Kal Penn

Though he had a tough time breaking into Hollywood due to his ethnicity, actor Kal Penn - originally Kalpen Suresh Modi - managed for the most part to avoid playing stereotypical characters and to become a fast-rising Hollywood star. After spending several years climbing the ladder with episodes of series television, Penn bit the bullet and played an Indian named Taj Mahal, complete with thick accent, in the lowbrow comedy "National Lampoon's Van Wilder" (2002). But he soon had his breakout role playing a stoned Ivy Leaguer in search of tiny delicious hamburgers in the cult hit ""Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle" (2004), which spawned another popular sequel four years later. In between, Penn was seen in blockbusters like "Superman Returns" (2006) while demonstrating his range in the art house drama, "The Namesake" (2007). After playing a conflicted terrorist on the hit action series "24" (Fox, 2001-10) and a sports medicine specialist on "House" (Fox, 2004-12), Penn left acting altogether to work in President Barack Obama's administration, proving that his dedication to public service truly outweighed his dreams for Hollywood stardom. However, Penn soon returned to his first love, appearing in a story arc on the sitcom "How I Met Your Mother" (CBS 2005-2014), hosting the game show "The Big Brain Theory" (Discovery 2013), and co-starring in the series "We Are Men" (CBS 2013-14), "Battle Creek" (CBS 2015) and "Designated Survivor" (ABC 2016- ).