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Interviews: Kal Penn, David Shore, and Katie Jacobs Talk About Kutner's Suicide in House Episode 20, "Simple Explanation"

What Does That Shocking House Death Mean For the Show?

As I mentioned in today's rundown, Kal Penn has decided to trade House for the White House. Today, the actor-turned-political outreach liaison and his former bosses, House executive producers David Shore and Katie Jacobs, hopped on the phone to talk about Penn's decision, Kutner's death, and what it all means for the show going forward. Here are some key things to know:

  • Penn's interest in politics is nothing new. "Growing up, I always had two passions, one being public service and the other being the arts and acting," said Penn, who described himself as "formerly a very cynical independent" (now less cynical, but still an independent). During President Obama's campaign, he worked on outreach for young voters, Asian Americans, and the arts, and he'll now be doing something similar in an official capacity.
  • He was surprised to hear about Kutner's suicide, too. "I loved playing Kutner, and there was more than a little bit of shock and loss when I found that out," he said. And he said he liked the mystery with which his character went out: "People did feel types of loss and anger and confusion about [Kutner]," he said. "I don't think you would have gotten that same feeling if it had been a very Kutner-heavy episode where you see his trials and tribulations. . . . I asked if there was anything in his background that might have indicated [he'd be suicidal] or any warning signs. The answer generally was no. It's kind of tough [as an actor] to know that he was obviously tormented by something but didn't share it with anyone."
  • Kutner's death will have a lasting impact: "It'll resonate at least through the end of the season," Shore said. "It's a question House can't answer, and he has an answer for everything. That's what was really exciting, the unexpected nature of it."
  • The element of mystery was key to Kutner's exit: "Had we seen some major dilemma in his personal life, we couldn't have done this story the way we did," Shore said. "If he'd just broken up with a girlfriend, even though the answer would have been much more complicated than that, that would have been something that somebody could just hang on to."

For which characters will have a significant reaction to Kutner's death, just


  • Cameron and Chase's reaction will be in the spotlight: "We are gonna see, perhaps surprisingly, more of Cameron and Chase's reaction to it — and of course House's reaction and Wilson's reaction," Shore said. Ultimately, though, the producers said House will have the hardest time coping: "He has no resources," Jacobs said. "He has no family to go home to."
  • We'll probably never know what made Kutner do it: "Something went on in that man's head, but it went on in that man's head, and that is ultimately unknowable," Shore said. "Knowing that and accepting that is a more interesting issue than trying to put a little pin in the answer."
  • As for Penn, he's not retiring from acting for good. "I'm not packing up and saying I'm leaving Hollywood and all this sort of stuff," he said. "I'm just pursuing another passion right now." He plans to spend at least a year or two in Washington, and he'll be on a total break from acting during that time — which, he acknowledged, probably means no more Harold and Kumar sequels.

