Entries in Harold & Kumar (2)


Actor Kal Penn Opens Up on Stint in the White House

Ethan Miller/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- Kalpen Modi's job as a White House liaison to young voters for the past two years has been to re-energize them during a time when the job market is bleak, and compromise on Capitol Hill seems impossible. He clearly has had his work cut out for him.

"I think for most young folks who I'm talking to, it doesn't matter if they're on the left or the right, the issues that they cared about were the same," he said. "It is a kind of bummer if you look at the score keeping on the Hill ... and what we have been focusing on is getting folks on the same page, focusing on the solutions."

More recognized by his stage name -- Kal Penn -- the 34-year-old actor is known for playing the lovable stoner Kumar in the "Harold and Kumar" film franchise, or the suicidal Dr. Kutner in the TV series "House, M.D." or a terrorist from "24."

But Penn stunned Hollywood in 2009 when he went to work in President Obama's White House as the associate director for the Office of Public Engagement -- a job he has never spoken about on camera until now.

"It's just not our role here," Penn said. "There is a whole team that does media stuff. Our jobs are just keep our heads down and do good work."

"I don't know anyone who would say that the White House is particularly glamorous," he said. "I think everyone has an understanding of the impact you can have, and the fact that ... that feeling is indescribable."

Raised by Indian immigrant parents in Montclair, N.J., Penn has been working for Obama's senior advisor Valerie Jarret, slaving away in a small office with five other junior staffers.

The Office of Public Engagement focuses on creating a dialogue about policy with students from around the country. One of Penn's jobs is to engage the elusive young voters who turned out in droves for Obama in 2008 but who seem to have become more complacent almost three years later.

While several actors have campaigned for Democratic politicians and presidential candidates, Penn may be the only one in recent memory to take a hiatus from acting to work for a politician full-time behind-the-scenes. It's a decision he said he made for personal reasons.

"I had friends who were over in Iraq and Afghanistan," Penn said. "I had buddies who had huge student debt, people who got kicked off their health insurance plans for one reason or another, and so that was my decision to get involved on a personal level."

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio´╗┐


Kal Penn Returns to White House Job After Leaving to Film 'Harold & Kumar' Sequel

Photo Courtesy - Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- After a brief hiatus to film the third movie in the popular Harold & Kumar series, actor Kal Penn (whose given name is Kalpen Modi) is returning to a job in the White House.

"The White House is pleased to have Kalpen Modi join the Office of Public Engagement as an Associate Director," White House spokesman Shin Inouye said in a statement on Monday. "While OPE works collectively on conducting outreach to the American public and various organizations, he will be the point person for those in the Arts, Youth, and Asian-American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) communities." Monday was his first day of work.

Penn, who may be best known for his role as Kumar on the big screen, left a similar job in the Office of Public Engagement over the summer. He originally joined the Obama White House in July 2009 as a liaison to the Asian-American and arts communities.

The actor, who had a starring role in the film The Namesake and was also a regular on the television medical drama House, spent months campaigning for Obama in 2008, focusing his efforts on turning out the youth vote. His character was written off House in order for him to take the job in Washington in 2009.

Penn quit his White House job to fulfill a prior commitment to film a third Harold & Kumar movie -- A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas -- scheduled for release in 2011.

During his previous stint in the Obama administration, Penn took part in a variety of educational and cultural programs and wrote several posts on the White House's official blog. While he was filming this summer, Penn worked in his personal capacity to promote the repeal of "don't ask, don't tell" and the passage of the DREAM Act. He also met with artists, arts businesses and youth entrepreneurs in the Detroit area where the Harold & Kumar movie was shot.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio ´╗┐

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