Kal Penn tweeted some of the racist casting calls he got early in his career.

Before "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle," Kal Penn was just another 20-something guy in Hollywood looking for a break.

Aspiring actors are subjected to no shortage of humiliating audition opportunities. But as a young actor of Indian descent, Penn was forced to subject himself to an extraordinary level of typecasting and stereotyping in order to work, at least according to a series of tweets the "Designated Survivor" star posted.

You can pretty much guess what some of the casting notices were like.

Penn recalled being asked to put on an exaggerated accent for comic effect more than once — though the casting people rarely admitted that's what they wanted him to do.

Often, he explained in his tweets, the roles were one-note jokes — defined by little more than skin color and a "funny" voice.

The audition experiences even soured him on some shows he was a fan of before he became an actor.

Penn also included praise for some shows he auditioned for and worked on that "didn't have to use external things to mask subpar writing" — including "24," "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "The Steve Harvey Show," and "Angel."  

Since the years when Penn was an up-and-coming actor, the TV landscape has diversified and opportunities for non-white actors have expanded, with shows like "Crazy Ex-Girlfriend," "Jane the Virgin," "Black-ish," "Silicon Valley," and "Empire," featuring three-dimensional characters of color in starring roles.


Still, some evidence suggests that progress might be anecdotal. According to an analysis conducted by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, 72% of all speaking roles in film and TV were white in 2016, virtually unchanged from a decade prior. Only 28% of roles were from non-white racial and ethnic groups, despite the fact that these groups constitute almost 39% of the actual U.S. population.

Racist and sexist casting calls haven't gone away. Recently, New York actor Audrey Alford was threatened with a lawsuit after she posted a screengrab of a casting call notice from an agency seeking "mainly caucasian actors" who are "gorgeous in a classic way," to her Twitter page. In 2015, actor Rose McGowan leaked a casting call, purportedly for an Adam Sandler movie, encouraging female auditioners to wear something that "shows off cleavage" to the audition.

As a successful actor, Penn can use his platform to advocate on behalf of young actors of color auditioning today who might not be able to speak up for fear of reprisal.

Photo by Slaven Vlasic/Getty Images.

More exposure probably won't end the calls for South Asian actors to play convenience store clerks, terrorists, and nerdy one-note programers, but if it shames the people in charge of bringing movies and TV shows to life into making more creative choices and casting directors into searching talent, rather than ethnicity-first, than that's a good first step.

Upworthy has reached out to Penn for comment.

Most Shared
Facebook / Mikhail Galin

Putting your pet in cargo during a flight isn't always safe. In 2016, the Department of Transportation reported a total of 26 pet deaths and 22 injuries on flights. Because conditions in cargo can be uncomfortable for animals, the Humane Society recommends taking your pet aboard when you fly, or just leaving it at home.

It's not surprising that one Russian man didn't want to put his overweight cat in cargo during an eight-hour flight from Moscow to Vladivostok. What is surprising is the great lengths he took to fly with his four-legged friend.

Russian airline Aeroflot allows pets to fly inside the plane's cabin, as long as the cat weighs under 17.6 pounds and stays in its carrier during the flight. When Mikhail Galin went to check in, he was told he couldn't fly with his four-year old cat, Viktor. Viktor weighed in at 22 pounds and would have to be relegated to cargo.

But Viktor was sick from their earlier flight from Riga, Latvia to Moscow. And besides, Viktor had been allowed to fly inside the cabin during that flight. The airline staff didn't even bother to make Viktor sit on the scales. Galin was unable to persuade staff to bring his fur baby on board.

"To all attempts to explain that the cat won't survive there on an 8-hour flight with the baggage and would haunt her in her nightmares for the rest of her life, she (the Aeroflot staff member) replied that there are rules," Galin wrote in a Facebook post translated from Russian.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Photo by Kelvin Octa from Pexels

Newborn babies don't seem to do much beyond eating and pooping and, of course, hiccupping. A lot. Parenting advice on how to cure a baby's hiccups runs the whole gamut. It's recommended parents try everything from nursing to stop feeding the baby so much, from giving the baby gripe water to letting the hiccups play their course. But when your baby hiccups too much, you shouldn't freak out. There's a good reason why.

A new study published in Clinical Neurophysiology found that hiccups play an important role in a baby's development. Researchers from the University College London found 217 babies for their study, but only looked at 13 newborns with persistent hiccups. Ten of those babies hiccupped when they were awake, and three hiccupped during their "wriggly" sleep. We have no idea how the scientists got any work done with all that cuteness lying around.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
via The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon / YouTube

Actress Kristen Bell and "The Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon showed off their vocal and comedic chops on Tuesday night when the performed a medley of 17 Disney songs, spanning nine decades, in just five minutes.

The duo started with 1940's "When You Wish Upon a Star" and ended with 2013's "Let it Go" from "Frozen."

Bell will reprise her role as Anna in Disney's upcoming "Frozen 2."

Keep Reading Show less
popular

Ask almost any woman about a time a man said or did something sexually inappropriate to them, and she'll have a story or four to tell. According to a survey NPR published last year, 81% of women report having experienced sexual harassment, with verbal harassment being the most common. (By contrast, 43% of men report being sexually harassed. Naturally harassment toward anyone of any sex or gender is not okay, but women have been putting up with this ish unchecked for centuries.)

One form of verbal sexual harassment is the all too common sexist or sexual "joke." Ha ha ha, I'm going to say something explicit or demeaning about you and then we can all laugh about how hilarious it is. And I'll probably get away with it because you'll be too embarrassed to say anything, and if you do you'll be accused of being overly sensitive. Ha! Won't that be a hoot?

Keep Reading Show less
popular