Mr Penn tweeted he was often asked to speak with an "authentic" accent. "That usually meant they wanted Apu," he said, referring to the accent of the Simpsons character shared by far too many actors portraying South Asian characters on the big screen. "Tried to convince them to let me speak without an accent and make it funny on the merits," the actor tweeted. "Was told no."
Plenty of parts were unnamed, such as “foreign student” that required a strong accent to be played. When characters were lucky enough to have names, it was usually only to be the butt of jokes.
Found a bunch of old scripts from some of my first years trying to be an actor. pic.twitter.com/GydOwlUKGW— Kal Penn (@kalpenn) March 14, 2017
Jeez I remember this one! They were awful. "Can you make his accent a little more AUTHENTIC?" That usually meant they wanted Apu pic.twitter.com/3F5XRORO3n— Kal Penn (@kalpenn) March 14, 2017
This was a pilot called The Stones. Tried to convince them to let me speak without an accent & make it funny on the merits (was told no) pic.twitter.com/SuUVYT7rip— Kal Penn (@kalpenn) March 14, 2017
Actor Sendhil Ramamurthy, known for his roles in the American TV series Heroes and Bollywood film Shor In The City cheekily replied to one Mr Penn's tweets, saying: "I'm offended at the stereotypical characters and the fact my agent never got me an audition for any of these. Is that weird?"
"Everybody's got to start somewhere," tweeted AG Hadden. "I'm glad you didn't feel too above all that. Look at you now. Starring opposite Kiefer Sutherland," referring to Mr Penn's role in the TV series Designated Survivor.
"Will never forget you and John Cho in Harold & Kumar," tweeted Faheem Kabeer. "Was awesome seeing you crush Asian-American stereotypes for people like me."
Mr Penn shared his thoughts on the few TV shows that "didn't have to use external things to mask subpar writing," complimenting them for conducting "color- and gender-blind casting."
There are too many in this stack to tweet, I'll be here all day. That said, there were also some wonderful 1st audition & work experiences!— Kal Penn (@kalpenn) March 14, 2017
Stuff like Steve Harvey, Buffy, Angel, 24, really smart, creative people who didn't have to use external things to mask subpar writing— Kal Penn (@kalpenn) March 14, 2017
Mr Penn briefly took time off acting to serve in the White House under former US President Barack Obama. He has often spoken out on the issue of racism in Hollywood and elsewhere.