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Montclair, New Jersey
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Montclair, New Jersey

Kal Penn (Kalpen Suresh Modi) is an Indian-origin American actor, chef, producer, and government servant. He played Lawrence Kutner in the television show ‘House,’ and Kumar Patel in the ‘Harold & Kumar’ film series. His film ‘The Namesake’ has also earned a lot of praise from critics. Penn has also taught in the Cinema Studies Program at the University of Pennsylvania. Penn served in the White House Office of Public Engagement as an Associate Director for two terms, from April 2009 to July 2011. He went on to star in the successful television show ‘How I Met Your Mother’ after his time in the White House. When he grew up, his immigrant parents expected him to be a doctor or a lawyer. Kal, on the other hand, had a childhood dream of entertaining people and opted to become an actress instead. He finally received roles in films and television movies as a result of his hard work, and he created an impression on audiences of all ages. He has been nominated for and won awards for his roles in a number of films.

Childhood and Adolescence

Kal Penn was born Kalpen Suresh Modi on April 23, 1977, in Montclaire, New Jersey, United States.
Suresh Modi, an engineer, and Asmita Modi, a fragrance tester at a perfume company with a master’s degree in chemistry, are his parents. Pulin, his younger brother, is his only sibling.

Kal’s parents were conventional Gujrati immigrants who intended him to be a lawyer or a doctor, but he instead opted to be an actor.

He played saxophone in the school band at ‘Marlboro Middle School’ in Marlboro, New Jersey.
Instead of joining the school soccer team, he enrolled in theatrical lessons at school and performed in the school’s production of ‘The Wiz’ while he was in eighth grade.

He then spent three years at the ‘Howell High School Academy for The Fine and Performing Arts,’ which is run by ‘Howell High School.’ He moved to ‘Freehold Township High School’ in New Jersey before finishing his studies here, where he became a member of the school’s ‘Forensics Speech & Debate Team.’

In 1995, he graduated from ‘Freehold Township High School’ and proceeded to Los Angeles to study at the ‘University of California School of Theatre, Film, and Television,’ where he earned a bachelor’s degree in sociology and the performing arts.

During his time at both schools in the 1990s, he appeared in a number of television productions, including ‘Spin City,’ ‘Teenage Witch,’ ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer,’ and ‘Sabrina.’

While in college, he even created a short film in which Jason Allentoff played the leading part.
He then pursued a double degree in film and sociology at the ‘University of California’ in Los Angeles.

Career as an actor

In 1988, Kal Penn made his acting debut in the film ‘Express: Aisle to Glory.’ During this period, he altered his long and difficult Indian name to ‘Kal Penn,’ which was much shorter, in order to avoid being shunned by potential employers. He began to receive 50% more calls after the change, despite the fact that he prefers to be addressed by his first name.

In 2001, he starred in “American Desi,” “National Lampoon’s Van Wilder,” and “Love Don’t Cost a Thing.” In 2002, he starred in “National Lampoon’s Van Wilder,” and in 2003, he starred in “Love Don’t Cost a Thing.”

In 2004, he established his mark as a well-known actor when he was cast in the comedic feature film ‘Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle,’ in which he played an Indian American student named Kumar Patel.

He starred in the movies “Superman Returns” and “National Lampoon’s Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj” in 2006.
He was given a role in the film ‘Planet Terror’ in 2007, but he had to decline because he was filming ‘The Namesake.’

In 2008, he starred in the sequels Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay’ and ‘A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas’, and in 2011, he starred in ‘Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay.

During the spring of 2008, he was a visiting lecturer at the ‘Asian American Studies Program’ at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, where he taught ‘Images of Asian-Americans in the Media’ and took seminars on ‘Contemporary American Teen Films.’

Penn joined Barack Obama’s ‘National Arts Policy Committee’ during his presidential campaign, and on November 3, 2008, he campaigned with Rachel Leigh Cook at ‘Keene State College, Keene, New Hampshire.’

On the advice of President Barack Obama, he accepted the position of Associate Director of the ‘White House Office of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs on April 7, 2009. When he sought to be removed from the show ‘House,’ which had been running since 2004, television writers did some character assassination.

He briefly resigned from this position in 2010 and returned to acting. After a brief stint acting in various shows, he returned to the White House Office of Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs as Associate Director. In July 2011, he ultimately resigned from this position.

He enrolled at ‘Stanford University’ in 2014 to pursue a degree in international security.

His TV Characters

Kal Penn has been in a number of television shows since 2011, including ‘ER,’ ’24,’ ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,’ ‘Battle Creek,’ ‘We Are Men,’ and ‘How I Met Your Mother.’

With his role as Dr. Lawrence Kutner in the medical drama ‘House,’ which was produced by ‘FOX,’ he became a hugely popular actor.

In 2016, he was cast in ‘Designated Survivor,’ alongside Keifer Sutherland, who had previously appeared in the cast of ’24.’

Achievements & Awards

For his part in the film ‘The Namesake,’ Kal Penn received an ‘Asian Excellence Award for Outstanding Actor.’
For his work as Kumar Patel in the television movie ‘Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle,’ he received nominations for an ‘MTV Movie Award,’ a ‘Screen Actors Guild Award,’ and a ‘Teen Choice Award.’

Estimated Net Worth

Kal Penn is a $15 million dollar actor and public servant from the United States. Kal Penn is best known for his role as Kumar Patel in the stoner comedy series “Harold & Kumar.”

He also had a recurring role on the successful TV program “House” and was praised for his work in Mira Nair’s drama film “The Namesake.” Penn is also a former member of the Obama administration’s staff, having joined the Obama administration in 2009.


Kal Penn remains a vegetarian, despite playing several non-vegetarian parts in various films.
In June 2016, Kal Penn was claimed to have died on Facebook. This report was eventually proven to be a total fabrication.

He was robbed of his wallet and other items at gunpoint on the streets of Washington, D.C. in late April 2010.
He is a supporter of the ‘International Red Cross,’ which has raised more than $500,000 for Syrian refugees since January 2017.

On January 2, 2017, he also donated the entire $25,000 cash prize from the ‘MasterChef Celebrity Showdown’ award to Palestinian refugees.