Three years into their series life, the “Secret Life of the American Teenager’s” young cast has bonded in a way they’ll never repeat. That’s the considered opinion of Ken Baumann, who plays Ben, the nice boy among the high school crowd on the show.
“We’ve all grown up together and that’s not going to happen again. I would like to think that we’re all going to know each other and be friends for a long time,” says the 21-year-old actor, author and publisher. They do socialize off the set, according to him. “It’s great hanging out with those guys and girls. They’re all excellent at having a good time.”
In fact, he notes that he and Greg Finley and Daren Kagasoff — a.k.a. the show’s jock type and sexy bad boy — “recently traveled to Cabo San Lucas and had some cast-friendly bonding time. The girls fawn over Daren, and I get to point and laugh. He’s the magnet. We carry him around and the girls come.”
The season that launches March 28th is Baumann’s heaviest, and “my most exciting and challenging season to play,” he says. That’s saying an awful lot. Since “Secret Life” fans first got to know Baumann’s character, Ben Boykewich, Ben has: 1) fallen in love with a pregnant girl; 2) married her; 3) found out the marriage was invalid on account of they used fake IDs; 4) been at her side when the baby arrived; 5) made friends with the father of her baby; 6) courted a friend of hers; 7) found out she’d kissed the father of her child and then had revenge sex with the father’s girlfriend; 8 discovered the revenge sex had resulted in a pregnancy; and 9) decided to take his relationship with his pregnant revenge sex partner to the next level.
And you thought chemistry was tough.
“No, I would never have thought this next season was going to pop up this way when I signed on to the show,” admits Baumann. “The social web can be manipulated in so many different ways….There are all kinds of unexpected twists and turns.”
Some viewers want Ben to be with his first love, Amy (Shailene Woodley). Some viewers think he ought to go ahead and marry bad-but-brainy baby mana Adrian (Francia Raisa). By Baumann’s unofficial count — that is, people who come up to him and give their opinions — “it’s shifted more recently to the point it’s about fifty/fifty.”
In the new season, “Ben’s relationship with Adrian grows and changes. His relationship with his dad gets even more stressed and interesting, with more conflict. I would say that this season was, hands down, my favorite to shoot. It builds and builds and builds.”
When he’s not on camera or out enjoying himself with his buds, Baumann can often be found writing. He’s an aspiring novelist with one book already out to publishers, another in the works. “I’ll keep throwing things against the wall and see what sticks,” he says.
The self-admitted art and book nerd also has his own publishing entity, Sator Press. Flying in the face of all current trends, he publishes books on paper, “but limited to small runs, a thousand copies or so. It’s a tough business, certainly, books. But it’s worth it. When I get an order on my e-mail account, well, I shouldn’t be that thrilled going to the post office — no one should be — but I am.”
He’s also done an internet literary journal of fiction and poetry, and “I may start the online endeavor again,” says Baumann, who is erudite enough to make phrases like “online endeavor” sound perfectly natural.
He looks forward to more writing, more acting, more “Secret Life,” with all its challenges and strangeness. For instance, the time, recently, when “I was at an old local Tex-Mex restaurant in Abiline with my family, and the waitress squats down next to the table and says, ‘My manager is hiding just around the corner there. She’s a big fan.’ She had the waitress come and do the dirty work for her,” he recalls good-naturedly. Being an amiable sort, Baumann, who grew up on his parents’ miniature horse ranch and animal rescue in Texas, went and coaxed the manager into saying hello. “We ended up talking a long time. It was pretty cool.”
As for his feelings about the infamous drinking game wherein “Secret Life” viewers take a draught of beer or booze at every mention of “Sex” on the show (one count for a single episode reached a whopping 70 instances of the S word), Baumann says, “Oh man. I pity the poor fools who play that game. They’re going to get alcohol poisoning in 15 minutes. Yeah, I think the sex drinking game is the quintessential ‘Secret Life’ spinoff. I think it’s funny.”
With all that sex, naturally, babies abound on “Secret Life.”
“At one point it was, like, four babies. It’s baby city on our set.” And how is that? “They’re great, so far, very professional babies.” Baumann laughs. ” I’m kind of a sucker for babies and young kids, so maybe I’m not the most objective one to ask. I just love kids.”
It’s a good thing.