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 & Kumar‘s 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.”
EXCLUSIVE: Discovery Channel has tapped actor Kal Penn to host its new competition series The Big Brain Theory, executive produced by Craig Piligian. Penn also will serve as producer on the eight-episode engineering completion, which was greenlighted in January for a spring 2013 debut. Penn, best known for his roles in the Harold & Kumar feature franchise and Fox series House as well as for his stint working in the White House, began taping the Discovery show earlier this week at WET (Water Entertainment Technologies), the well-known Los Angeles-based water/fire feature design and engineering firm that is behind some 200+ installations, including such technological landmarks as Fountains of Bellagio at the Bellagio Hotel in Las Vegas and The Dubai Fountain, the world’s biggest fountain. The show, which is produced by Piligian’s Pilgrim Studios, has design engineers competing against each other in extreme challenges that push the boundaries of technology, creativity, ingenuity and craftsmanship. Read More »
UPDATE, 6:42 PM: “I’ve worked on a lot of fun movies but my favorite job was having a boss who gave the order to take out Bin Laden and is cool with all of us getting gay married,” Kal Penn told the delegates at the Democratic Convention tonight. “So thank you invisible man in the chair for that,” added Penn taking a dig at Clint Eastwood’s mock Obama interview at the Republican Convention last week. Read More »
Clint Eastwood’s memorable cameo at the recent Republican National Convention was supposed to be kept secret. But it’s widely known that Obama Campaign Co-Chair Eva Longoria, formerly of ABC’s Desperate Housewives, is scheduled to speak during this week’s Democratic National Convention. After stumping for Obama in 2008, and hosting Florida’s Women’s Summit in early August, the Latina activist will be one of 9 women addressing the convention from the podium in Charlotte. But far less publicized is that Kal Penn will host a portion of the DNC’s official gavel-to-gavel livestream. That’s right, the 35-year-old Harold & Kumar stoner star and one-time Houseregular who also worked on Barack Obama’s first campaign and on his arts policy committee and later in his White House. Now he’s back in the thick of Democratic politics. The Indian-American from New Jersey has been visiting 2012 battleground states drumming up Obama support among young voters. One report claims he’ll take the podium during Tuesday night’s DNC program. But his starring role comes Thursday when he’s hosting a web-only convention special called “Live From Charlotte” starting at 8 PM ET. It will include interviews with campaign officials and Obama supporter celebs including singer Marc Anthony, film actress Elizabeth Banks, CBS’ The Talk cohost Aisha Tyler, TV/film actress Olivia Wilde, The Nanny and now TVLand sitcom star Fran Drescher, TV/film star Zach Braff, and Gilmore Girls‘ Alexis Bledel.
Penn is returning to TV in Rob Greenberg’s single-camera comedy pilot for CBS titled Ex-Men. This past season, he recurred on that network’s How I Met Your Mother. He also recently toplined ABC’s comedy pilot Prairie Dogs. But he’s probably best known for leaving Fox drama House and acting for a 2-year stint at the White House as associate director in the Office of Public Engagement (under his real name, Kalpen Modi). ”It felt worth trying to be part of such a pivotal moment in history,” Penn told Deadline afterwards. ”And let’s face it, people don’t go into acting for the career stability. You do it because you’re passionate. I found the same true about public service.”
