Hollywood Typecasting: Kal Penn Shares What It’s Like As A Colored Actor

Hollywood typecasting is supposedly a thing of the past, but what's been there for a long time can't just disappear overnight. Ask actor Kal Penn. Today, he is known for his role in a fictional White House on "Designated Survivor," but he wasn't always at the top of the game.

Before he became known as Kumar Patel in "Harold & Kumar," Lawrence Kutner on "House" and Seth Wright in "Designated Survivor," Kal Penn too had to audition for smaller roles. These roles were at times offensive, but he had to put up with Hollywood typecasting if he wanted to make it big.

Kal Penn's Twitter post on March 15 proved this struggle when he posted an old script from his "first years trying to be an actor." Hollywood typecasting seemed like a theme in those days. One of the scripts showed his character, "Careem" who specifically had to have a "slight Hindi accent." Another script described an Indian character as a "Gandhi Lookalike." Other times, his characters were "snake charmer," "Pakistani computer geek" and even "snakecharmer."

The Guardian reported that Hollywood typecasting or racial stereotyping issues were recently raised in the film and television industries. Before Kal Penn posted the scripts on his Twitter page, comedian Aziz Ansari, for instance, highlighted such practice in an episode of Netflix series, "Master of None." The episode, called "Indians on TV" showed his character failing to receive an audition callback for his unwillingness to use an accent.

The negative publicity that actors like Kal Penn and Aziz Ansari have to encounter in Hollywood is just the beginning. Hollywood typecasting aside, they also have to endure online abuse. In January, Penn endured abuse from an Instagram user who said that he didn't belong in America. As his own form of retaliation, the actor crowdfunded an appeal for Syrian refugees. He wrote on social media, "To the dude who said I don't belong in America, I started a fundraising page for Syrian refugees in your name." The fund raised over $800,000 for the chosen humanitarian charity, International Rescue Committee.

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