Kal Penn earned fame as a pot smoking pre-med student in the Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle franchise. The actor had starring roles on FOX's House and in Mira Nair's film " The Namesake" is leaving acting in Hollywood to go to D.C. Fans were shocked when the TV doc killed himself on House with a shotgun. Penn volunteered during President Barack Obama's presidential campaign. Let's make sure Kal Penn doesn't smoke weed in the White House. The actor shared a blunt with former President George Bush in "Harold and Kumar Escape From Guantanamo Bay."
Kal Penn (Harold and Kumar) for Obama
New Jersey-born actor Kal Penn, who played a stoner Guantanamo Bay escapee in the movies and a doctor on TV's "House," has scored a job in the White House. Way to go, dude!
Penn, 31, will become associate director in the White House Office of Public Liaison, administration officials confirmed Tuesday. The Indian-American film star will be an emissary to the Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities, along with arts and entertainment groups.
Penn campaigned extensively throughout the country for President Obama last year and was a hit on college campuses.
In an interview with Entertainment Weekly, Penn explained why he decided to leave "House." His character inexplicably committed suicide in an episode that aired Monday night.
"I was incredibly honored a couple of months ago to get the opportunity to go work in the White House," Penn explained. "I got to know the President and some of the staff during the campaign and had expressed interest in working there."
Penn described the office as the "front door" of the White House, saying he'll be responsible for doing outreach with the American public.
"They take out all of the red tape that falls between the general public and the White House," he said. "It's similar to what I was doing on the campaign."
Penn gained fame as the co-star of the raucous and profane "Harold and Kumar" stoner comedies that have become a cult favorite with fans worldwide. The first installment, "Harold and Kumar go to White Castle," followed the misadventures of two New Jersey guys with a pot-stoked craving for their favorite burgers.
He famously smoked weed with a fictional President Bush in the sequel, "Harold and Kumar: Escape from Guantanamo Bay,"
Penn also starred in Mira Nair's 'The Namesake,' and played a terrorist in a recurring role on "24."[NYDN]
First there was surprise suicide-by-shotgun. Now comes the salary cut – a big one. And believe it or not, TV's House doc Kal Penn asked for it.
The actor, whose character Dr. Lawrence Kutner shot himself dead in this week's episode, is wrapping up Hollywood life for a job at the White House, where annual salaries for the most senior of staffers (like, the White House Chief of Staff, for example), top out at around $172,000 – enviable, but still a fraction of what most TV actors get per episode.
"There's not a lot of financial reward in these jobs," Penn, 31, whose title will be Associate Director in the Office of Public Liaison ("basically the front door of the White House," he says), told Entertainment Weekly. "But obviously, the opportunity to serve in a capacity like this is an incredible honor."
Penn's office will be within the White House gates at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, but in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building adjacent to the West Wing.
A spokesman for President Obama tells PEOPLE that Penn, who was an active volunteer in Obama's campaign last year (and whose parents were Hindu immigrants from India), will handle the president's outreach to the Asian-American Pacific Islander community and the arts community. The spokesman was careful to clarify that, by arts community, they don't mean Hollywood – but rather, the type of organizations and activists that work to activate music programs in schools and keep community theater alive.
"I love what I do as an actor," says Penn, a New Jersey native whose most famous big-screen role was as the pot-smoking Kumar in the Harold and Kumar movies. "But probably from the time I was a kid, I really enjoyed that balance between the arts and public service." [PEOPLE]