Kal Penn - Rotten Tomatoes

Kal Penn

Highest Rated:   87% The Namesake (2006)
Lowest Rated:   2% Epic Movie (2007)
Birthday:  
Birthplace:   Montclair, New Jersey, USA
Kal Penn qualifies as one of the very few Indian-American actors of Gujarati heritage working in Hollywood. He was born Kalpen Suresh Modi on April 23, 1977, in Montclair, NJ, to an engineer father and a mother employed as a fragrance sampler for a perfume manufacturer. Modi bravely and intelligently cut against the grain of social expectations as a child, rejecting the prompting of his peers to join the soccer team, and instead joining the school drama team. Though allegedly mocked by classmates for his decision, Penn changed everyone's mind with his performance in a school production of The Wiz, and received a standing ovation for his work in that production -- no mean accomplishment for a beginner. During elementary school and junior high, Modi felt struck, again and again, by the crass Indian stereotypes perpetuated in Hollywood films, specifically in movies such as Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984) and 1986's Short Circuit, in which Caucasian actor Fisher Stevens plays the Indian-American Ben Jabituya for comic relief. Quietly vowing to work against this trend, Modi actually spent years attaining the box-office clout to make it happen. After his secondary school education (first at New Jersey's Howell High, then at Freehold Township High), Modi trained intensely as a dramatist on the Manhattan theatrical circuit, then attended UCLA as a drama major in the mid-'90s, and simultaneously started to land television parts right and left, in such series as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, and Spin City. At about that time, he took the advice of friends and family, and -- though initially reluctant to do so -- anglicized his name, changing it to Kal Penn. As a result, he later reported, job offers escalated by 50 percent.Penn made his feature debut coming in the 1999 culture-clash drama Freshmen. A supporting role in the independent romantic comedy American Desi (2001) quickly followed -- ironically, an exploration of race and identity, about an Indian-American boy, Krishna (Deep Katdare), who moves away from home and changes his name to Kris to disguise his ethnicity, but finds himself saddled with several roommates of like heritage. Penn plays Ajay, an Indian student who has immersed himself in black ("Afrocentric") behavior. The film received extremely limited U.S. theatrical bookings in the spring of 2001 and fair reviews from the critics who saw it. Penn then jointed the cast of the Animal House-cloned gross-out farce National Lampoon's Van Wilder (2002), about a seventh-year senior (Ryan Reynolds) threatened by his father's (Tim Matheson) decision to cut off his seemingly unlimited allowance. Widely drubbed as unfunny, the picture did embarrassing box office and opened and closed in one month, but its A-list issue nonetheless gave Penn (who plays Van's Indian friend, Taj Mahal Badalandabad) with his highest-profile exposure to date. Penn's onscreen activity escalated meteorically from 2003 through 2006, with the young actor averaging around seven or eight first-run features per year, and ascending to higher and higher credit billings. Most notably, he co-starred as Kumar (alongside fellow Gen-Xer John Cho) in 2004's stoner comedy Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle, a surprise sleeper hit (and recipient of many enthusiastic notices) about two buddies, an Asian-American banker and an Indian-American medical student, whose unstoppable quest to find some White Castle hamburgers gives way to an epic road trip. Penn also delivered a brief supporting turn as Stanford, a henchman of Lex Luthor (Kevin Spacey) in 2006's Superman Returns. Meanwhile, Penn made an indelible impression on the small screen as well, as Harrison in the 2004 NBC 9/11 NBC drama Homeland Security. Penn was less effective in the ill-advised 2006 sequel National Lampoon's Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj, an installment that -- per its title -- finds Penn's Taj Ma

