Ken Baumann may star on the television show “The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” but his life is anything but secret. He shares his career path freely and comfortably speaks as if he has known you for years. With a sense of ease and confidence, Baumann reveals what happens in his life behind-the-scenes.
Acting, writing and drawing have always been of interest to Baumann. His parents encouraged his creativity so he participated in many school plays and read classic literature from a young age.
“Eventually performance took priority because I seem to be ok at it,” Baumann joked. “I managed to find some work (and) it has kind of been a very natural journey.”
“The Secret Life of the American Teenager,” which airs on ABC Family, has been well received and will begin its fourth season on March 28. Baumann had previously filmed pilot episodes for four other shows that never reached production. He recalls his initial response to the opportunity to star in “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” was pure excitement.
“Just being able to know that my work is finally going to be seen, it is going to be legitimate and it will be on TV finally — that felt great,” he said.
The show addresses many issues facing teenagers today including unwanted pregnancies, drugs, alcohol and death. Baumann plays the role of Ben Boykewich who he said he can relate to.
“From the beginning I was able to identify with him because [he was a] freshman in high school and all he wanted to do was lose his virginity. I was right there with him; I think most people are,” said Baumann. “So I was able to just jump back in time a couple of years and get awkward again and relive that quest for the Holy Grail.”
Baumann has typically played the role of a teenager navigating life’s complexities but regards this character as his favorite because it feels true to him. However, he said Ben is also his most challenging role because he has never played one character for so long. While Baumann is enjoying his current project, he still hopes to take on different roles in the future.
“I would love something that really stretches any sort of boundaries that I have in my head about what I could and couldn’t do,” he said. “I would love something that is really physically strenuous.”
Although Baumann is not physically stretching himself, figuratively he is pushing himself beyond the scope of acting. He is the founder of Sator Press, which is a non-profit that publishes indie books and full novels. The first book he published was “The Complete Works of Marvin K. Mooney.” He credits that book with compelling him to begin the press, which he had previously contemplated but not pursued.
“It was a lot of work but it felt so, so right. It was just a rush; it felt great,” he said.
Baumann is currently the editor-in-chief, publisher, creative director, head designer, webmaster and source of funding for the press and does not see that changing any time soon.
“It is a one- man show,” said Baumann. To his credit, he doesn’t seem to mind the work and instead finds it rewarding. “I really love working with the author and just getting to know what they want for their book cover and trying to give them that,” he said. “I also like one-man businesses; it is a really honest ethical thing to do.”
According to Baumann, the response for the first book was really positive and he even received a hand-written letter from a reader expressing her appreciation.
“That one letter is worth it to me; the whole experiment is worth it,” he said. “That proves to me that there is a desire for weird, challenging works of art and people can appreciate that.”
Baumann expressed that he sometimes feels that he doesn’t have enough to do but many would beg to differ. In addition to filming “Secret Life,” he is also releasing another book from his press in the next three or four months and he just finished writing a script with friend, Ned Vizzini (author of the book It’s Kind of a Funny Story, which was recently adapted into a movie). With these projects in addition to spending time with family and friends, Baumann’s plate seems to have just enough on it to keep his appetite for creativity satiated.