‘Ku­mar’ wins the med­i­cal lot­tery

Herald Sun - Switched On - - Guide - - RICK BENT­LEY

KAL Penn’s House char­ac­ter Dr Lawrence Kut­ner was in­tro­duced last sea­son through a game of elim­i­na­tion. Dr House (Hugh Lau­rie) needed to pick a new med­i­cal team. He started with a room of po­ten­tial team mem­bers and one or more was elim­i­nated each week.

That’s ex­actly how the ac­tors found out if they were go­ing to stay or go.

‘‘We hon­estly didn’t know what was go­ing on,’’ Penn says.

‘‘Since we didn’t get our scripts in ad­vance, we wouldn’t know un­til we were ready to start an episode whether we would be back an­other week or the run had ended.’’

That kind of un­cer­tainty would sug­gest anx­i­ety for an ac­tor. But not Penn. He liked not know­ing when, or if, his char­ac­ter was go­ing to be axed.

He used that un­cer­tainty in his role and sur­vived the med­i­cal mu­si­cal chairs.

By def­i­ni­tion, ac­tors com­pete for roles. And the sit­u­a­tion on House cre­ated the ul­ti­mate au­di­tion. But Penn says there was never any ri­valry among the ac­tors.

‘‘There were 40 of us who started in that first sea­son. We all kept won­der­ing if this was go­ing to turn into some­thing com­pet­i­tive. But we all got along. I think be­cause our char­ac­ters were so com­pet­i­tive, in our real lives there was noth­ing short of the most in­cred­i­ble sup­port­ive artists’ net­work,’’ Penn says. ‘‘If you thought th­ese ac­tors hated each other, it couldn’t be fur­ther from the truth.’’

Penn has been ac­tive with roles in tele­vi­sion shows such as ER, 24, Buffy the Vam­pire Slayer and NYPD Blue, plus films such as Van Wilder and Su­per­man Re­turns.

Of course, there was one role that put him on the act­ing map. This in­ter­view is in­ter­rupted when a group of fans starts yelling ‘‘Ku­mar’’. Penn turns, smiles and waves. He’s be­come ac­cus­tomed to be­ing called the name of his char­ac­ter from the com­edy Harold and Ku­mar Go to White Cas­tle, his big­gest film hit.

Now he’s get­ting peo­ple stop­ping him to ask for med­i­cal ad­vice. At least he has a lit­tle knowl­edge gleaned from his days on the show.

Penn also made an im­pres­sion when he spoke on stage dur­ing We Are One: The Obama In­au­gu­ral Cel­e­bra­tion at the Lin­coln Memo­rial on Jan­uary 18.

He is study­ing for a grad­u­ate cer­tifi­cate in in­ter­na­tional se­cu­rity at Stan­ford Uni­ver­sity.

Pres­i­dent’s man: Kal Penn speaks at Barack Obama’s in­au­gu­ral cel­e­bra­tion. Pic­ture: AFP

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