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Interview with Ken Baumann of "Secret
Life of the American Teenager" on ABC Family 5/23/13
ABC Familyís Q&A with Ken Baumann
The Secret Life of the American Teenager
Moderator: What was it like just ending the series with
everyone because you guys have been together for so long?
K. Baumann: Difficult. Emotional. Lots of tears. I thought
that I would be able to hold my composure together on the
last day, the last day of filming, but I didnít, which was
fine because everybody was sort of a wreck. It was just hard
to know that youíre not going to see your family for the
next few years, just because you get to know the people so
well, the cast and crew.
Our show, I think, was a rarity in a few ways. Everybody got
along, and I mean everybody, which was almost like surreal,
like the Twilight Zone, and the hours were great. So people
were happy to go to work. They didnít dread the 14 or
15-hour days. It was rough. That said, I think that also
sort of shows in the final episode with a little extra
emotion that I think the audience will definitely pick up
Moderator: Are you working on any new projects or shows
K. Baumann: I finished a project not long ago called ďCall Me
CrazyĒ that aired on Lifetime. That was a blast and a
really, I think, import movie. Itís five short films
directed by five female directors and theyíre all about
mental illness. I think the movie does a very good job of
presenting mental illness in a way thatís not
sensationalized and it attempts to really connect to the
truth of the pain and difficulty of living in mental
Beyond that, I just got my first novel published on May
14th. Itís called ďSolip.Ē Iíve been sort of doing the book
promotions, reviews, book tour thing now. So that was very
exciting for me.
Moderator: Would you say youíre happy with the way the series
ended for your character?
K. Baumann: I think so. I think so. Jokingly, I think it
wouldíve been great if Ben couldíve jumped out of a plane
and died in a parachuting accident or been involved in
another terrible arson or have become a fabled criminal, but
none of that was in the card probably for budgetary
concerns. But yes, I think so.
I think that the tone Ben ends on is very, very, very
different from the tone he began in the pilot. I think the
character arch was pretty huge. I think that more
importantly where Ben ends up in the final episode it serves
the sort of emotional arch of that final episode, which I
think ultimately the finale episodeís got to function as an
episode on its own. I think that it really does. I think
itís one of the best in the series.
Moderator: Do you have a favorite moment from filming the
K. Baumann: Itís hard. Itís really hard. I have so many. The
one I think back to the most was just the pilot and meeting
everybody for the first time and not knowing everybody and
how nervous everybody was and excitable and how brand new
Daren was to the rhythms of the set, which was hilarious,
and now heís like old pro.
I feel like the pilot I think about the most and that it
just was that none of us had any idea that the show would
become so successful and then run for five years. We all
thought like at best we were going to put in another ten
episodes and that was that. Yes, that to me I think was the
thing that left the strongest impression.
Again, Iím like incredibly close friends with the entire
cast and most of the crew. So it was an experience that I
donít know Iíll be able to have again, working so closely
with a group of people for so long.
Moderator: How do you think the fans are going to respond to
K. Baumann: Thatís a good question. I donít know to be
honest. Iím very curious. I know that all I can speak to is
how I responded to the ending, both in watching the last few
scenes being filmed and reading the script, the final
script. I think it is a very emotional ending and itís an
ambiguous ending. I know that itís going to frustrate a lot
of people. Iím very curious.
Regardless, I think that it is an appropriate ending. I
think that it makes sense with the sort of arch of the
entire show and I think thatóyes, itís just really
emotional. It just felt right. It just felt right to me when
I read the script and was there watching it be filmed.
Moderator: Do you think the fans are going to be expecting
the ending or will they all be surprised with what happens?
K. Baumann: I donít know. Iíve seen a little bit of the
teasers. I think their expectations could be on the money
but I think that there is a bit of a surprise there at the
end. Itís not such an explicit narrative surprise, but it is
definitely emotionally surprising, I think.
Moderator: I feel like we have a lot to congratulate you on
with the success of the show, of course, your book and sort
of newly being married now. So congratulations and I hope
youíre feeling well with your health as well.
K. Baumann: I am. Iím in total remission. I feel great now
Moderator: With the finale coming up, of course I wanted to
find out what do you hope that fans really take away from
just watching the series for so long in general? What do you
really hope that they just take away from watching?
