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Kal Penn Criticizes Racist Stereotypes in Audition Scripts From His First Years Acting

2 minute read

Kal Penn is simply not here for perpetuating racial stereotypes on your movie theater screens.

The Designated Survivor actor took to Twitter on Tuesday to share screenshots appearing to expose culturally disparaging roles for actors in the entertainment industry. According to the star, who landed his first roles in the late ’90s, he came across the language in everything from scripts for TV shows to commercials during his “first years trying to be an actor.”

The snapshots of swatches of the pages reveal roles such as a “Gandhi lookalike” and “snake charmer.” Penn explained details about a “quirky Indian lab buddy” from a different project with this caption: “Jeez I remember this one! They were awful. ‘Can you make his accent a little more AUTHENTIC?’ That usually meant they wanted Apu.”

Penn’s tweets continue an ongoing conversation about representation in pop culture. It has also been fodder for TV shows, as in 2015, when Aziz Ansari’s Netflix series Master of None ran an episode called “Indians on TV” that critiqued monolithic portrayals of Indian characters.

Penn, who served as an associate director in the White House Office of Public Engagement under President Obama, has been outspoken on issues of racism in Hollywood and beyond. He recently started a fundraising effort for Syrian refugees in the name of a Twitter troll who harassed him with a racist and xenophobic message, according to Entertainment Weekly. He has raised $863,686 in donations for the International Rescue Committee so far.

See below for Penn’s tweets.

He closed by praising the casting on House.


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