Tags: people | kal | penn

'House' Actor Kills Character Off, Joins White House

Tuesday, 07 Apr 2009 12:33 PM

A shocking exit from the Fox TV series "House" Tuesday night is turning into an equally unexpected entrance into the White House for actor Kal Penn. He will be serving as liaison between President Barack Obama's administration and Hollywood.

On Tuesday, Penn's character, Kutner, the junior member of a team that serves under the brilliant and irascible physician Gregory House, committed suicide. The death, which had not been telegraphed at all in the shows leading up to it, was a shocking twist to the season.

"I was incredibly honored a couple of months ago to get the opportunity to go work in the White House," Penn told Entertainment Weekly magazine. "I got to know the President and some of the staff during the campaign and had expressed interest in working there, so I'm going to be the associate director in the White House office of public liaison. They do outreach with the American public and with different organizations. They're basically the front door of the White House. They take out all of the red tape that falls between the general public and the White House. It's similar to what I was doing on the campaign."

When he informed the show's producing staff of his plans to quit, they reluctantly wrote in the suicide, Penn said.

"We had a very long discussion," Penn said. "And I remember David [executive producer David Shore] saying, 'Are you telling me that you're unhappy with the show and that you want to leave so you can go off and do a different show?' And I was like, 'Not at all. I'm actually saying the exact opposite, which is I'm having an incredible time, but there's something aching in me to do something completely different and take a break from the acting thing for a while.' And with their blessing, we were able to work it out."

White House spokesman Shin Inouye said Tuesday that Penn would join the staff as an associate director in the Office of Public Liaison. His role will be to connect Obama with the Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities, as well as arts and entertainment groups.

Penn starred as Kumar in the movie, "Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay."

Penn was an Obama supporter during the campaign. The White House says a start date for Penn hasn't been set.

The hire was first reported by Entertainment Weekly.

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