Kal Penn surprised many of his fans two years ago when he put his acting career on hold to join the Obama White House as a mid-level staffer. After a two year hiatus, Penn returns to the silver screen this weekend with the release of A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas. I recently spoke to Penn about his new film, working at the White House, and Asian Americans in the media.
Tell us about the new film. This obviously isn’t your typical Christmas movie.
In a lot of ways it is a traditional Christmas movie. What was cool is that a lot of things you see are traditional. Santa Claus is in the film- Harold accidentally shoots him in the face. There’s family, friendship, and love [in the movie]. What’s different is that it’s in 3D, and it is vulgar.
This is your first film since leaving your job as an advisor to the White House. I just read this great quote of yours from an interview you did with the LA Times: “When you’re working there, you always think, ‘What is the best time to tell the president that you played a stoner who escaped from Guantanamo Bay?’ Did Harold and Kumar or any of your other roles ever come up in conversation while you were at the White House?
The nice thing about working in the White House is that almost everyone has put a private sector career on hold. There isn’t a lot of conversation about what people put on hold, it’s more about working together to push the president’s agenda.
Currently you are also guest starring on How I Met Your Mother, which means of course that you are working with Neil Patrick Harris again. Is working with him on HIMYM different from the Harold and Kumar movies?
Neil is incredible. I don’t know if you’ve ever had the chance to see him on Broadway, but he’s a legit Broadway actor. He subs for Regis on Regis and Kelly. There’s really nothing that guy can’t do. Continue reading