‘Kumar’ wins the medical lottery
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