Interview: Kenny Baumann from The Secret Life Of The American Teenager

We had the honor of sitting down with one of the stars of The Secret Life Of The American Teenager, Kenny Baumann. Here’s what he had to say about the show, his character, and his future:

I’m wondering if you can just tell us a little bit about how you got into acting and how you found this role?

K. Baumann: Absolutely, Rachel. Originally, it all started at one of those small-town actor/model searches. I was ten and I was living in Abilene, Texas, and I happened to “qualify” at the small-town level and of course, pay $600 to go to that large convention in Dallas where I actually picked up a talent agent in New York. So I spent three months in New York auditioning for commercials and doing print work. From New York I came back home to Texas and did quite a bit of print work and commercials in Dallas.

Then I said enough of this modeling stuff; acting is what I love and I want to pursue that. So we came to L.A. and gave pilot season a shot a few times. I started booking things and working and that’s how it all worked out.

When did Ken become Kenny?

K. Baumann: I’ve been Kenny all my life, but I use Ken sometimes for other venues such as my writing and some other things. I try to keep some sort of separation between the two entities just for my own sake.

Can you touch on what about this character appealed to you and how you got it. Why did you get drawn to this role?

K. Baumann: I was drawn to this role because ultimately Ben is, to me, he’s such a sweet, loving guy and then, of course, he’s very funny as well. It’s very funny to watch someone kind of go through that love/misery pattern. To be able to play that and really work on that really flesh that out and make it as real and as frank as possible is an opportunity that, of course, not many people are allowed.

So what drew me to Ben was really just at the core of him he’s very loving; he’s very sweet and of course, the comedic stuff is also really fun to play as well.

Your character, Ben, has the slightly difficult task of helping Amy through a teen pregnancy. How do you interpret that character? Is there anything you did or anything you do to get in character?

K. Baumann: Absolutely. Of course, I think as most actors kind of practice the moment before and really working on drawing things from the character’s past to form current decisions. As far as Ben’s relationship with Amy he’s very sweet, loves her to death, so anything, of course, would be for her and exclusively for her happiness. And the writing is there and the writing is so wonderful. It just makes the performance very easy as far as just pulling out the necessary emotions and callbacks.

With everyone on set being so incredibly capable and creative, it’s really an easy process to kind of fall into Ben completely.

Are you surprised with how well the show’s doing? The numbers are pretty astounding for a first premiere episode.

K. Baumann: To me not at all. I hoped that people would catch on to this and appreciate it and when, of course, it performed like it did I was very happy. You learn to not expect anything and not count your chickens until they’ve hatched, but in this case they really hatched. So everyone’s ecstatic. We’re all just happy to kind of entertain the idea that there’s more to come and that we can just really focus on the work again and not have to worry about that monkey on your back, kind of this thing beating at you and making you constantly thinking how the show’s going to do. Now we know so we can focus on our work and just really hit it hard.

What’s been your favorite part of working on this project?

K. Baumann: Honestly, every bit of it is just amazing. It’s a dream job; I’ve said that before. I’ll continue to say it. The cast, I love them. It really blows my mind every day how well we all get along, which I think is relatively rare in the world of TV and film. But being able to work with the different directors, really it all boils down, for me it all boils down to the material and just really being able to flesh out this character, Ben, and it’s such an honor to do that and to collaborate with this wonderful cast.

I show up every day and I can’t call it work; I just can’t because it’s amazing.

Do you feel like you’re reliving your high school years through Ben? I know a lot of the story lines are very true to what happened in your high school life.

K. Baumann: Absolutely. Like I said, high school for me was a little bit different, but there are those social connections that I made that are very, very close to a lot of the relationships portrayed in the show. I would say that a few years ago and still to this day I’m very similar to Ben. At least I feel very similar to him quite often. So yes, it’s interesting. I am kind of like replaying through high school. I’m just doing an alternate version and it’s exciting. It’s very interesting. Luckily I didn’t have to deal with falling in love with a pregnant girl, but of course now I’m dealing with it and like I said, this show’s very frank and candid and there’s nothing wrong with that. He loves who he loves regardless of her journey.

