The actor, who became famous for “Harold and Kumar” and “House” — and then a little more famous for leaving “House” to become a bureaucrat — will wrap up his job as his job with the Obama administration this month, a White House official told us.
He’s going back to TV, for a recurring role on “How I Met Your Mother.” In that role, as first reported by TVLine.com last night, he’ll play a love interest for the sitcom’s Robin, played by Cobie Smulders.
Penn first joined the White House in July 2009 as an associate director in the Office of Public Engagement. “We deeply appreciate his service,” said Shin Inouye, an administration spokesman, “and wish him the best in his future endeavors.”
(**Read also: Kal Penn’s mugger sentenced, 7/21/11)
But is this actually the end of his political career?
Just last year, Penn looked like a short-timer when he left the job after only 11 months to shoot “A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas” — only to cycle back to D.C. and his mid-level $41,000 job a few months later when filming wrapped.
His unusual career path points to a little-known truth about showbiz: That even big-name actors have a lot of downtime between projects. It’s part of the reason you see many stars throwing themselves into campaign or celebvocacy work, with D.C. lobbying jaunts for favorite causes — though we’re hard-pressed to think of any others who took major pay cuts for public-sector gigs.
The actor has kept a moderately low-profile in Washington, using his birthname Kalpen Modi in his government work and passing up interviews. On Wednesday, he hosted a session at the White House with young business owners promoting a “Buy Young” initiative.