K. Baumann: Thatís a good question. When I think about the TV
shows that I admire the most or that I was most sucked into,
especially when I was younger, I think that the thing that
was most important to me was feeling inspired by such a
large story and the privilege of wrapping yourself up in
this fictive world and the life of these characters that
have been so laboriously painted by the writers and the cast
and crew and directors and wardrobe designers and
I also think that with a show like Secret Life the stories
from its fans and viewers that have always excited me the
most where when people told me that the show really helped
them feel more comfortable in their bodies, like more
comfortable just with their experiences that theyíve had to
deal with, be it being a teen mother or dealing with sort of
romantic mishaps in high school or getting married early or
losing a parent.
That always was nice because that, to me, proved what
fiction and literature and television can do, what stories
can do, which is just make someone feel less alone and give
someone an opportunity to be empathetic or feel like theyíve
been empathized with.
And then the other thing that I think excited me the most
that I heard from viewers was the idea that the show made
them or encouraged them to talk with their parents and talk
about sex and drugs and rock and roll. And just to be honest
with them. So I think that those two things were really
heartwarming to me and surprised me.
I watch a lot of TV that just helps me turn my brain off and
sometimes I forget what TV or what long-form narratives can
really do to people. And I felt like those were two really
inarguably good things that came from this show.
Moderator: After getting to play such a deep and heartwarming
character is there anything that you learned about yourself
from playing him for so many years?
K. Baumann: Thatís a good question. I think that I learned to
be less neurotic, because Ben is such a nut. I think, yes, I
think I learned how to just calm down a little bit. It was
good. Ben sort of provided me a model of how not to be in
the later years of the show, which I think is incredibly
And it was also just nice to be sort of like a spoiled rich
kid, but like fast and witty and charming and a smart-aleck.
All that stuff was fun. It was fun to play. And like I said,
at the very least I got to work on something for five years
straight and build it a little bit more every day, obviously
with all of the guidance in the world from the writers. So
that was nice.
Moderator: How have you and the cast changed throughout the
five years because there have been so many marriages and so
much that has happened to you guys in your personal lives?
K. Baumann: Yes, there has been an incredible amount of
change. Itís hard. As I said earlier, when Iím thinking back
to the pilot it almost feels like alien territory being that
young with everybody and trying to recall how everybody
behaved before everybody sort of grew up. But everybody did
grow up. We were all still pretty young and doe eyed.
Again, I probably wonít get that experience again because
even if I hop onto another thing that runs a decade I will
have started it as an ďadultĒ and will end as an adult or as
I still thought that. Most of us, Shai and me especially,
were just teenagers. It was really nice.
It was basically like going to high school but you actually
learned from doing the job that pays you money and everybody
is incredibly nice and people care about you. It was like
some weird inverse dream world of high school. Everybody was
celebrated and financially supported to be creative and all
goof off and make this thing together. I guess thatís how I
think about it sometimes.
Moderator: And if you could write Benís future, what would it
K. Baumann: Well I think in keeping with my five-year long
theme of making up ridiculous stuff when asked this question
Iíll continue with that. I think that the character Ben will
become an oil tycoon and create the worldís first peanut
butter museum and then go on to marry Cindy Crawford. I
think sheís married, but obviously that doesnít matter. So I
think thatís Benís future. I feel it. I feel it really
Moderator: What kind of projects do you have lined up now
that the series is over?
K. Baumann: Right now I am gainfully unemployed and Iím
writing a lot. I think thereís an unsung narrative to the
actorsí lives that in between jobs youíre looking for work.
Youíre meeting people and going on auditions and thatís
where I am right now, which is fine.
I think that is a time that not only helps you get other
side projects done, but like I said, itís allowed me to
focus on my book that just came out and write a lot and sort
of own up and try to work hard enough to be able to call
myself a writer without feeling like a liar.
But itís also allowed me to sort of have a little down time
and think about what I want to do next, what kind of project
and where I want to end up or whom I want to work with. So
thereís nothing in the pipeline at the moment beyond writing
projects, but itís not at all a problem lately. Iím looking
forward to stumbling into the next piece of work.
