Kal Penn, best known for his roles in Harold and Kumar, House and Mira Nair's The Namesake, tweeted a bunch of pictures of scripts from his early auditions as an actor. Being of Indian heritage and brown-skinned, more often than not the actor found himself reading for characters which served as the comic relief because of their 'Indian' accent. The actor said how most of the times, they just wanted him to speak like Apu from The Simpsons.
The apparent racism in the scripts was shockingly casual. Like that one time when they wanted a Gandhi lookalike, Snake Charmers and Fire-eaters...
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
He was often asked to lose his natural accent, and make his 'Indian accent' more 'authentic'.
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
Penn said he would often try to make the line funny on its own merit, rather than use the crutch of an 'accent' but was shot down.
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
Because more often than not, his character only served as a plot-device to mine laughs.
I do not remember this audition except that it was for some shitty MTV show and the big joke was an accent and too much cologne 🙄😂 pic.twitter.com/7HZbhQCkaB— Kal Penn (@kalpenn) March 14, 2017
And sometimes, the characters didn't even have names. It was just the token brown dude.
Ha! In this audition for Smart Guy, they didn't even give the character a name! pic.twitter.com/z2D8E5rx8J— Kal Penn (@kalpenn) March 14, 2017
He even expressed his affection for the show King of Queens, until he reached their doorstep for an audition.
Friggin King of Queens man! I used to love that show until I got to audition for it lol pic.twitter.com/2BYu0nnd57— Kal Penn (@kalpenn) March 14, 2017
The actor also shared the script of a commercial where he was bathed in Vaseline, so as to give him the 'perspired look' for a 'Pakistani geek'.
Whoa I remember this! This was one of my first commercials. The makeup people would use Vaseline to get the sweaty unwashed look going pic.twitter.com/X7z4EI4drQ— Kal Penn (@kalpenn) March 14, 2017
However he went on to praise certain shows which chose to not go for the low-hanging fruits with their Indian characters like Buffy, 24.
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
He also had kind words for House creator David Shore, whose casting he called 'color and gender-blinding'. He lauded him for staying true to his story, which eventually wound up getting excellent ratings for it too.
Wow, the racism was so innate it wasn't even funny eh? Wonder what they have to say to it today.