Kal Penn - From Public Service to Political Drama on "Designated Survivor"

November 2, 2016 - Kal Penn 11/02/2016 Views: 6,628

Kal Penn discusses the work he did with the Obama administration and explains why he was initially hesitant to take on his role in the political series "Designated Survivor." (5:23)

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Please welcome Kal Penn.

-♪ -(cheering and applause)

Thank you.

-Welcome, welcome.-Thank you, thank you.

Oh, man.Thanks for having me.

-Welcome to the show.-Thank you, sir.

Dude, I've been a fan of yoursfor so long.

Thank you for comingto the show.

Thank you, man.

Yeah, that's nice to hear.

This-- I-I remember, I waswatching all your movies,

and-and then, all of a sudden,you disappeared.

And then I saw onlinea thing that said

you were now working forthe Obama administration.

-Yeah.-I was like, but that's a joke.


'Cause, like,you're high all the time.

-Yeah, no, sure, yeah. -Well,I mean, your character is.

You were high when you werewatching me for long enough.

-I've never smoked weedin my life. -No, of course.

-Or I forgot.-(laughter)

No, yeah. People thoughtthat was a joke,

but it was a, it wasa real thing, which was...

-Pl-- let's-let's go backto that real quick, -Sure.

'cause a lot of peopledon't know this.

So you are an actorknown for comedies,

extreme comedieslike Harold & Kumar,

-having a great time.-Yeah.

-How do you go from that...-(laughter)

-to working in the White House?-Yeah, sure.

Like, is that oneof those things

where Obama's watching TVand he's like,

"Uh, this guy's funny,bring him in."

I wish. That would be...

That would be the simpler wayto do it.

Uh, no, I guess,if you put it that way,

-it-it sounds completelyridiculous. -Yeah.

But it's actually not a...it's-it's a path

that a lot of peoplehave gone down before.

Taking a leave of absencefrom the private sector,

and then serving in governmentfor a couple of years.

Um, so I was in the company of alot of other people who did it.

In my case,there was a writer's strike.

In 2007, I was on House,

-and we couldn't shootany episodes. -Yes.

I had readthe president's books,

um, saw him campaigna couple times,

and thought,I want to help this guy out.

He was down 30 pointsin the polls.

Uh, I ended up going to Iowa,which is the first state

to vote in the primary process.

And ended up just moving therefor a couple months

to-to volunteerfor his campaign and then...

-You moved to Iowa? -I movedto Des Moines, Iowa. Yeah.

What was yourfavorite part about working

-in the White House?-Uh...

I would say, you know,I worked in an office

called the Office of PublicEngagement, which is sort of

-the go-between between policy,uh, and real people. -Yes.

So I got to meetall of these actual humans

who were being helped by thingslike the Affordable Care Act

and repealingDon't Ask, Don't Tell

and doubling the Pell Grant.

After that, you were, like,

"This is... I love this.Maybe I should

go and be ina fake White House on TV."

Because that's what you've donein Designated Survivor.

Uh, sort of. I actually...I didn't, um... I...

When I heard about the show, Ididn't want to audition for it.

-I-I just sort of thought,"All right, I..." -Why not?

I-I kind of felt like I didn'twant the perception to be that,

okay, I've gone, you know,I've worked in politics

-and now I'm doinga political show. -Yes.

Uh, I also was scaredit just wouldn't be challenging.

Um, and then I read the script,and it's this, you know,

far-fetched conspiracy theoryfamily drama thing

with Kiefer Sutherland.I'm like, "No, I'm in."

You-you, uh, are nowa surrogate for Hillary...

-I am. -but you werea Bernie supporter.

I was a Bernie supporter.

And a lot of people worried thatBernie fans and supporters

-wouldn't be able to convert,-Yeah.

uh, to Hillary.

I say it like it's a religion.

-But, uh...-(laughter)

-I'm... yeah.-It was, in a way.

-Eh, for a lot of people, yeah.-Yeah.

Why the switch?

I mean, you went, like you said,you like the underdog,

-you went from Obama,-Yeah.

was an underdog,and then Bernie also had that

-and then he started sweepingthrough the states. -Sure.

Why the switchand was it difficult for you?

Uh, it was not difficultfor me for...

You know, one of the big reasonsI wanted to support Bernie

was his collegeaffordability plan.

So, you know, free college,find a way to pay for it,

make that work.

That was a big drive.

I also, you know,both Bernie and Hillary,

I thought, were goingto do a tremendous job

protectingthe president's legacy

-and a lot of his achievements.-Yeah.

Going back to, you know,having met all of these people

who actually benefitfrom things,

like college affordability

and the repeal of Don't Ask,Don't Tell.

It scares the crap out of methat the other side

-actually wants to gutall of these programs. -Yes.

Doesn't have a planto replace any of them, right?

-Um... Oh, you can...-(applause)


I forget you havea progressive crowd.

-We do, we do.-Yeah. Uh...

So Bernie, you know, I thoughtdid a great primary campaign.

Hillary then takes thatcollege affordability plan

and that's literally exactly howa primary is supposed to work.

-So then you hear...-You're supposed to come out

with the best ideasand then one candidate...

You come out with the best ideasand you... yeah.

And so hearing that a lot ofour Bernie supporter friends

say, "Well, she's just tryingto get your vote,

that why she took that plan."

-Well, yeah.-(laughter)

Like, that's how it works.

That's exactly what she'ssupposed to do.

That's exactly whatshe should be doing

-is, "That's a better plan..."-"She's only changing

-so that I vote for her."-Yeah.

Like, yeah, because we want toget that education plan passed.

And there's a wayto pay for it.

I mean,obviously nothing is free.

You have to fix tax loopholes

and raises taxeson idiots like me and you.

Um... and you pay for it.

You get college paid for.

So that was a big thing.

And then, you know, the factthat she chose Tim Kaine

and she actually has,you know...

I love your opening segment

'cause you talk,as you do, you deconstruct

-all the nonsense of whatcable news is saying. -Yes.

'Cause I was talking to friendsabout this this week.

They're like, "So, what areyou thinking about,

like, everything in the news?"

Like, nothing in the newsright now is real.

Like, at all. Right?

Yeah, well, it sounds realbut it's not.

-It's...-It's sort of like your show.

-Exactly.-That's really what it is.

It sells ad spaceand it's really fun to watch

-Yes.-but it's not based on reality.

They probably have you in thenewsroom doing the same thing.

Someone goes,"Why don't we say

the FBI has openedthe investigation."

And someone goes,"Oh, that's not realistic."

And they're like,"But it looks cool on TV."

-Exactly, why not?-Probably the same thing.

Dude, thank you so muchfor coming to the show.

Thanks, man. I appreciate it.

-I hope you come backand join us again. -Thank you.

You gotta come backand join us again.

Designated Survivor is on ABC,Wednesdays at 10:00 p.m.

Kal Penn, everybody!

(cheering, applause)

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