- The Indian American actor was honored for his advocacy for representation in media and his service on behalf of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Indian American actor Kal Penn received Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund’s Justice in Action Award for his advocacy for representation in media and his service on behalf of Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders.
Penn was honored at AALDEF’s Lunar New Year Gala on March 9, celebrating the Year of the Tiger, at the Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers in New York City. It was a hybrid event, taking place virtually via live stream and in-person amidst the city’s lifting of some pandemic restrictions.
Former U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara and ‘Jurassic Park” actor BD Wong, George Takei of “Star Trek,” were some of the high-profile guests in attendance. Emmy Award-winning reporter Cindy Hsu of CBS2 and Sree Sreenivasan of Digimentors were co-emcees.
In a video, award-winning filmmaker Mira Nair, who cast Penn as the lead in her 2006 film “The Namesake,” described him as “an activist and an artist,” who “has never shied away from his roots.” Nair said Penn “is unapologetic about who he is, and yet is an incredible bridge builder, creating a strong sense of allyship and solidarity with other communities.”
Penn became a household name after starring in“Harold and Kumar” films and as a sports medicine doctor on the hit TV show “House.” The New Jersey native has worked as an associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement, where he was President Obama’s Liaison to Young Americans, Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, and the Arts communities in America. He has also served as an Adjunct Lecturer in Sociology and Film Studies at the University of Pennsylvania, and in Sociology and Political Science at the University of California, Los Angeles.
The Indian American who recently came out will be seen in FX’s comedy pilot “Belated.” He will play a gay man in his 40s, who, along with his ex-wife Diana, attempts to find their new normal and take on new relationships while continuing to co-parent together. Last month, a few days before the Nov. 2 release of his memoir, “You Can’t Be Serious,” Penn announced his engagement to his partner of 11 years. In an interview, Penn told People that he met and fell in love with Josh, his fiancé, when he was living in Washington D.C., and working in the Obama administration.
Penn also executive produced and starred in Comedy Central’s holiday film “Hot Mess Holiday,” headlined by Surina Jindal and Melanie Chandra. He will produce and star in “Superfan,” a biopic of Indo-Canadian Nav Bhatia, a decades-long follower of the Toronto Raptors. Penn will play Bhatia, a Sikh, who was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on May 16, becoming the first fan ever to join the Hall. He has also been roped in as a lead in Jack Burditt’s upcoming Disney+ limited series “The Santa Clause,” and will be seen opposite Tim Allen and Elizabeth Mitchell. He will play Simon Choksi, “an ambitious game inventor and product developer and a devoted single father,” according to an announcement from Disney +.
AALDEF presented its Justice in Action Award to Thomas S. Kim, Chief Legal Officer and Company Secretary at Thomson Reuters for his career in service to diversity and inclusion and his bold leadership against anti-Asian hate.