Moderator: Would you rather go into another sitcom or are you
looking to break into movies? What kind of acting are you
looking to go into?
K. Baumann: Thatís hard. I donít find myself thinking in
terms of what kind of thing I want to do. Generally I think
about what kind of people I want to work with. Although I
will say I do love the idea of sort of the six months
schedule of the feature film where you just do it for a
little while and then youíre free again.
But at the same time I had a great experience on TV and the
idea of working with people for years and years and getting
to know them and really working deeply on a project, that
sounds pretty good too. But for the most part I just focus
on people, the people I want to work with, actors, writers,
directors, producers, and companies. But again, Iím pretty
open right now. Iím looking forward to meeting a new group
Moderator: How was being on Secret Life changed your life?
K. Baumann: In every way possible Iíd say. Just at sort of
the very basic level of giving me someplace to go every day,
well not every day but close to every weekday for eight
months at a time. It gave me a job. It paid for the roof
over my head and my food. It allowed me to buy a house and
live in the neighborhood that I want to live in.
It gave me a huge list of people to fill my wedding with. It
introduced me to hundreds of people that I now call my
friends and some of them are practically family. It allowed
me to pay for the health insurance that paid for my hospital
bills when I got sick.
Itís endless. It radically changed my life. Both with time
and money it let me start my publishing company, Sator
Press. So yes, I think that it changed my life in every way.
Moderator: About your publishing company, are you working on
any new books right now or just the one that just came out?
K. Baumann: With my publishing company, the last one I
published was called ďConfessions from a Dark Wood.Ē That
came out late last year. ďSolip,Ē the novel I wrote, I
didnít publish. I got published by another company called
Tyrant Books. Right now for my press, Sator Press, I am
looking at submissions. Iím in the reading process now.
Moderator: Are you writing anything right now to get
K. Baumann: I am. Iím working on edits for a second novel
thatís coming out late this year called ďSay, Cut, Map.Ē
Thatís coming out from a small publishing company called
Blue Square Press. And then Iím working on like a mystery
book project that I canít talk about yet but I will be able
to talk about soon and Iím very excited about it.
Moderator: Iím a big fan of the show and as a fan I wanted to
know if you could share your favorite behind-the-scene
moment with us?
K. Baumann: Honestly, I would say that it all sort of boils
down to a bunch of people sitting on cast chairs, not
working, waiting to work and just kind of chewing the cud.
Thatís a Texas expression, just sort of talking. I think
that that was it.
We had tons of times that were fun or sort of exotic like me
and Shai and Daren and Greg and Francia and Megan all went
to New York for Press. That was a blast. And me and Greg and
Daren, of course, had I think one too many drinks at the
bar, which is a big surprise there.
The exotic stuff was great but ultimately the stuff that I
think Iíll remember the most will be just hanging out,
waiting to work and all just talking. Talking and making
each other laugh, cracking jokes, showing each other the
stupid YouTube video of the day. That was great.
Moderator: Do you remember what it was about the character at
the beginning that made you want to play him?
K. Baumann: I remember when I read the sides for the first
audition I remember being attracted by sort of the Ferris
Bueller vibe that I was picking up of this kid whoís just
too smart for his own good and fast and witty and kind of
like a wheeler-dealer. So that was what initially attracted
I just thought like, okay, anything even close to Ferris
Bueller and a young kid thatís sort of scheming in school;
that was immediately attractive to me. I think Ferris
Buellerís Day Off is a masterpiece and one of my favorite
movies, if not my favorite movie. Yes, so I think that that
was what attracted me at first.
Moderator: On the last day of set did you guys get to pick
your favorite prop or something that was your favorite
memory or something like that?
K. Baumann: I think that a few things were stolen off the
books but I donít remember stealing anything. However, all
the cast was given the option to go through their wardrobe
and basically like buy everything at half off, which was
pretty rad. I ended up buying a few sweaters and a few
shirts that I thought were great and very comfortable.
But no, for the most part now when most shows wrap up the
prop department and everybody likes to keep all their goods
because most of the stuff is rented anyway from other
studios. Itís hard to steal too much, but I do have some
clothes that are hanging in my closet that will always
remind me of work.
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