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Kalpen Suresh Modi (born April 23, 1977) better known as Kal Penn is an actor who plays White House Press Secretary Seth Wright in Designated Survivor.
Kal Penn was born and raised in Montclair, New Jersey to Indian immigrants. His mother was Asmita Modi, a fragrance evaluator and his father was Suresh Modi, an engineer.
Penn attended the Freehold Regional High School District's Performing Arts High School were he was active in theater. He graduated from University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) where he double majored in film and sociology.
The reason Penn changed his stage name to "Kal Penn" was that he was joking with friends on what change it would have on his career. He said that "anglicized names appeal more to a white-dominated industry". After the name change, he saw audition callbacks for films and movies rise by 50 percent.
He began his first film debut in Express: Aisle to Glory in 1998. He began his career by appearing in several indie films. His major breakthrough film role came in Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle in 2004., after that many Harold and Kumar films followed. In 2007, he joined a television series called House.
In 2016, he joined a regular role in ABC political drama Designated Survivor as Seth, a White House speechwriter for the previous administration and later Press Secretary for the next administration. He still currently to this day plays in Designated Survivor.
Penn had and interest in politics because his grandparents marched with Mahatma Gandhi for Indian independence
In 2007 and 2008, Penn supported Barack Obama's presidential campaign. In 2009, he accepted an offer to serve as Associate Director of the White House Office of Public Engagement in the Obama administration. He was a Democrat in the administration. He left the White House in 2010 for a brief return to acting. He came back to the White House and left in 2011 to accept a role in How I Met Your Mother.
Penn supported Obama for re-election and supported Bernie Sanders for the 2016 Democratic nomination.