Actor Kal Penn came out over the weekend while promoting his new book You Can’t Be Serious, revealing his engagement to his partner Josh.
Penn, 44, is known for his roles on House, Designated Survivor, and the Harold and Kumar film franchise. He told People that he and Josh had been together for 11 years.
“I’ve always been very public with everybody I’ve personally interacted with. Whether it’s somebody that I meet at a bar, if Josh and I are out or we’re talking to friends,” Penn told the magazine. “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.”
Penn met his fiancé while working for the Obama administration where he spent two years in the Office of Public Engagement, connecting Asian American and Pacific Islander communities and the arts community. Penn recalled his first date with Josh, thinking the two weren’t going to be a match since Josh brought an 18-pack of Coors Light to Penn’s apartment and started watching NASCAR.
“I thought, ‘This obviously is not going to work out,’” Penn said. “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?’”
He told the magazine that he discovered his sexuality later in life than many people do. “There’s no timeline on this stuff. People figure their s*** out at different times in their lives, so I’m glad I did when I did.”
Penn said that he wanted to focus on his experiences — from moving to Hollywood to the racism he’s faced as an Asian American actor — but he also wanted to maintain the privacy his family and partner enjoy.
“Figuring out the narrative [in the book], of how to respect who they really are, with telling my story — that includes: my work life, both in Hollywood and DC, it includes my love life with Josh and how we met, it includes my parents, to the extent that I’m willing to share stories about their upbringing,” Penn said. “So that was the most important thing for me. I wanted my story to be authentic from my perspective and told in a way that makes you feel like you really get to know me.”
The actor told People that he has always had the support of his family when it came to Josh.
“I shared things with my parents and close friends first,” Penn shared. “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, OK.’ 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.”
You Can’t Be Serious is available starting Tuesday, November 2.