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Video/Q&A: John Cho, Kal Penn of 'A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas'

  • "We're not as innocent as we look."
"We're not as innocent as we look."
October 31, 2011|By Matt Pais | RedEye movie critic

“It’s kinda cool actually to be in an environment where people want to go off and serve their country and come back,” said “A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas” star Kal Penn.

To clarify: In this case “come back” means “reprise his role as a big-screen pothead,” since Penn (Kumar) temporarily left his post in the White House Office of Public Engagement to film the third “Harold and Kumar” movie, opening Nov. 4. (Penn has since completed his two-year stint on the job in D.C.)

In the hilarious and considerably raunchy comedy, Harold (John Cho) and Kumar haven’t spoken in years, but they reconnect for an adventure that takes them from a beer pong showdown with underage kids to an escape from Ukrainian mobsters to, of course, a run-in with Neil Patrick Harris (as some version of himself).

At the Park Hyatt, Penn, 34, and Cho, 39, recalled foolish late-night purchases, discussed their own drug use and clarified the difference between a metaphor and something literal. Like, really made sure of that.

Harold and Kumar start off the movie feeling a certain degree of anger and resentment toward each other. Did you foster that by sending each other nasty messages?
Kal Penn: I mean, he usually sends me nasty messages.
John Cho: I was mowing racial epithets into his lawn. With a weedwhacker.
KP: And he mistook my lawn for my neighbor’s—
JC: I’m a terrible speller, so it didn’t work—
KP: So it ended awkwardly.

How different would a “Harold and Kumar” adventure be in Chicago?
JC: [Laughs.] Maybe more inebriation.
KP: It’s a big drinking city.
JC: Yeah. This is a hardcore partying city. That’s my impression. It’s got stamina; they’re the Olympians of partying.

You think there’s room to advance the level of inebriation from the previous films?
JC: Always. Always.

Kal, you don’t smoke weed at all, right?
KP: That is correct. I don’t smoke weed. I don’t tend to offer that information up ‘cause it tends to disappoint some of the “Harold and Kumar” fans. It’s actually one of the things I love about playing a character like Kumar. I’ve always found when I’m able to play characters that are similar to myself it tends to be pretty boring ‘cause you’re just sort of doing something you relate to. He’s far more gregarious and out there than I am. Especially doing it over seven years, there’s a real joy—it’s like Kumar’s such a stoner and you get to a point where seven years after you met him, you see what’s happened because of that. He’s sort of down in the dumps and he doesn’t have his life together. That’s contrasted with his best friend who was a stoner and has sort of switched a little bit. It was a lot of fun to play with all that. I sort of love that we’re both different.
JC: I’m a Quaaludes man myself.
KP: That’s true, actually, which is so strange that you’d offer that up.
JC: I’m into the ’Ludes.
KP: I think your fans might be disappointed.
JC: And the ’done—the methadone.
KP: The ’done!
JC: ‘Ludes and ‘dones.

I should congratulate you for establishing a link between White Castle, Guantanamo Bay and Christmas.
KP: You’re welcome!

What else do those three have in common?
JC: That’s a curious connect-the-dots illustration.
KP: They’re all owned by Richard Branson.
JC: [Laughs.] There’s no connection. Which is to say that the writers Jon and Hayden wanted to veer … after each movie they wanted to jerk the steering wheel as hard as they could. [Whispers.] That’s a metaphor. There’s no actual steering wheel. The direction of the franchise is what I mean to say. If you were to imagine the franchise as a car—
KP: I think he understands—
JC: They were jerking the proverbial wheel. But it’s not a literal car. There’s no literal steering wheel is what I mean to say.
KP: He understands.

Neil Patrick Harris is hilarious in this movie. What are his awards chances?
KP: Very high. They’re always high.
JC: What’s he up for? In this movie?
KP: Best Actor.
JC: Best Movie. I think he’s going to win Best Movie.

They give that to individual people now?
KP: Best Patrick Harris at the least. Bobby Patrick Harris, not as good of an actor as Neil Patrick Harris.
JC: His brother Frank Patrick Harris, not in the running.
KP: Sherrad Patrick Harris is awful. That guy’s got a foul mouth.
JC: Also a douche.
KP: Yeah. Juan Patrick Harris is a nice guy though.

Harold and Kumar’s eventual sidekick WaffleBot is surely one of the breakout characters of the year.
JC: Amen.

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