Tonight marks the return of The Secret Life of an American Teenager on ABC Family. Last we saw of these crazy kids, Ben was getting cozy with a new girl, Adrian announced she's officially over Ricky (finally), and Ricky was seen graduating and proposing to Amy! So what's in store for the rest of this season?
I caught up with Ken Baumann (AKA fan fave Ben) to get all the deets on his character's new love interest. And, of course, I had to ask about Ben and Amy's future... or lack thereof. Ken was such a sweetheart. Check out our interview below!
Ology: Hi Ken! What can you tell us about the premiere? Is there a time jump or we get right back into where we left off?
Ken Baumann: Well, it’s not much of a time jump. Let’s see, what can I disclose without getting in trouble... (laughs). I think that we do get to meet the new girls that are going to be involved in the upcoming seasons. They’re friends with Dylan, the new girl that I started getting involved with during the last finale, and I would say, collectively, they’re trouble and they live a riskier teenage existence.
Dylan said that she wanted to "take things slow" with Ben. Is that going to last?
Well, it’s interesting. Saying they take things slow is both true and false. And you’ll see as things progress what that means. It’s a very respectful, cute and innocent relationship and in some instances, it’s sort of serious and crazy.
How does everyone react to the news of Ricky and Amy’s engagement?
I think the finale sort of briefly showed how all of us react. I think that, of course, some people loved it, some people hated it, and the repercussions and what they plan on doing with their engagement and thinking about when they should get married, and all of that – that has a very interesting part coming up next season.
According to the promo, it looks like Amy might be pregnant. Is that what we’re supposed to get out of that?
The promos always make me laugh. They’re always inviting people to think crazy stuff is going to happen to get them to watch, but crazy stuff does, indeed, happen. But don’t trust the promos.
Amy and Ben are not romantically-linked anymore, but is that triangle officially over forever? Or do you think we’ll revisit it at some point?
It definitely plays into this next season. There are some scenes between Ben and Amy that were a lot of fun to do. I think Ben, like any guy, certainly tosses around the idea of his first great love and what that means. Did he really make the right decision? And so on and so forth. In this upcoming season, you definitely see Ben sort of hold back to that idea of Amy being his one true love, and how he can get her back, if he wants to. He definitely starts to look at that idea.
Don't you think maybe Ben should be single for a while?
It’s funny, I think if I were this poor kid’s parent, I would have jumped off a bridge or kicked him off a bridge or something. But yeah, absolutely. If I were a doctor, that would be my diagnosis.
Was your high school experience anything like this?
I don’t know, yes and no. I went to a charter school in L.A. and it was half attended by little actor kids and half attended by people who were in and out of juvie or gangbangers. It was a very weird dichotomy, but it was actually really nice. Everybody was great. All the students I met were cool and were just working hard to get through their high school experience and whatever that meant that was sort of personal. But there were definitely some pregnant girls roaming the school. There was definitely drama among the actors, of course, but not so hyper-dramatic as The Secret Life of the American Teenager.
What about you and Ben? What are your similarities? Or are you completely different?
I would say that I am significantly less neurotic and hopefully my confidence is a lot less pronounced. I think Ben is a confident little bastard, and I like to think I’m confident, but hopefully it’s not disgusting or obnoxious. It’s funny, Ben has changed very much as a character in the last four-going-on-five years that we’ve done the show and I feel like I’ve changed just as much. Just hopefully not in the same direction.
You guys got picked up for season 5 already. What was your reaction to that? Not often do shows make it this far.
Thank you very much. It was great. I think we were all happy to get back to work and about a week ago, we celebrated our 100th episode and that was amazing. It felt like a milestone for all of us and it’s surreal. You don’t expect yourself to work on anything for five years as an actor and to be able to perform on a show that has been so successful is very rare. All of the actors on the show, we all appreciate it.
Is there a favorite episode or scene that sticks out to you?
Yeah, absolutely. I think that, for a lot of people, the most challenging episode is when Ben and Adrian lost their baby. Everybody was there. Everybody was crying. It was a big day for everybody, all of the actors. It was heavy and people necessarily felt that weight, and performed accordingly, but that day was very memorable just because the mood of the show. No matter how dramatic, a lot of times airs towards comedy to keep it moving and keep it light, and those scenes and that episode in particular was very much a secure, pure tragedy.
Definitely. So as an actor, what is the biggest misconception people have about you? What's it like running into fans?
It’s interesting. I feel like for the most part, it’s fans approaching me as fans. You can’t blame them. That’s really all they know. You don’t have some sort of access to me as a human being very much. And there are fans who don’t separate you from the character you play a lot and then there are fans who very much sort of realize or show that they know you’re a guy, an actor playing that character. But it is very fascinating, sort of the various degrees of perceptions that fans have about you as a human, not as a character that’s in their house every week.
What do you like to do in your spare time when you’re not working?
I publish book fiction and poetry, and I started that a few years back. It’s like a one-man operation for everything, I do everything myself. I design the books, I get them printed, and I ship them myself. So that is a big part of my downtime. And I read a lot, I write. I was taking myself seriously as a writer at 15 years old, like a little maniac. Between writing and press, and reading and spending time with my dog, I feel like that’s a pretty decent off day.
Wow. So you don’t watch a lot of TV?
Well, I am so spoiled now by watching TV series, and sitting down and literally watching 8 hours of television at a time. I find it sort of difficult for me to watch something on a weekly basis as it premieres live. I feel like it’s such a better experience to watch an entire series in a couple of days. I feel like it’s more tactful and you have a better ability of keeping it all together when you’re finished. In that regard, I am a huge fan of Breaking Bad. I love Breaking Bad. I’ve watched the first season of Game of Thrones, which I really enjoyed. I watch Homeland, which I plan on watching. Oh, and Mad Men, of course. Those are sort of the four series that I think are just phenomenal. I will probably, unfortunately, watch them on a weekly basis.
I have to ask you about Shailene’s Golden Globe nomination! Did you see The Descendants? What was your reaction to her nod?
Of course. I think this is about as true as it gets - know that me, Darren, Greg, sort of everybody involved with Secret Life knew that from day one, Shay was great and has that emotional capacity and could go there in sort of a beautiful way. It was so obvious from the first day of our show that I don’t think that it’s surprising that -- a) Shay landed in a production that was in a high awards category and b) that she received attention for it. I don’t think it really surprised us in the least. Of course, it’s surprising in the way of, "wow, this is really happening," and happening to sort of a family member, but the fact that she was receiving accolades was like, "Yeah, duh. Where have you guys been for four years? She’s good!"