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Kalpen Suresh Modi , Kal Penn,

Wednesday, December 7, 2011


Kalpen Suresh Modi (born April 23, 1977), best known by his stage name Kal Penn, is an American film and television actor, producer, and civil servant.

Penn was born as Kalpen Suresh Modi in Montclair, New Jersey, the son of Asmita, a fragrance evaluator for a perfume company, and Suresh Modi, an engineer.Both of his parents are Gujarati immigrants from India. He has stated that stories of his grandparents marching with Mahatma Gandhi for Indian independence were a significant influence on his interest in politics.

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He attended Marlboro Middle School in Marlboro Township, New Jersey and played baritone saxophone in the jazz band there. Penn attended The Fine and Performing Arts Academy (a magnet program) at Howell High School for freshman, sophomore, and junior years; he transferred to Freehold Township High School for senior year; both schools are part of the Freehold Regional High School District. He was active in the schools' theater productions and competed on the Freehold Township forensics team. He attended UCLA, where he double majored in film and sociology.

Acting career

Penn's feature film debut came in 1998 in Express: Aisle to Glory. He has since appeared in American Desi, National Lampoon's Van Wilder, Malibu's Most Wanted, A Lot Like Love, Dude, Where's the Party?, Love Don't Cost a Thing, Superman Returns, National Lampoon's Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj, Epic Movie, The Namesake, the Harold and Kumar series, and an uncredited appearance in Deck the Halls. Penn was featured in The Lonely Island's rejected comedy pilot, Awesometown.

Penn says that he derived his acting name, Kal Penn, as a lark: "Almost as a joke to prove friends wrong, and half as an attempt to see if what I was told would work (that anglicized names appeal more to a white-dominated industry), I put 'Kal Penn' on my resume and photos." His audition callbacks rose by 50 percent. He has stated that he prefers his birth name and uses "Kal Penn" only for professional purposes.

In January 2007, Penn appeared in the first four episodes of the sixth season of 24 as Ahmed Amar, a teenage terrorist. Penn says he nearly turned down the role due to personal ethics, stating, "I have a huge political problem with the role. It was essentially accepting a form of racial profiling. I think it's repulsive. But it was the first time I had a chance to blow stuff up and take a family hostage. As an actor, why shouldn't I have that opportunity? Because I'm brown and I should be scared about the connection between media images and people's thought processes?".

Also in January 2007, he appeared in the spoof comedy Epic Movie as well as the television show Law & Order: Special Victims Unit. In May 2007, Penn received the Asian Excellence Award for Outstanding Actor for his performance in The Namesake.

Beside his role on the T.V. series House, he is best known from his role in Harold & Kumar, Kumar Patel, a cannabis smoker who goes with Harold Lee (John Cho) to White Castle for a hamburger. Unlike his character, he does not smoke marijuana, claiming it is not for him.
On July 13, 2011, it was announced on Facebook that Penn would be joining the cast of How I Met Your Mother for the seventh season of the show.



Political interests


Penn was an advocate for Barack Obama's presidential campaign in 2007 and 2008 and a member of Obama's National Arts Policy Committee. He appears in the Barack Obama-supporting video "Sí Se Puede Cambiar" by Andres Useche and appeared with comedian George Lopez on January 18, 2009, at "We Are One: The Obama Inaugural Celebration at the Lincoln Memorial".

In early 2009, Penn was offered the position of Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement in the Obama administration, which he accepted. This necessitated his character Lawrence Kutner being written out of the TV series House. In his new role with the Obama administration, Modi served as a liaison with the Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities. He had gone back to using his birth name, Kalpen Modi.

Having made a commitment before his employment at the White House, Penn amicably left his post as Barack Obama's associate director of public engagement on June 1, 2010 to return to his acting career. He returned to office on November 15, 2010, following completion of A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas.

In 2008, Penn served as a visiting lecturer in Asian American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. His course was entitled, "Images of Asian Americans in the Media."

Penn is currently working on a graduate certificate in international security from Stanford University.

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