katie Jacobs said they've been aware for more than a year that Penn might have caught the political bug after becoming heavily involved in the Obama campaign, briefly moving to Des Moines, Iowa, in late 2007.
Jacobs said he decided to use the suicide storyline because of the impact it would have on the show's lead character, Dr. Gregory House. But, Jacobs joked, Penn's character may have suffered a different fate if Penn hadn't been heading to the White House.
"If (Penn) had come to us and said, `I've been offered a great part on CSI,' then yeah ... it would have been auto-erotic asphyxiation or something like that. But we're thrilled for Kal," Jacobs said.
Monday night's episode ended with an announcement directing viewers to suicide prevention resources.
Penn said viewers should recognize that "the characters that an actor plays are very different than his or her real life."
"You know, Superman flies and Anthony Hopkins eats people in Silence of the Lambs, but I think we're all rational enough to know that those are both fictitious and the same goes with television," Penn said.
Apr 08, 2009 04:30 AM