Do you actually shoot at a high school or are you on a sound stage?

K. Baumann: We have shot at Grant High in North Hollywood quite a few times. But for the majority of the shooting are on a sound stage.

Have you had a chance to see American Teen yet? It’s a documentary.

K. Baumann: No, I actually have not; I’ve seen posters for it and I’m really, really curious to see it.

Yes, it’s like the true-life version of your show. It’s very, very cool; I think you’ll enjoy it.

K. Baumann: I definitely will check it out.

You’re 18 so that’s 3 years older than your onscreen character. Does playing this role bring back memories of your own high school years? Or aside from the obvious difference, were you anything like the character you play?

K. Baumann: Absolutely. I think I’m probably still that guy who will always crack a joke in an uncomfortable situation. I fall back to humor quite a bit and yes, my own high school years were spent out here and they were a little unconventional. I went to a charter school, only was in school about six to seven hours a week. But even then, though, you still deal with those social interactions that become so written about in television and film and other venues that kind of define high school life.

But yes, absolutely. I remember a lot of my high school experiences definitely come through as Ben on the show.

Do you feel that the series is different from other teenage dramas besides the obvious pregnancy aspect.

K. Baumann: What I’ve noticed so far is that this show doesn’t really glorify any high school ideal, idea; it doesn’t make things appear glossy and sexy; it’s just very frank. And it’s a very accurate cross section of what a lot of high schools look like, unfortunately. I think that is a very individual aspect of the show, that it does not glorify sex; it’s not trying to, it doesn’t have to. It is a little bit of a cautionary tale, which it should be in dealing with the subject matter. You don’t see that often. I’m really actually proud to be a part of something that is very frank, very candid and is not trying to make it look too appealing. Do you know what I mean?

Definitely. Now You say that the show presents a new side of teenage life that you haven’t thought about before. I know you were saying that it presents a very honest view of teenage life. Is there anything that, while working on the show, that was brought to your attention for the first time?

K. Baumann: Absolutely. I would say that particularly for me this show really brings to life the incredible nuance that is involved in just every day teen interaction. As far as Teen A talks to Teen B, Teen B talks to Teen C and suddenly the whole school knows and how rumors spread, how information is spread, how various personalities deal and cope with various bits of information. It really does remind me of just how incredibly complex the social web is at just a normal everyday high school. And the fact that these adolescent kids have to worry about their education also have to deal with this. It really blew my mind to realize that full circle again because you’re not very aware of it when you’re in that web. But when you’re outside of it looking in it is really, truly so complex and socially, it’s really an incredible experience.

What has it been like working with Brenda Hampton and does she actually come to the set during filming or is she kind of off in the office somewhere just overseeing things? How does that work?

K. Baumann: Brenda is very hands-on. She is behind the camera; she is on set all the time. I talk to her every day on the set. She goes back to the office back and forth to write and do, of course, all of the responsible things that she has to do on the show. But she’s very hands-on and she’s wonderful. She has made the actors feel at home completely. Really she’s just so nice and wonderful and creative and giving. Like I said it just adds to the wow, this is my job? This is what I do? This is incredible.

What’s a typical day on the set like for you? What time do you get there and just how does your day go, a general day?

K. Baumann: I’d say about 70% of the time, my call time is around 6:00 a.m., which is of course a little painfully early, but no complaints here. And you show up on set and grab a quick breakfast, you get in hair and makeup and probably within 30, 45 minutes you’re on set shooting. And generally most of my days are finished pretty early. I generally shoot maybe one or two hours after a half-hour to an hour lunch and I’m done.

Everyone is just so on their game on the set and really just plowing through and doing everything incredibly efficiently. So it really rolls by quite fast. I can’t believe I’m already on episode nine. It’s insane; the time just flows by.

Are you surprised with how well the show’s doing? The numbers are pretty astounding for a first premiere episode.

