Prior to Sunday's Academy Award success of Slumdog Millionaire, Penn was one of the few Indian-American actors to break into Hollywood. Penn examines how pop culture can reinforce, but also challenge and overturn, racial stereotypes. "With an actor's grace and an activist's unbridled passion, Penn will tell the story of how visionaries are working to broaden the racial and cultural experience in movies and on television," says Carmen McSpadden, director of the MSU Leadership Institute and a sponsor of the lecture.
In addition, Penn will speak about the intrinsically political nature of pop culture and its effects on the political landscape, providing a glimpse into the darker side of the entertainment industry, which McSpadden said can be full of prejudices and comically misguided casting agents.
A rising star in Hollywood, Penn is the star of The Namesake, the Harold and Kumar franchise, and a co-star on Fox's House. "What sets him apart is his off-screen eloquence, his depth of intention, and his passion for the intersection of popular culture, politics and race," McSpadden said.
In May 2007, Penn, whose real name is Kalpen Modi, received the Asian Excellence Award for Outstanding Actor for his performance in The Namesake, currently plays Dr. Lawrence Kutner on the television series House, and was named one of People's Top 50 Bachelors.
The 31-year-old actor has a bachelor's degree in sociology with a specialization in theater, film and television from the University of California, Los Angeles, and is currently working on a graduate certificate in international security at Stanford University. Penn also taught two courses at the University of Pennsylvania.
Tickets are $5 for students and $8 for adults and go on sale Tuesday, Feb. 24, at all Tickets West locations, including the Bobcat ticket office and TicketsWest.com. Sponsors include the MSU Leadership Institute, ASMSU, Diversity Awareness Office and Lectures and Lively Arts. For more information contact the MSU Leadership Institute at 994-7275 or www.montana.edu/leadership.