Tag Archives: “The Secret Life of The American Teenager”

KEN BAUMANN: GOODBYE ‘SECRET LIFE,’ HELLO ADULTHOOD

baumannWhen Ken Baumann started acting on “The Secret Life of The American Teenager,” he was a mere lad of 18 — playing earnest, innocent Ben Boykewich, the high school boy who fell in love with winsome Amy (Shailene Woodley), despite the fact she had gotten pregnant in one thoughtless encounter with the school rebel (Daren Kagasoff) at band camp.

Now it’s five years later, and Ben and Amy and their crowd are leaving the air June 3 — after the show has racked up numerous breakups (including theirs) and hookups, the births of two babies, a miscarriage, a plane crash, several weddings and about 6,050 references to sex. (That figure is based on an estimated average 50 references per show, which we tracked when the “Secret Life” drinking game was at its apex and episodes were hitting 60 and 70.)

Baumann himself is now a full-grown man of 23.  He’s married to actress Aviva  Farber.  He’s a book publisher with his own Sator Press imprint.  And he’s an author.  His first novel, Solip, is just out this month.  At the moment his literary life is in primary position, while acting is taking a back seat.  We talked to the erudite hyphenate about the big “Secret Life” finish and other matters:

Q:  So, the end is near.  How does it feel?

A:  It’s actually been quite awhile for us — we wrapped in November.  It’s a little unnerving, but at the same time, I’m excited for people to experience this.

Q:  Will the finale give fans a sense of closure?

A:  Yes.  The cancellation was definitely a surprise, but the writing staff and Brenda (creator Brenda Hampton) especially are very, very fast and clever writers.  So I think that they pretty quickly wrote a very emotionally satisfying finale and I think it’s one people will think about after the show for quite some time.

Q: That sounds satisfying for the actors as well.

A: It was. But that last day was just rough for everybody.  There was so much crying it was stupid. God, it’s sad.  I think it’s a rare thing in Hollywood to work on a set where everybody gets along so well. There was no major bad apple, nobody really disagreed.  We all just worked so seamlessly together I think it was particularly hard to leave, because, you may never get that again — such a sweet, humane, considerate cast and crew.  As far as structuring the show to give people their evenings rather than shooting 15 hours on a Tuesday — we’re probably not going to have that again.

Q:  You all came of age while doing the series.

A:  Exactly, which is what made it all the harder — watching the birds get pushed out of the nest for the final time.  I do think that it was very hard to film, but I think it was fine that we were all crying on set.  I think it probably added a little extra magic to the last few scenes that we got the privilege to put in the can.

Q: Congratulations on your novel’s publication this month. It must be exciting.

A: It’s hard to describe.  I worked so deeply and intentionally on that book.  It’s been a dream of mine since I was a little kid to be a good enough and disciplined enough writer to get a book accepted and published somewhere.  Every time I look at it — and I’ve got a stack of copies on my shelf — it blows me away.

Q:  What is next?  You’re not giving up acting for the literary life, are you?

A:  No, I mean, not in the immediate future that’s for sure.  But I’ve been writing, writing, writing and I definitely feel that’s filling up more of my time, especially as I’ve become an unemployed actor.

Q:  Are you going to be going out doing signings and such, pumping it?

A:  I’ll be doing a little of the pumping stuff.  I’ll be in New York doing a reading on June 15th, at the KGB Bar with some old friends and comrades, some writers I’m reading alongside.  A couple of things in New York. I’ll do a reading in San Francisco.  All these are not scheduled yet, but that’s the plan.  You know, readings are funny.  I try to make them the best they can  be.  I try to do the best performance I can.  I try to find reading spaces that are cool and magical.  A lot of readings are boring, to be honest.  Ask anybody, even writers, and they’ll admit, yeah, most readings are boring.

