In “Thank You And Goodbye,” high school graduation is finally here, prompting everyone to reminisce about how much their lives have changed over the past few years. Amy’s relationships with Ricky and Ben weigh heavily on her mind, while Grace contemplates Jack’s place in her life. Meanwhile, Adrian is ecstatic when an unexpected visitor knocks on her door.
CelebSecrets4U caught up with Ken Baumann, who plays Ben in the series. In our exclusive Q&A, Ken chats about the series finale, his favorite moments on Secret Life, and some of the special keepsakes he still has from set.
Check out the full Q&A below.
What was it like just ending the series with everyone because you guys have been together for so long?
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 didn’t, which was fine because everybody was sort of a wreck. It was just hard to know that you’re 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 didn’t 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 on.
Are you working on any new projects or shows coming up?
I finished a project not long ago called “Call Me Crazy” that aired on Lifetime. That was a blast and a really, I think, import movie. It’s five short films directed by five female directors and they’re all about mental illness. I think the movie does a very good job of presenting mental illness in a way that’s not sensationalized and it attempts to really connect to the truth of the pain and difficulty of living in mental illness. Beyond that, I just got my first novel published on May 14th. It’s called “Solip.” I’ve been sort of doing the book promotions, reviews, book tour thing now. So that was very exciting for me.
Would you say you’re happy with the way the series ended for your character?
I think so. I think so. Jokingly, I think it would’ve been great if Ben could’ve 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 episode’s got to function as an episode on its own. I think that it really does. I think it’s one of the best in the series.
Do you have a favorite moment from filming the show?
It’s hard. It’s 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 he’s 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, I’m like incredibly close friends with the entire cast and most of the crew. So it was an experience that I don’t know I’ll be able to have again, working so closely with a group of people for so long.
How do you think the fans are going to respond to the ending?
That’s a good question. I don’t know to be honest. I’m 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 it’s an ambiguous ending. I know that it’s going to frustrate a lot of people. I’m 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 that—yes, it’s 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.
Do you think the fans are going to be expecting the ending or will they all be surprised with what happens?
I don’t know. I’ve 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. It’s not such an explicit narrative surprise, but it is definitely emotionally surprising, I think.
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?
That’s 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 valuable. 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.
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?
Yes, there has been an incredible amount of change. It’s hard. As I said earlier, when I’m 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 won’t get that experience again because even if I hop onto another thing that runs a decade I will have started it as an “adult” 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 that’s how I think about it sometimes.
And if you could write Ben’s future, what would it be?
Well I think in keeping with my five-year long theme of making up ridiculous stuff when asked this question I’ll continue with that. I think that the character Ben will become an oil tycoon and create the world’s first peanut butter museum and then go on to marry Cindy Crawford. I think she’s married, but obviously that doesn’t matter. So I think that’s Ben’s future. I feel it. I feel it really strongly.
How was being on Secret Life changed your life?
In every way possible I’d 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. It’s 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.
I’m 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?
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. That’s 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 I’ll 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.
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?
I think that a few things were stolen off the books but I don’t 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. It’s hard to steal too much, but I do have some clothes that are hanging in my closet that will always remind me of work.
There you have it! Are you sad to see The Secret Life of the American Teenager end tonight? Sound off in the comments below!