category header Watch with Kristin


House's Kal Penn Talks Obama, Suicide & More

Kal Penn, House Joseph Viles/Fox

Let's see: work on popular TV show House or work for popular President Barack Obama in the White House? Hmmm. Tough decision? No! When Obama's camp came a-calling, Kal Penn thought it was his indeed his calling.

"The word that I still use to describe it is bittersweet. It’s not like I’m retiring from acting. I certainly intend to come back at some point, but right now I just felt like my calling was in public service, and so we moved forward with that," says Kal, whose character, Dr. Kutner—for those of you living under a rock—was killed off in a suicide on last night's shocking episode of House.

Find out what else Kal has to say about Obama, House and his character's shocking turn of events...

Dr. Kutner's Shocking Demise: "I was probably as shocked as the audience when I first found out. I like the way it happened. The thing that I enjoy about being an actor is the ability to make the audience feel an emotion that they weren’t intending to feel before they went in."

President Obama's a House Watcher: More surprising than Kutner's unexplained suicide is the fact that President Obama actually watches House. Kal explains, "The first time I met him was late in ’07. I met him at a fundraiser. I introduced myself and he said, 'Oh yeah, you’re on that show. What show are you on?' And I said, 'I’m on House.' He’s like, 'That’s right, the doctor show. Nice work!' "

Kal's New Gig: He is the associate director in the White House Office of Public Liaison. Which means...what? Kal, an Independent, explains, "What the OPL does is similar in a sense to what I was doing on the campaign in that they try to take the administration itself out of Washington. So they go into communities across the country, continue the sorts of dialogue that people had started during the campaign and basically assure that a bunch of different citizens’ views about their elected officials, about the government, are all happening and working effectively...Two of the communities that I’m sort of going to be the point person for are the arts and Asian-American folks."

Kal's New Digs: Kal's not exactly moving out of House for the White House per se. His office is actually in the Old Executive Office Building, and he says he plans to head to Washington, D.C. next week to do some apartment hunting.

Is He Saying Goodbye to Hollywood? "Growing up, I always had two interests and two passions, one being public service and the other being the arts and acting. So it’s always been on my mind. I’m not packing up and saying I’m leaving Hollywood. It’s just pursuing another passion right now. We’ll see for how long and under which circumstances. I won’t be acting while I’m working at the White House."

What do you think of Kal's (crazy?) career move?