It’s weird — I’m both trying to do readings and be careful about — I don’t want people snoozing in their chairs.  I want to be entertaining, play it cool, find the fun magical ones the ones that have sort of a vibe on their own, you know?  I had a reading in San Francisco, actually it was from Solip, the book that’s coming out now, and I think it’s on You Tube actually.  It’s in an abandoned apartment in San Francisco.  It’s all derelict and there’s construction equipment strewn about, busted two-by-fours, nails.  There’s a mound of dirt in the center of the living room with these big bay windows behind you, but there’s no electricity so the guy who organizes it has it candle lit.  So you walk in and immediately everybody is being quiet because it’s an illegal space, and, you know, it’s candle lit, it’s beautiful, it’s weird, it’s creepy.  I’ve got to say, that was incredible space.  I thought, ‘Wow, this is what readings should strive for.

Q:  Perhaps some of your series “family” will show up?

A:  Wouldn’t that be something?  I’m gonna basically blackmail them and if they don’t show, I’m going to give them tons of hell, and I’m going to force Daren Kagasoff at gunpoint to buy a book. Who knows when the last time he bought a book was, but ummmm yeah!  Ha.  They actually have been very supportive already — they’re always commenting and texting me. I’ve become a book pornographer lately, taking pictures of the book — ‘Look how pretty this thing is.’  They’ve been great.  I just like to talk a little sh@!.

Q:  “Secret Life'” it’s a big part of a lot of people’s lives — the ending is bound to get some pretty nice ratings.

A:  I know, sometimes I forget that and then I’m reminded all over again — oh wow, it wasn’t just me that had this wonderful experience.   It’s going to happen for millions of people, which is nice.  I’m really happy with how the show ends. I think it’s a very graceful way to go out.

New ‘Secret Life’ Season Biggest Yet for Good Kid Baumann

Ken Baumann ABC Family photo by Craig Sjodin

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.

Shailene Woodley Spills on ‘Secret Life’ and George Clooney

Daren Kagasoff, Shailene Woodley

First it was 15-year-old Amy Jeurgens (Shailene Woodley) getting pregnant by cool but troubled guy Ricky (Daren Kagasoff) in a rash moment at band camp two seasons ago.  Now it appears that when ABC Family’s “The Secret Life of The American Teenager” returns for its third season Monday (6/7), it’ll be bad girl Adrian (Francia Raisa) facing a very unplanned baby-on-the-way.

Will this season be a case of déjà vu all over again?  We asked show star Shailene.  “There are a lot of differences, but there’s always going to be the similarity between the shock of being a teenager who is pregnant and having to choose what to do, to give up the baby or keep it,” she notes.  “Amy was obviously more naïve than Adrian.  Adrian is accepting it quicker, but it’s still a struggle.  Adrian and Amy will kind of create a bond…. Amy is always going to be there for Adrian.”

Shailene points out, however, that there remains a huge issue standing in the way of their becoming BFFs.  The sticky point, as “Secret Life” viewers know all too well, is that sadly, the father of Adrian’s baby is none other than Amy’s true love, Ben (Kenny Baumann), while Adrian is in love with Ricky, a.k.a. Amy’s baby daddy.

It shouldn’t be a big surprise that there is another pregnancy on “Secret Life” considering the show’s obsession with sex – the act itself, and the constant talk of sex, including one installment where the S word was reported as being dropped a whopping 70 times.  A drinking game in which viewers tipple at every mention of sex grew in popularity across the land last season.

“As long as they’re doing it in a way that’s safe, I think it’s funny,” says Shailene.

America’s most famous unwed teenage mother, Bristol Palin, guests on the show this season.  “We worked together a few months ago.  It was a one-time thing.  She was nice. She seemed like a normal teenager,” Shailene reports.

As for how she likes working with all those babies – playing not only her son, but her brother — on the set, she says, “They’re fun.  They get distracted easy, pointing at microphones or lights on the ceiling.  You have to be patient.”

Life has been a whirlwind for Shailene in recent weeks.  She’s been in Hawaii making the feature “The Descendants” in the role of George Clooney’s daughter, between “Secret Life” camera calls.  She returned to the mainland the night before we caught up with the 18-year-old beauty, and she had already put in a full day on her series set.

“I’m going on adrenaline right now,” she says.

How was working with George Clooney?

“All I can say about George is he’s one of the most amazing guys I’ve ever met — so intelligent, so hysterically funny and so down to earth,” she replies.

Clooney has such a bachelor image, will people buy him as a dad?

“He did an amazing job.”