Kal Penn

Kalpen Suresh Modi (born April 23, 1977), known by his stage name Kal Penn is an American actor, producer, and political activist. He is known for his starring roles in National Lampoon's Van Wilder, Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle, The Namesake (2007), Epic Movie (2007), and the recently released Harold & Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay (2008). He currently plays the role of Dr. Lawrence Kutner in the TV series House.


Early life

Penn was born in Montclair, New Jersey to an engineer father and a mother who worked as a fragrance evaluator for a perfume company; both of his parents were Indian immigrants of Gujarati heritage. He attended middle school at Marlboro Middle School, and played baritone saxophone in the jazz band there. Penn is an alumnus and graduate of Freehold Township High School, but is sometimes said to be a graduate of Howell High School where he was active in the school's theater productions, and The Fine and Performing Arts Specialized Learning Center for three years. He attended UCLA where he double majored in Film and Sociology. While at UCLA, he was a founding member of the underground intellectual society, "6 South". He also played a big role in the on-campus club, Sanganhj, which has also disbanded.


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, Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, 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, and Harold & Kumar 2. Penn was featured in the The Lonely Island's rejected Awesometown MTV pilot music video, along with his friend Brandon Routh (who played Superman in Superman Returns).

Penn says that he chose the stage name Kal Penn (from Kalpen Suresh Modi) 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%. Penn 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, where he played a recognition-starved rapist and murderer. In May 2007, Penn received the Asian Excellence Award for Outstanding Actor for his performance in The Namesake.

In fall 2007, Penn joined the cast of the FOX medical drama House as one of Dr. House's new fellowship applicants. According to E!, Penn has signed on as a regular on the show along with Olivia Wilde and Peter Jacobson and this was confirmed in the plot of the episode Games.

In spring 2008, Penn served as visiting lecturer in Asian American Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. He taught a course titled “Images of Asian Americans in the Media”.

Personal life

Penn is a vegetarian. During the filming of Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle, technicians provided him with soy patties for the scenes requiring ingestion

Penn was a guest professor at the University of Pennsylvania in the spring of 2008. He was noted to be as strict as any other professor .

In 2008, Penn campaigned for Senator Barack Obama's presidential bid with House co-star Olivia Wilde. He appears in the Obama video, Sí Se Puede Cambiar by Andres Useche.



Year Title Role Notes
1998 Express: Aisle to Glory Jackie Newton
1999 Freshman Ajay
2001 American Desi Ajay Pandya
2002 Hector Kendal Cunningham
National Lampoon's Van Wilder Taj Badalandabad
2003 Love Don't Cost a Thing Kenneth Warman
American Made (as Kalpen Modi) Jagdesh
Malibu's Most Wanted Hadji
Dude, Where's the Party? Mo (Mohan Bakshi)
2004 Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle Kumar Patel
Ball & Chain Bobby
2005 Sueño Raj
A Lot Like Love Jeeter
Son of the Mask Jorge
Dancing in Twilight Sam
2006 Bachelor Party Vegas Z-Bob
Man About Town Alan Fineberg
Superman Returns Stanford
Deck The Halls Amit Sayid
National Lampoon's Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj Taj Badalandabad
2007 The Namesake Gogol/Nikhil Ganguli Released March, 2007
Epic Movie Edward January 26, 2007
2008 Under New Management Wheeler pre-production
Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay Kumar Patel Released April 25, 2008

Television roles

Year Title Role
2007 House (2007-Present) Dr. Lawrence Kutner
24 Ahmed Amar
Law and Order: Special Victims Unit Henry Chanoor
2006 The Danny Comden Project Max
2004 Homeland Security Harrison
2003 Tru Calling (Haunted) Steven
All About the Andersons George
Cosmopolitan Vandana's fiancé
2001 The Agency Malek
NYPD Blue Solomon Al-Ramai
ER Narajan
Angel Fez Boy
2000 Spin City Buddy
Sabrina, the Teenage Witch Prajeeb
1999 Buffy the Vampire Slayer Hunt
Brookfield Kumar Zimmerman


External links

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