10 Things You Didn't Know About Kal Penn

Penn is taking a job in the Obama administration as a liaison to Asian-American groups.

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1. Kalpen Suresh Modi was born to Indian immigrants on April 23, 1977, in Montclair, N.J..

2. One of Penn's earliest acting roles was as the Tin Man in an eighth-grade production of The Wiz .

3. Penn studied sociology and film at the University of California-Los Angeles. He also studied international security at Stanford University.

4. He anglicized his name on his head shot and résumé after joking with friends about what kind of effect it would have on his career. After changing his name from Kalpen Modi to Kal Penn, he saw audition callbacks rise by 50 percent.

5. Penn's breakthrough role was as Taj Mahal Badalandabad, a nerdy exchange student in 2002's Van Wilder . Penn says he did not enjoy making the film, as he found the character to be "stereotypical."

6. In 2004, Penn was named one of People magazine's 50 most eligible bachelors.

7. Penn tried to get the rights to turn the novel The Namesake into a movie, but Mira Nair beat him to it. Nair's teenage son, a big fan of Penn's 2004 film Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, persuaded her to audition him for the lead in the 2007 film.

8. In 2008 Penn was hired as a guest instructor at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. He taught two courses, Images of Asian Americans in the Media and Contemporary American Teen Films.

9. Penn lists five of his favorite movie comedies as The Muppets Take Manhattan, Office Space, About a Boy, The Rules of Attraction, and Knocked Up .

10. Despite being an inductee into the White Castle Craver's Hall of Fame, Penn is a staunch vegetarian.


  • New York Times
  • New York Post
  • Nirali Magazine
  • Wall Street Journal
  • Newsday
  • Internet Movie Database