ABC Family’s Q&A Session with Francia Raisa & Ken Baumann of “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” (J!-ENT Interviews and Articles)
June 3, 2011 by Dennis Amith
Images courtesy of ABC Family
With the final episode of the third season of “The Secret Life of the American Teenager” (now available on DVD) surprising audiences with a tragic ending, there is no doubt that life will change for the characters of teenagers and husband and wife, Ben (played by Kenny Baumann) and Adrian (played by Francia Raisa).
For those not familiar with the characters, in the third season of “The Secret Life of the American Teenager”, to make things short without getting overly complicated, Ben was dating Amy. Amy has a son with a guy named Ricky, who was once a playboy but is now starting to take responsibility and become a father. Ricky also had a sexual relationship with Adrian.
As Ricky started to take responsibility as the father of his baby and getting closer with Amy, this created at atmosphere of jealousy between Ben towards Amy and Adrian towards Ricky. So, being the mischievous teenager that she is, Adrian wanted to get some payback and get Ricky jealous, so she came up with a plan and end up sleeping with Ben as a form of revenge.
Unfortunately, Adrian’s plan didn’t quite work as she became pregnant.
But the repercussions from what Adrian and Ben did was that Ben lost Amy, Adrian lost Ricky and now Ricky and Amy became a couple.
As for Ben and Adrian, the unlikely couple, braced for the birth of their child and taking responsibility for their actions, they got married.
So, throughout the latter half of season three, we get to see how life has changed for Ben and Adrian through her pregnancy. But on the season finale, something tragic happens one night to Ben and Adrian and their lives will never be the same.
Recently, ABC Family held a Q&A session for media with Francia Raisa and Ken Baumann to discuss the emotional episode and the their characters from “The Secret Life of the American Teenager”.
Moderator Can you talk about how the loss of Adrian’s baby affects your characters.
F. Raisa Sure. Adrian was really just all about having this baby. Her whole life revolved around it right now. She’s had a baby shower, she is getting married, she is starting a new life, and then for all that to be just be crashing down and I mean, there’s no baby now, so, it really affects her. It affected me as well to shoot the episode. It’s something that I’d hope never to witness again.
K. Baumann It was rough. It’s a material that as actors we feel very lucky to take on because it is such a challenge, and represents an experience that you don’t often see on TV. So you feel lucky to be able to portray that, and give those people, who had the unfortunate experience, give them some representation, make them feel like they’re thought of, too. But at the same time, it takes an emotional toll on you. You’ve been just living in that situation for a short amount of time, it’s rough, it’s terrible. Nobody wants that to happen. So, yes, it was both strenuous and really pretty incredible opportunity. Ben was devastated as anyone would be, and he’s going to have to struggle for quite a long time to recover.
Moderator How does the loss of the baby affect the dynamic between Adrian and Ben, Amy and Ricky?
K. Baumann Well, regardless at the very beginning before this event, it’s a pretty tricky situation, but I would say that it both kind of settles any disputes or conflicts they have just temporarily because everyone kind of bonds together in grief, paradoxically enough. But at the same time, once Adrian and Ben are trying to recover, it gets pretty nasty. And naturally, you’re going to have two people who are stricken by grief, and they’re going to look to make themselves feel better, and that may involve trying to reach back into the past, and go back to how it was once was, and reignite old loves and all that stuff. So, it gets even more convoluted, but temporarily, like I said, everybody comes together in this tragic event, which is very, very painful and bittersweet.
Moderator So in a sense, are they trying to bring others down into their misery with them?
K. Baumann Yes. I don’t know if they are attempting to, but it certainly just happens. I think they’re like little black holes for a while. Like I said, however the course, it’s going to happen, but it certainly makes good television, I think.
Moderator If you could both go back to 2008 when Secret Life first began, and give us that one piece of advice with what you know now, what would you tell your other self?
K. Baumann That is a good question. I would say, as a human being, I would tell myself to tell Daren Kagasoff to stop buying sneakers because he has a problem, and then as an actor performing on Secret Life, I don’t know. I don’t know if I’d have anything to tell myself. It’s been a really kind of a wonderful journey, and I’d really gotten to know and bond with all my castmates, and everybody is great and I love them all, and you know, just kind of a large one big happy family. I don’t know. I think I would stay mum, I’d keep quiet. It’s been great.
F. Raisa Yes, I don’t think there’s anything I’d tell myself as an actor performing on Secret Life. We’ve all worked very hard since day one to what it is today. I’ve really no advice I’d give myself except prepare for all the emotional drama that’s coming.
Moderator Do each of you have a soapy, sort of guilty pleasure television show that you like to watch on a regular basis?
F. Raisa I’m obsessed with Grey’s Anatomy. That’s my show. I’m obsessed with Grey’s Anatomy and Desperate Housewives, and like most ABC shows and soapy, oh gosh, I watch a lot of Spanish soap operas, that’s my guilty pleasure.