Related: Kal Penn To Co-Star In CBS Comedy Pilot ‘Ex-Men’
Related: Q&A: Kal Penn, On Trading ‘House’ For The White House
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House alum Kal Penn is set to co-star opposite Chris Smith in Rob Greenberg’s single-camera comedy pilot for CBS Ex-Men. The project, from CBS TV Studios and the Tannenbaum Co., centers on a young guy (Smith) who … Read More »
Kal Penn has been tapped as the lead in ABC’s comedy pilot Prairie Dogs. The single-camera project, from writers/executive producers Jackie and Jeff Filgo and ABC Studios, centers on Neil … Read More »
Weed lovers Harold and Kumar are getting animated. Lionsgate TV is shopping around an animated comedy based on the hit Harold & Kumar feature franchise, with several cable networks interested. According to sources, Comedy Central and MTV are among them. … Read More »
Harvey Weinstein, TV producer Steve Levitan, ICM’s Chris Silbermann, UTA’s Rob Prinz, manager-producer Jason Weinberg and talent managers Eric Ortner, Greg Mertz, Bruce Flohr, Michael Green, Steve Moir and Bill Silva were among Hollywood figures invited to meet with President Obama on Tuesday before he left for San Francisco. These … Read More »
EXCLUSIVE: While he left the White House to return to Hollywood, Kal Penn is not leaving politics completely behind. Penn’s new project for NBC will be a single-camera workplace comedy set at the United Nations, with Penn playing … Read More »
This week, actor Kal Penn left Washington D.C. after serving two years as White House associate director in the Office of Public Engagement. In D.C., he used his real name, Kalpen Modi, and worked in the Barack Obama administration after persuading the producers of House to kill off his character so he could pursue a path that was not without risk. Penn is half of the Harold and Kumar stoner duo that is a contemporary answer to Cheech and Chong, but in real life he’s a bright guy who’s working on a graduate certificate in international security at Stanford and who once served as a visiting lecturer in Asian American studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Penn will now try to reclaim his career with A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas coming this fall, a stint on the CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother and a permanent place (he hopes) as the star of a sitcom vehicle he’ll create for NBC with Dan Spilo. He spoke to Deadline about his detour and why interrupting his momentum for two years was worth it.
DEADLINE: Putting your career on hold to work in the White House has to bring a fear you might be forgotten. What does it mean to you to return with a stint on How I Met Your Mother and this NBC deal for your own show for next fall?
PENN: I was completely floored by the opportunity to develop and produce a half hour comedy for NBC. When I was starting out, what I always wanted was to be able to become a producer and take a risk, find a setting and a spin on it that’s funny, and hope it catches on. The shows I’ve most loved in the last couple of years were the NBC shows 30 Rock and The Office. Whether it’s astronauts going to the moon or something else, I hope we can find an underlying theme and make it hilarious. With 30 Rock and The Office, the humor comes from the characters and the writing and I’m excited to do something creative like that. How I Met Your Mother will be about five episodes and it will be fun to work again with Neil Patrick Harris after three Harold and Kumar films.
DEADLINE: It’s unusual to see a young actor drop his career for public service. How hard did your reps and peers try to talk your out of it?
PENN: The role of a good agent and manager is to dissuade you from doing something like this. And there was that attempt to dissuade me, which I respected. But remember, I’d worked on the president’s election campaign and made relationships with people who’d done the exact same thing, from all different walks of life. People who had kids and spouses at home in Chicago or San Francisco. I thought of myself as a young guy moving to DC, and it felt worth trying to be part of such a pivotal moment in history. It helped to have people around like Eli Attie, a writer on House who’d been one of Vice President Gore’s speech writers. When I asked him what he thought, the inevitable questions came up. Are you done with acting? Have you lost your passion for it? The answer very clearly to me was, no. To me, this wasn’t different from when I put things on hold to teach a semester of college. Eli was very supportive. The real pivotal point came when I talked to David Shore, who created House. I told him this opportunity presented itself and I felt like I couldn’t say no and how much it would mean for me to serve in the White House. I said, I know I’ve got a contract with the show and I love playing this character, but… He told me, “I was at a law firm, and everybody told me I was crazy when I wanted to move from Toronto to LA with a script, and try my hand at creating a show. I had to do it even though they thought I was crazy, so who am I to tell you what you’re doing is a little bit crazy? You have my blessing.” And let’s face it, people don’t go into acting for the career stability. You do it because you’re passionate. I found the same true about public service. Read More »