After a much touted move from in front of the cameras to behind the scenes, former "House" star Kal Penn finally started work today as an Associate Director in the Obama administration’s Office of Public Engagement.
In a conference call organized Monday by the White House, Penn dodged the reasons for why there had been an almost three month delay since his announcement in April that the long-time Obama supporter would be working at the White House.
And he really dodged questions about whether or not he would be starring in the stoner sequel "A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas," scheduled for release in November, 2010.
As TheWrap was the first to report last month, despite the much-covered notification this spring, Penn, an early Obama supporter, hadn’t actually started or even shown up officially at the White House.
After his character of Dr. Lawrence Kutner was written out of "House" in a suicide, one of the things Penn, according to his spokesperson in press reports, did before serving his country was travel to India to work with Martin Sheen and Mischa Barton on the Ravi Kumar film "Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain."
With Shin Inouye, the administration’s Director of Specialty Media by his side, a very measured Penn said that part of the delay in taking up his new job, was due to fulfilling some “commitments” he already had lined up and, as he called it, the “pretty banal” stuff of finding a place to live in DC, settling up his L.A. home and moving across the country.
"I wasn’t keen on making a public interest story about my leaving the show." he said. "I had a great time, but I wanted to serve my country and the opportunity presented itself. There’s always a delay — when you finish working on something and when you start something else."
As an example, Penn used the three months between winning the election and
taking office that President and other members of the administration had and
need to get themselves and the government organized to make his point.
In using that example, Penn neglected to mention that up until the election last November, Barack Obama wasn’t 100% sure he would be moving to the White House in January. That’s unlike Penn, who knew for certain that he had a job in the administration late in 2008 — over four months before his announcement.
Also Penn’s answer was a bit different from one of the reasons that the White House itself gave before. "The suicide of his character on House was quite shocking," Inouye, who introduced Penn on the conference call today, told TheWrap last month, "so everyone thought there should be a bit of timely delay before he takes up work for the administration.”
Penn was very circumspect about how long he would be with the administration and when he would return to his acting career. The star, who said who will be going by his real name Kalpen Suresh Modi while working for the administration, said he considered it “the greatest honor” working as the President’s “point person for the Arts and the Asian community.”
When it came to another "Harold and Kumar" movie, the answer was a perfectly politically ‘maybe.’
“As far as I’m concerned, I enjoyed those films, I had a lot of fun doing them,” Penn carefully said, “but we’re a very particular and unique time in history and I’m incredibly honored to be here and to serve in the capacity I’m serving in and I hope that the folks who are making those films respect my decision to take a sabbatical.”