Actor Kal Penn has publicly opened up about his sexuality for the first time. The Indian-American performer, 44, publishes his autobiography, You Cannot Be Serious, this week. He’s been hitting the media circuit to help promote it.
The book covers his upbringing as the son of Indian immigrants in the US, including telling his parents he wanted to be an actor. He found success in the Harold and Kumar movies and House. He also took a break from acting to work for the Obama administration for two years as principal associate director in the Office of Public Engagement (2009-2011).
Since returning to entertainment full-time, he’s appeared in Designated Survivor, Clarice and Sunnyside.
Then there’s his sexuality. In an exclusive interview with People, he says it took him some time to realize he wasn’t straight.
“I discovered my own sexuality relatively late in life compared to many other people. There’s no timeline on this stuff. People figure their shit out at different times in their lives, so I’m glad I did when I did.”
He also talks about the first time he met his partner, Josh, eleven years ago. At the time, he was working for the White House. He recalls Josh turning up at his apartment with an 18-pack of Coors Light and proceeding to immediately switch the TV to NASCAR racing.
“I thought, ‘This obviously is not going to work out,” he recalls. “I have one day off from The White House and this dude is unironically watching cars go around and make left turns? Next thing you know, it’s been a couple months and we’re watching NASCAR every Sunday. I’m like, ‘What is happening?’”
The men quickly fell for one another and have been together since. They are now planning their wedding. Penn says Josh and his immediate family, including his parents, don’t like too much media attention (he does not reveal Josh’s surname). He also says those closest to him have known about Josh and been supportive.
“I shared things with my parents and close friends first,” he says. “I know this sounds jokey, but it’s true: When you’ve already told your Indian parents and the South Asian community that you intend to be an actor for a living, really any conversations that come after that are super easy. They’re just like, ‘Yeah, okay.’ I felt very supported by everyone. That’s a wonderful thing. I know everybody has different experiences with that and so I definitely feel very fortunate.”
He says he and Josh are now trying to decide on what sort of wedding to have, with him wanting a “big ass Indian wedding,” while Josh wants something smaller: “So we have to meet halfway in the middle.”
Penn told CBS Sunday Morning, “I’ve always been very public [about my relationship] with everybody I’ve personally interacted with. I’m really excited to share our relationship with readers. But Josh, my partner, my parents, and my brother, four people who I’m closest to in the family, are fairly quiet. They don’t love attention and shy away from the limelight.”
Check the CBS interview below, with Kal talking about Josh from the 4.48 mark.