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SPOILER ALERT: Why Kal Penn really left 'House'

April 7, 2009 | 10:03 am

SPOILER ALERT!

Kutner Stop reading now if you do not want to know what happened on last night's episode of "House." But honestly, if you've been on the Internet at all today, you have probably already heard: Kal Penn's character on "House" -- Dr. Lawrence Kutner -- committed suicide on the show last night. Kutner's sudden death was as shocking to fans as it was to the other characters on the show, which is why Fox has erected this website for mourning fans.

Actor Kal Penn revealed today that he decided to leave the series of his own accord, but not for any of the usual reasons actors abandon hit series. He did not have artistic differences with another actor, and he is not after a career in feature films. Instead, Penn is leaving to pursue a career at the White House.

"I was incredibly honored a couple of months ago to get the opportunity to go work in the White House. I got to know the president and some of the staff during the campaign and had expressed interest in working there, so I'm going to be the associate director in the White House office of public liaison. They do outreach with the American public and with different organizations. They're basically the front door of the White House. They take out all of the red tape that falls between the general public and the White House. It's similar to what I was doing on the campaign," Penn told Michael Ausiello of EW's Ausiello Files.

During his interview with Ausiello, Penn stressed the fact that he had no problems with the show itself, but only a desire to expand his horizons. "I love what I do as an actor. I couldn't love it more," said Penn. "But probably from the time I was a kid, I really enjoyed that balance between the arts and public service."

So after working with the Obama campaign, Penn knew he was ready for a change. One thing Penn didn't know, when he told executive producers David Shore and Katie Jacobs he would be leaving the series, was the way his character would be written off. "One of the things I love about our show is you never know what's going to happen," Penn told Ausiello. "So that news struck me in the same way we hope it strikes the audience: there was a little bit of anger and some depression. You really go through those emotions, especially when somebody dies in that fashion. Ultimately, it was a really interesting choice for them to make ... There's no note. There's no explanation. And as a testament to David and Katie, that's a huge risk. 'Cause it is going to make people upset, and it is going to piss off some of the audience. And, ultimately, in my opinion, that's what art really is -- when you can conjure up those kinds of emotions. And it's rare nowadays to be able to do that on network television, but they managed to."

In his own interview with Ausiello, executive producer David Shore also stressed the importance of not knowing the reasons behind Penn's suicide. "The lack of reason behind [the suicide] -- the lack of answers -- was what I responded to and is what I got excited about. House, the man of answers, doesn't have an answer about this guy who he has worked with for two years...It makes him question the most important aspect of himself, which is the ability to find answers. It's the one thing about himself that he feels good about."

Read the whole riveting interview with Kal Penn, David Shore and Katie Jacobs here, or click here to visit the FOX memorial page.

What did you all think of the way Penn's exit was handled on "House?" Were you shocked and moved by Kutner's suicide?

-- Stephanie Lysaght

Photo credit: FOX

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