Mike Fleming

EXCLUSIVE: After taking a risk and putting his career on hold for two years and having his character killed on House so he could work in the Obama White House, Harold & Kumars Kal Penn has regained his stride nicely. After a stint on How I Met Your Mother, Penn has broadened his presence in TV, hosting the Discovery Channel competition series The Big Brain Theory and next month shooting the pilot for an untitled sitcom that had the working title of Ex Men. Penn will star with Tony Shalhoub in a laffer about four guys of varying ages who’ve been dumped by their mates and bond when they move into an apartment complex.

He’s also booked a trio of feature films. He’s starring in The Sisterhood Of Night, playing a guidance counselor in an upstate New York town where some high school girls have formed a secret society which the townsfolk believe is nefarious. “It was the first I filmed something in a high school where I wasn’t a student,” Penn told me.

He’s also starring in Dementamania, a psychological thriller directed by Kit Ryan that Penn described as “an old school-style British horror movie where I play a young CEO of a company, and where there is a lot of blood and gore. I’ve always wanted to make a film like that. When I first moved to L.A., I got a job as an extra on Wes Craven’s The Wishmaster,” he said. “Even though I got all bloodied up, I was on the screen for something like point five seconds. Dementamania is very cool and disturbing.”

Penn is also starring with Elijah Wood in the Randall Einhorn-directed Late Bloomer. Wood plays the title character, and shooting starts in February. “It’s based on a novel by Ken Baker called A Memoir Of My Body, and Elijah plays a guy whose medical condition prevented him from going through puberty until his 30s,” Penn said. “I play one of his two childhood friends and while we’ve settled down from the irresponsibility that men go through in their 20s, we help him as he experiences all of these things for the first time. The script is just hilarious.”