Photos

Highest Rated Movies

Filmography

MOVIES

RATING TITLE CREDIT BOX OFFICE YEAR
55% Speech & Debate
  • James
2017
No Score Yet Better Off Single
  • Brice
2016
No Score Yet Emily & Tim
  • Actor
2016
15% The Girl In The Photographs
  • Peter Hemmings
2016
80% The Sisterhood Of Night
  • Gordy Gambhir
2015
No Score Yet Outliving Emily
  • Actor
2015
58% Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain
  • Actor
$12.6k 2014
No Score Yet Dementamania
  • Actor
2013
68% A Very Harold & Kumar Christmas
  • Kumar
$34.5M 2011
No Score Yet Under New Management
  • Actor
2009
53% Harold & Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay
  • Kumar Patel
$38.1M 2008
2% Epic Movie
  • Edward
$39.7M 2007
7% Van Wilder: The Rise of Taj (Van Wilder 2)
  • Taj Mahal Badalandabad
  • Executive Producer
$4.3M 2006
87% The Namesake
  • Gogol Ganguli
$13.5M 2006
76% Superman Returns
  • Stanford
$200.2M 2006
No Score Yet Bachelor Party Vegas
  • Z-Bob
2006
38% Man About Town
  • Alan Fineberg
2006
43% Sueno
  • Actor
2005
41% A Lot Like Love
  • Jeeter
$21.9M 2005
6% Son of the Mask
  • Jorge
$17M 2005
No Score Yet Dancing in Twilight
  • Sam
2005
74% Harold & Kumar Go to White Castle
  • Kumar
$18.3M 2004
No Score Yet Ball & Chain
  • Bobby
2004
No Score Yet Homeland Security
  • Harrison
2004
13% Love Don't Cost a Thing
  • Kenneth
$21.8M 2003
31% Malibu's Most Wanted
  • Hadji
$34.4M 2003
69% Dude, Where's the Party?
  • Mohan Bakshi
$49.3k 2003
No Score Yet Freshmen
  • Actor
2002
19% National Lampoon's Van Wilder
  • Taj Mahal Badalandabad
$21.1M 2002
42% American Desi
  • Ajay Pandya
$0.7M 2001

TV

RATING TITLE CREDIT YEAR
No Score Yet Jimmy Kimmel Live
2003
  • Guest
  • 2017
No Score Yet The Late Late Show With James Corden
2015
  • Guest
  • 2017
85% Designated Survivor
2016
  • Seth Wheeler
  • 2017
  • 2016
No Score Yet Deadbeat
2014-2016
  • Clyde
  • 2016
83% Match Game
2016
  • Panelist
  • 2016
93% New Girl
2011
  • Tripp
  • 2016
91% The Late Show With Stephen Colbert
2015
  • Guest
  • 2016
95% Battle Creek
2015
  • Det. Fontanelle White Fontanelle White
  • 2015
No Score Yet The Late Late Show With Craig Ferguson
2005-2014
  • Guest
  • 2015
100% The Nightly Show With Larry Wilmore
2015-2016
  • Panelist
  • 2015
No Score Yet Real Time With Bill Maher
2003
  • Guest
  • 2014
No Score Yet CBS This Morning
2012
  • Guest
  • 2013
No Score Yet Hollywood Game Night
2013
  • Appearing
  • 2013
No Score Yet Last Call With Carson Daly
2007
  • Guest
  • 2013
No Score Yet Late Night With Jimmy Fallon
2009-2014
  • Guest
  • 2013
No Score Yet Nikki & Sara Live
2013
  • Guest
  • 2013
4% We Are Men
2013
  • Gil
  • 2013
No Score Yet The Talk
2010
  • Guest
  • 2013
  • 2011
No Score Yet How I Met Your Mother
2005-2014
  • Kevin
  • 2012
  • 2011
No Score Yet The Tonight Show With Jay Leno
1992-2014
  • Guest
  • 2011
  • 2004
No Score Yet House
2004-2012
  • Lawrence Cutner Dr. Lawrence Kutner
  • 2009
  • 2008
  • 2007
  • 2005
87% 24
2001-2014
  • Ahmet Amar Ahmed Amar
  • 2007
No Score Yet Law & Order: Special Victims Unit
1999
  • Henry
  • 2007
No Score Yet ER
1994-2009
  • Naraian
  • 2001
No Score Yet Buffy the Vampire Slayer
1997-2003
  • Hunt
  • 1999
No Score Yet Superhuman
2017
  • Host

Quotes from Kal Penn's Characters