Kal Penn Sheds Light On Racial Stereotyping in Hollywood

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Photo Source: Bob D’Amico/ABC

Kal Penn who stars as Seth Wright, the White House press secretary, on ABC’s “Designated Survivor” took to Twitter this week to discuss stereotypes. The tweetstorm came after the actor started to dig through old audition scripts, finding that many relied heavily on racial stereotypes.

Penn’s parents hail from Gujarat, India, and early on, the actor decided he would use a variation of his first name—Kalpen—in hopes of landing more roles.

READ: 7 Questions With...Kal Penn

Many of the scripts he found poked fun at Indian culture. Characters in the audition scripts typically had names that were traditional—and some didn’t even have names. He shared one script in which one character was initially known as “Foreign Student.”

Later, the character introduces himself as “Ravi Tulu singh Shankar Ramanji.”

At the beginning of his acting career, Penn auditioned for comedic roles that required an accent; that was supposed to be “the big joke.” The Indian-American actor was told he “had” to speak in an accent in order to make the character funny—though he tried convincing the hiring crew otherwise.

Makeup artists dabbed Vaseline on Penn’s face, giving him a “sweaty” and “unwashed” look for one of his first commercials.

But Penn says he also had some great acting experiences early on.

He praised “House” and its high ratings, especially because of the way it was cast.

Penn signed off with one last tweet, thanking his fans for their continuous support.

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