Kal Penn Says His House Audition Is How Hollywood Should Cast Roles

Kal Penn is from New Jersey. Photo: Michael Loccisano/Getty Images

Kal Penn knows what it’s like to be typecast. Even though he broke through as a pothead in Harold and Kumar and joined the cast of House, he’s had to fake an Indian accent and, as he said during his speech at the Casting Society of America’s 31st annual Artios Awards, a producer once asked him to redo a reading with a bedsheet wrapped around his head like a turban. (He declined.)

He’s had more than enough experience with bad casting directors to appreciate the good ones. “Any good casting director should base the role on the substance of the role, not necessarily on appearance,” Penn told Vulture on the red carpet. “I think that always makes for a more compelling character.” One of his favorite auditions was with David Shore when he read for House. “I went in, and there were men and women from of all different ages and backgrounds reading for the same role,” he said. “And I asked [Shore], ‘What’s the deal? You’ve got 18-year olds, 80-year-olds, men, and women all reading for the same part.’ And he said, ‘I like to audition and pick the best actors. That’s just how I do things.’”

Penn thinks Hollywood directors (cough, #OscarsSoWhite) could benefit from Shore’s mind-set. “It makes sense for big studios creatively and morally, but it also makes sense financially,” he said. “I hope people will look at opportunities to change in a way that’s equitable for everybody. Hollywood is always behind the curve, so I hope it’ll catch up.”