K. Baumann: To me not at all. I hoped that people would catch on to this and appreciate it and when, of course, it performed like it did I was very happy. You learn to not expect anything and not count your chickens until they’ve hatched, but in this case they really hatched. So everyone’s ecstatic. We’re all just happy to kind of entertain the idea that there’s more to come and that we can just really focus on the work again and not have to worry about that monkey on your back, kind of this thing beating at you and making you constantly thinking how the show’s going to do. Now we know so we can focus on our work and just really hit it hard.

You mentioned that the cast gets along really well. Do any of you guys hang out off screen?

K. Baumann: Absolutely. We hang out on weekends and when we have days off. We get together very often. Again that joke pops up all the time. Why is this happening? This isn’t normal; we shouldn’t be hanging out. We should be at each other’s throats already, but who knows? We absolutely hang out on the weekend off set all the time.

Since you’re almost wrapped up what do have planned after? After this do have anything in the works?

K. Baumann: There are definitely things in the works and depending upon the network decision for the show we’ll see. There may be more to come. That’s of course what everyone’s hoping, but I’m not too worried about much. I’m just going to plan on maybe taking a little breather and just spending time with family and friends and if more work comes either through this venue or another venue so be it. But yes, I’m not too worried. I’m just looking forward to just a little rest and relaxation with family and stuff.

You mentioned, I think in response to my earlier question, your writing. I believe I also read you’re into some of the other arts. So I was wondering if you could elaborate a little bit on those.

K. Baumann: In my “free time” I really enjoy writing. That is yet another one of my passions. I see myself writing till the day I die. Also I really enjoy photography. Photography’s quite a challenge for me, which is very nice. It’s wonderfully technical as well, which I like learning, like to pursue that side. So between photography, writing and also I really enjoy design, graphic design, Web site design and hopefully very soon I will be starting two lines of T-shirts, which I’m designing now, talking to printers now.

I’m just trying to keep myself busy, trying to keep as well versed as possible. But design and photography and writing, certainly, as well as acting are all passions of mine.

It sounds like you keep yourself busy. Do you think with your interests in photography and writing do you see maybe a future kind of behind the camera down the line?

K. Baumann: Absolutely. I wouldn’t say no to anything. Certainly I would like to give everything a try once. Absolutely directing and certainly writing; I’m working on that now. Directing is kind of another class, but I would definitely, definitely, definitely love to try it all. I’m open to everything and I would like to learn as much as possible.

I don’t know if anybody has made this comparison before, but I actually see a little bit in the mannerisms kind of a little bit of a younger Adam Brody. Actually though what I wanted to ask was if there any actors that you admire, that you are a fan of.

K. Baumann: Yes. Probably my two favorite actors would be Daniel Day Lewis, who every time I see him perform completely blows my mind and really makes me strive to be as good as I can and work as hard as I can. The guy’s just in a class of his own. And of course, Leonardo DiCaprio and I also really admire his career path, too, because he has branched out into behind the scenes and starting his own production company and working on material and collaborating with directors like Scorsese for multiple projects and I really, really respect both of their career paths and all of their work.

The show, I know quite a few people have seen it. But there’s probably going to be people that see this interview that haven’t. What would you say to them or tell them about the show that might bring them in as a viewer for the rest of the season?

K. Baumann: I would tell them that to me, this show really represents a very frank, honest cross section of American high school life. It really is completely honest and like I said, doesn’t try to glamorize anything. So if people are interested in seeing some really frank, candid drama then go for it. I would love for new people to be brought into the show and of course, I totally believe and all the actors believe and everyone working on the show believes in it so give it a shot. I’m really proud to be working on it.

Can you give us any hints what’s coming up for the character and take in the rest of the season or the next two shows?

K. Baumann: I will be very, very vague, but I will say that Ben “falls even harder” for Amy and definitely experiences trials and tribulations with her and with the entire cross section of the school. Just look for Ben really, really growing with Amy in her very difficult situation to come.

Interview By: Emma Loggins

– The Secret Life Of The American Teenager Official Site