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Kal Penn says Santa Claus may just be the one to bring us together

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Kal Penn who plays “Simon” in “The Santa Clauses” talks to the Journal’s Bruce Miller about Christmas.

Nothing beats a little face time with Santa Claus.

“You drive to work in traffic, getting flipped off by people who cut in front of you, and then you show up and it’s the North Pole,” says actor Kal Penn. “There’s no such thing as a bad morning” when Santa’s in the mix.

A star of the new Disney+ series, “The Santa Clauses,” Penn plays a game developer who wants to be the next Jeff Bezos. When he visits the North Pole, his outlook changes.

Penn was pretty excited, too, when he got to the set. Although he had Zoomed with Tim Allen during rehearsals, he hadn’t met him in person. Then, when he got on set, “he was already in the suit.” The kid in Penn kicked in and he was on his best for the entire day.

When “The Santa Clause,” the first film in the series, came out, Penn was in high school. “That quickly got added to the rotation of ‘Home Alone,’ ‘Christmas Story’ and ‘National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,’” he says. “When I saw this, I said, ‘Yeah, I would obviously love to be a part of this franchise.’”

A former member of the Obama administration (he was the principal associate editor), Penn had a brief brush with Christmas in “A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas” and admits to dressing up as a “sort of janky" Santa for his nieces and nephews.

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Born in New Jersey to immigrant parents, Penn grew up in a “secular Hindu household in a predominantly Jewish town that still celebrated Christmas. To be honest, I love the entire two-and-a-half months of the holiday season.”

Considering the country has been through a contentious political period, he was keen to join the “Clauses.”

“We live in a world that’s a little cynical right now,” Penn says. “It’s a little polarizing, so it’d be part of the story, where good triumphs over evil and people rediscover the magic of love and the magic of Christmas. That was the thing that spoke to me and I really wanted to be a part of it.”

The original film – “The Santa Clause” -- was released in 1994. Since then, special effects have improved considerably and Penn and company filmed on sets that were “incredible.”

“If you liked the original films, I think you’ll really love this, especially because the special effects that exist in 2022 didn’t exist in the ‘90s.”

Even better? “It’s the kind of show you could watch with any of your relatives who you may disagree with on all sorts of real world things. That’s the magic pill of the holiday season, so I hope people enjoy it.”

In addition to Penn and Allen, “The Santa Clauses” features an appearance by David Krumholtz, who played Santa’s original “right-hand elf,” Bernard.

While Penn also starred this year in “Smile” and “American Horror Story: NYC,” he likes the upbeat message of something like “The Santa Clauses.”

And just in case he’s in the running to replace Tim Allen, know this: “I wouldn’t be opposed to ever possibly being” a Santa Claus, he says.

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