K. Baumann You know, I watched the first two seasons of Jersey Shore and then I kind of got over it, but I’ve got to say, now, I am obsessed with Breaking Bad. I think that show is incredible, and it’s really kind of sick how many, like I would sit down for eight to ten hours at a time and watch, you know, eight episodes. So, it’s a bit scary how much I watch that show.
Moderator Francia, let me ask you, Adrian’s realization that she has very few friends has really fueled the last few episodes, and then we saw the end of the baby shower episode that more people than she realized are actually in her life, and I was wondering with everything that’s going on, does Adrian start to foster these friendships, or do they not really affect her, and she just goes back to be more of a loner?
F. Raisa Yes. Adrian was carrying the baby for nine months and she really felt emotionally attached to it. Like I said, her whole personality and her whole character changed into this welcoming person, and she felt blessed that everything was coming together in her life: her family; her friendships; educations; and then it all just came crashing down. So she becomes very angry and bitter, and she just wants to be left alone, and handle her own sorrows. Even if people try to come and try to be there for her, she just wants to be left alone. She just becomes, I guess, some sort of a loner again, and doesn’t really want to accept anyone because all she wants to do is grieve about her baby.
Moderator Can you share anything you did special to prepare for such an emotional episode?
F. Raisa Yes, I didn’t know what to do. I was trying to listen to some really depressing music, and the best thing that I could have done is I went on YouTube and I typed in stillbirth and there was a few videos that popped up, and there was one in particular, I think it’s the first one that comes up when you research it, and it’s about a couple who actually went through what my character goes through. You see the woman pregnant and how happy they are and the whole process of waiting for her to be born, and then you see them hold their dead child and you see her in a coffin and you see pictures of her, and you just see the whole family just crying and grieving. So, yes, that sold me, and that’s how I prepared for it, and the song that they added in the video I had on my iPod and I just listened to it over and over again. The flashbacks of that baby just sticks and came back into my head every time they called action.
Moderator Adrian is a very interesting character. On one hand she is resident bad girl, and on the other, she has high grades. So how are you similar and different to Adrian?
F. Raisa It’s funny. I always tell people that my character sometimes bleeds into my life. I am very similar to her in the fact that I am very sassy and I can have my little attitude sometimes. I’m a good student in school but I don’t ever consider myself this sort of bad girl. I didn’t have the life that Adrian had growing up. She kind of came from a broken home where she didn’t have a father at first and her mother didn’t really want anything to do with her in the beginning. So she traveled, trying to forget that she was a mother and just wanted to live her own life. She was sort of seeking love and the only way she could was through sex, but at the same time, she wanted to be smart and she did want a good future for herself, so she focused on school.
So, I think Adrian is a very smart character; she is just emotionally drained and sensitive, and she was just trying to find some sort of good support system. I understand her because in this world and stuff in this industry, it’s hard to have a good support system. I can be a little bit sensitive sometimes, and put myself in situations that I wish I hadn’t; and so in that sense, I can relate to her.
But at the same time, I feel like I have good common sense and I am smart in a fact where I’ve got to do something about my problems, and put forward in my future rather than just putting myself down and cry about it.
Moderator We hear you dad is the number one DJ in L.A. What type of music did you grow up listening to and who are you listening to these days?
F. Raisa I grew up listening to every Spanish music you can think of because my dad played like, mariachi, cumbias, salsas, every Spanish music. And then nowadays, I’m still attached to it because I did grow up listening to it. So, I listen to a lot of Spanish R&B, and I’ve been listening to a lot of oldies lately, like Sam Cooke and the Righteous Brothers and stuff. I’ve been obsessed. And then I’ve listened to a lot of Adele, and I’m a hip hop dancer, so I do listen to hip hop like really mainly when I’m dancing.
Moderator On more of a lighter note, I know that you had to wear pregnancy padding throughout Adrian’s pregnancy. What was that like and do you miss it at all?
F. Raisa Yes and no. I had a lot of fun wearing it. You know, every girls’ dream is to picture what she would look like pregnant. You know, want to wear something like that every now and then. So, I had fun. It was just like a pillow. It became hot sometimes, so that’s when I hated it, and sometimes it’d be a little too tight, but other than that, it really didn’t bother me. I enjoyed speaking like I was a pregnant woman. I’d be out in the streets and talking about how it was, “six weeks along”, “I’m six months pregnant”. People looked at me like, you’re crazy, you’re not even pregnant. And I would start holding my belly like it was really scratchy, because I would see woman scratch it because it was itchy. So I had fun with it. I was just acting like I was really pregnant and having a little fantasy of my own
Moderator Who can we expect Adrian to turn to and lean on through this devastating event?
F. Raisa You would think she would lean on Kenny or Ben, and I think she does. She takes a lot out on Ben and a lot of her emotions out on Ben. But like I said, when things get tough, she just likes to be alone. But Ben, you know how his character is, and he does everything he can to be there for her.
Moderator You are a few years older than your character and I was wondering if that helps you understand what you’re experiencing, not necessarily with the pregnancy and all the other issues that Adrian has specifically, but just being a few years wiser per se?