Photo courtesy of Fox

bastylefilegirl bastylefilegirl 8 years
I'm glad for him and his new position and the great work he can do. As a fan of the show though I thought that they could have "killed" him off much better while I know they said "25% of suicides have no warning signs" which is true in relality this is TV and 100% of suicides have warnings and reasons and we recieved neither. So Yay for Kal Penn, and Boooooo Hiss to the writers of HOUSE!
sofi sofi 8 years
Oh, relax! Yahoo spoiled this way before buzz said anything.
mywish22 mywish22 8 years
I really liked the Kutner's too bad they killed him off..definitely a shocker!
blondambition02 blondambition02 8 years
good interview but I am so sad he is leaving the show! That episode shocked me!!!!
margokhal margokhal 8 years
I was kind of surprised about Kutner's death - I haven't watched House in a while, but still. Shocker! But it's nice to know *why* he left, and I think that in that context, Kal Penn's exit from the show was appropriate. As for the spoiler haters: THE SHOW HAS ALREADY AIRED. It is available in many places on the Internet, and obviously it was a big shock - so it WILL be talked about the next day. TV happens in real time. Shows air one night, the next day stars are doing interviews about it. This isn't like a book, where people might let the public read and THEN reveal the ending. Stay away from entertainment/news/fan sites until you watch the show if you don't want to know - easy. @_@ Buzz, you did the right thing. Thanks for the post! :)
mga1115 mga1115 8 years
I liked his character and will miss him on the show.
Linda-McP Linda-McP 8 years
Seriously people. I find the complaints about being spoiled a bit ridiculous. On the east coast where I live, this was headline news on radio and news stations by 8 AM Tuesday morning. Buzz, you don't have to defend yourself on this one! We all can decide what to read and what to skip. Thanks for the posting this interview in what I believe to be a very timely manner.
Jinx Jinx 8 years
It means the show sucks...? Blah, there are three characters I like now, and you never see one of them! :mob:
sugarbox sugarbox 8 years
Shouldn't this be under a cut or something? Maybe hide Kal's face until someone opens the link. What a spoiler!
Pinkrabbit Pinkrabbit 8 years
I was waiting for Chuck's summary earlier and saw that big House Spoiler at the beginning of the summary and didn't click. Having read that I didn't read any other media sites. So I'm glad I waited until i watched the episode to come back today. But boy would I have been PISSED if I saw this before 9 tonight.
Pallas-Athena Pallas-Athena 8 years
I honestly think that people who don't want the episode to be spoiled should not click the Buzz or go to major sites that could possibly spoils things for them especially the day after the episode. I am so glad (yet sad) to know why Kal left and that it was his decision, but I'm sad that he isn't coming back ever.
amber2sky amber2sky 8 years
But you could have put the BIG spoiler behind a cut!!! I read an article earlier today that Penn was leaving the show but that article didn't say anything about HOW they were going to write him off. I'm so annoyed that I saw this! Glad that since it was spoiled for you, you believed it was cool to spoil it for the rest of us!
Entertainment Entertainment 8 years
Believe me, I understand your frustrations (a Fox press release actually spoiled this episode for me before it aired on the West Coast) and I do my best to use discretion each day in posting, like the way I leave spoilers for after the jump in recaps. I know people view shows on all sorts of timelines and platforms these days. In this particular situation, most mainstream entertainment sites — and many news sites — had already published the news with no spoiler alert, so it felt more like the information was in the public domain. Apologies if this is the first you'd seen it; the only consolation I can offer is that, as someone who was spoiled against my own will on this one too, I can assure you the episode is still worth watching!
The-City-Girl The-City-Girl 8 years
I agree CDanzer. Buzz, I usually really enjoy your blog but you really could've shown more consideration for those of us who haven't been able to see it yet. You could've easily elaborated about the shocking death AFTER the jump, so that those who had already seen could read about it, and to protect the surprise for those who hadn't. I wouldn't have selected the rest of the article, but this way, the huge picture of Kutner gave it away along with the headline--it wasn't even in the finer print. :-(
Desk-Clerk-Jedi Desk-Clerk-Jedi 8 years
I was so mad last night when I found out it was him that they killed off. But now that I read that there was a real reason for it I'm not as mad. Really sad to see him go. :(
lizlee89 lizlee89 8 years
I haven't been watching this show lately, so I don't know who this character is. but I would be kind of glad to see it end - it's just so formulaic. every single episode is the same, and that is the reason I stopped watching. sounds like it got a little more interesting, but I still think they need to just end it. glad to hear that there will be no more harold & kumar movies inflicted upon the world...
pharm_chick pharm_chick 8 years
good for him, sad for me. oh well. hey, its great that we see more of chase and cameron though, theyre so mia in the show now!
cdanzer23 cdanzer23 8 years
I'm annoyed I read this before seeing the show. Some of us have to wait a week until it's posted online.
teegaall teegaall 8 years
Aww man I love the Harold & Kumar movies! But it's good to see him pursue politics.
Linda-McP Linda-McP 8 years
Great interview, Buzz. Thanks!
eastcoastgirl eastcoastgirl 8 years
I like him and will miss him on the show but it is nice he can pursue other passions!
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