Actor trades ‘House’ role for White House job

[8 April 2009]

By Rick Bentley

McClatchy Newspapers (MCT)

The end came quickly for Kal Penn’s character on the popular Fox drama “House” on Monday night. Early in the episode, viewers learned that Dr. Lawrence Kutner had committed suicide.

Penn left the show for the White House. He will become an associate director in the Office of Public Liaison, where his duties will be to connect the Obama administration with Asian-American and Pacific Islander communities. He also will handle similar duties with arts and entertainment groups.

The job will be a continuation of the 18 months of work Penn did for Barack Obama during the presidential campaign.

Penn, 31, grew up with a passion for public service work and acting. He doesn’t plan to leave acting; he’s just putting that on hold.

The death of his “House” character eliminates any chance he could return to the series, but that was not a complete shock.

“I feel like ‘House’ is one of those shows, from an actor’s perspective, you just don’t know what is going to happen next,” Penn said in a telephone interview Tuesday. “I liked the way it happened. The thing that I enjoy about being an actor is the ability to make the audience feel an emotion they didn’t intend to feel. Part of the loss that the team on ‘House’ feels from what he did is transitioned over to what the audience feels because there is no explanation for what he did.”

As to his own reaction to the death of Kutner, Penn feels “a little bit of shock and loss.”

Penn joined “House” in 2007 as part of a cast revamp. His character was one of 40 potential members of the House medical team. The first season was used to weed the group down to a final three. None of the actors knew who would stay until the next script.

Fans who are in mourning for the character can pay their respects. The network has launched an online memorial at One feature on the site is a video tribute to Kutner. The music was composed by “House” star Hugh Laurie.

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