“Snake charmer” barely scratches the surface
Images via Twitter
You probably remember Kal Penn from the 2004 hit comedy Harold & Kumar Go To White Castle, in which Penn’s character gets super stoned and, you know, goes to White Castle. His performance (which was absolute perfection by the way) eventually got him recurring spots on House, New Girl, and other big network shows—not to mention Harold & Kumar sequels. But before he landed that breakthrough role, Penn went on lots of auditions—lots of very racist auditions.
On Tuesday, he gave fans a sneak peek into the particular hell he faces as a nonwhite actor, tweeting pictures of appallingly racist scripts he received early in his career. Some of the roles he auditioned for as an Indian-American actor include “Gandhi look-alike,” “snake charmer,” “fire eater,” and “mandala design sand artist.” Yeah, it’s seriously that bad.
Found a bunch of old scripts from some of my first years trying to be an actor. https://t.co/GydOwlUKGW— Kal Penn (@Kal Penn) 1489509789.0
It’s doubly shocking when you realize he auditioned for these roles in the early 2000s, which is not nearly long enough ago for us to shrug it off as old school ignorance. He was told (presumably by a casting director) to make his accent “a little more authentic” while reading from scripts in which his character didn’t have a name. Let it sink in that writers actually went out of their way to include lines in which white characters repeatedly mispronounce an Indian character’s name. If you understand the narrative necessity of that, please let me know.
Check out some of Penn’s tweets below for more horrendous specifics and be glad he kept some photos to share with us now. The only way to fight back against racism in the entertainment industry (not to mention atrocious scriptwriting) is to first acknowledge that it exists.
Jeez I remember this one! They were awful. "Can you make his accent a little more AUTHENTIC?" That usually meant th… https://t.co/nTBNPbg9Ub— Kal Penn (@Kal Penn) 1489509889.0
Ha! In this audition for Smart Guy, they didn't even give the character a name! https://t.co/z2D8E5rx8J— Kal Penn (@Kal Penn) 1489510213.0
Oh wait yes they did https://t.co/xwB3qIoXoF— Kal Penn (@Kal Penn) 1489510267.0
Friggin King of Queens man! I used to love that show until I got to audition for it lol https://t.co/2BYu0nnd57— Kal Penn (@Kal Penn) 1489510408.0
Whoa I remember this! This was one of my first commercials. The makeup people would use Vaseline to get the sweaty… https://t.co/B5U3PVwaDT— Kal Penn (@Kal Penn) 1489510910.0
This was for some project called The Marriage Clause I guess. https://t.co/0yKjepAHqy— Kal Penn (@Kal Penn) 1489511146.0