Kal Penn is an actor, writer, producer, and former Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement. He is known for starring roles including the Harold and Kumar franchise, House, Designated Survivor, and most recently the patriotic immigration comedy Sunnyside, which he co-created with SNL alumnus Matt Murray for NBC and Hulu. Penn’s other credits include roles on Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, New Girl, 24, and Law & Order: SVU. He has appeared in a number of independent films, most notably Mira Nair’s adaptation of Pulitzer-winner Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel The Namesake, about which The New York Times called his lead role a "crackling, star-making performance."
From 2009 to 2011, Penn took a sabbatical from acting when he was appointed by President Obama to serve as an Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, where he focused primarily on outreach to young Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and the arts community. He worked on issues as diverse as the Affordable Care Act, the repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, college affordability, countering violent extremism, and veterans benefits for service members returning from Iraq and Afghanistan among others. Penn served as a national co-chair for President Obama’s re-election campaign in 2012, and later served on the President’s Committee for the Arts and Humanities, focusing on arts education in underperforming schools, and cultural diplomacy in Cuba and India.
Penn has taught courses on film and media at the University of Pennsylvania, and on politics and sociology at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). Originally from New Jersey, he received his BA in Sociology with a specialization in Theater, Film, and Television at the University of California, Los Angeles, and a graduate certificate in International Security from Stanford University.
He has maintained careers in both entertainment and public service, has been an active member of the Council on Foreign Relations and Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and most recently completed several global documentary series for Amazon, VICE, and National Geographic.