F. Raisa Yes. I think being older definitely does help me because I’ve been in high school; I know what the other experiences that she goes through are, with sex and everything. Like being pregnant, I’m around a lot of pregnant women right now, and so I’m educating myself a bit on what it’s like, and the journeys that they have to go through with their pregnancies. I think my mind is a little more open now that I’m older rather than when I was in high school, and you know, that was my life, and I didn’t know any better. Yes, I think it definitely helps a lot because I’ve been in the real world, and I’ve lived an adult life for enough time to like I said, have more of an open mind.
Moderator Before you lost the baby, what would you say was the most difficult part of playing Adrian up to this point, the most challenging storyline per se?
F. Raisa The most challenging storyline I think was when I looking for my father, and I found him and I went to meet him and he rejected me. That was a bit difficult. I had never been through that and I know that’s happened unfortunately in some people’s lives, and trying to put myself in that position and play that character was tough. I mean, you know when the two people that are suppose to love you and be there for you when you’re first born, when you first come out of the womb, are your mom and dad. So to be rejected from that and broken from that, it can be very difficult.
Moderator What was your reaction when you found out that they were making your character pregnant and then finding out that the baby wouldn’t survive?
F. Raisa When I first found out she was pregnant, I was shocked but I was so excited. I was like, “Yay! I get to wear a belly!” I could not wait to put on that stomach. I kept asking when am I going to do it, when is it finally coming. I was very excited, and then when I found out she lost it; I love kids and I was so excited to finally work with a baby and playing with the kids because I always play with Matthew and Joey who played John on the show. I’m always with him when they’re on the set. So I was a little upset and devastated when I found out that there was going to be no baby, but at the same time I was very excited to be able to play this role because it’s probably one of the toughest roles I’ve done since I started acting. So, I appreciated the challenge that the writers gave me, and I can’t believe they trust me to take on such tough material. So in that sense, I was very excited.
Moderator How did they tell you?
F. Raisa I found out when I read the script. They were very good about not telling us. You know, they kept hinting it. They said, “I think she might lose it,” and I was like, “Really?” She’s like, “I’m not sure yet.” So she kept beating around the bush saying she wasn’t sure, she was sure, and then I read the script, and then I was, “Oh, my gosh.” I just started crying when I read it because I had been carrying this, you know it’s fake, but I’ve been seeing myself with a pregnant belly for, I don’t know how many months, and then all of a sudden it’s gone, and there’s no result coming from it.
Moderator I was wondering if Adrian would want to actually be friends with Amy still after losing the baby?
F. Raisa I think Adrian and Amy will always and forever be frienemies. They’re each going to be jealous of something that the other has and I think after losing the baby, Adrian might be a little bitter about the fact that Amy actually received a baby after going through a pregnancy for nine months. I know that Amy is going to do her best to be there for her and try to console her in the best way she can. But like I said, forever will be frienemies because at the end of the day, Adrian stole her man and Amy stole Adrian’s man.
Moderator I was wondering if you think that Ben would go back to try to win Amy back seeing the fact that he loved her first?
K. Baumann I think that desire is going to show up in these upcoming episodes. Again, when I first read the script, the script for June 6th, I thought, I started to think what possibly would be Ben’s future, and I had guessed that that would occur. It pops up in a really interesting ways. In the following episodes, he is stuck in the situation and he is kind of brought down by grief, too, so there’s nothing; he doesn’t really have any sort of impetus to move away from Adrian. He realizes, too, that, at least immediately after they lose baby that, he’s not going anywhere. He’s got to be responsible, and he really doesn’t have the energy to do anything else. But after that, once he starts to recover, yes, there’s certainly that draw, like I said, to go back and kind of relive the past or try to and fail.
Moderator Which Ben do you relate to the most? The shy guy or the more confident, forward guy, and why?
K. Baumann Both. It depends on what day of the week it is. But I’d say mostly the confident Ben. I don’t know, maybe Francia would actually be a better, you know, she could answer this probably more appropriately because she gets to see me and you won’t get my ego influencing this answer, but I would like to say that the confident side. I’m a pretty confident guy. Okay, really confident according to Francia. So, there’s your answer. It’s definitely the confident then.
Moderator Which artists are you listening to these days?
K. Baumann Well, I am listening to right now Buddy Miles, and I’m listening to Tyler, the Creator’s new album, Goblin, and oh boy, I’m like any white boy who listens to a lot of rap and classical musical. I listen to a lot of rap, I listen to, like I said, Buddy Miles have been great recently. I just discovered this guy today, really good kind of electronic music called Com Truise, like Tom Cruise but Com Truise, and that’s really good. I’ve been listening to that all day. But I’m all over the place music-wise.
Moderator Do you have any favorite songs?
K. Baumann Oh, man. That’s a huge question. So many. I would say that anything that the composer Paganini has made. He has composed some beautiful pieces for violin. Favorite song, favorite songs, my Gosh, that is incredibly hard. I’m literally going through my entire catalog of like, I’m trying to limit it down to just like rap music, but I can’t pick a favorite. I can pick times in my life where I had certain songs that really represent experiences but that’s hard. Favorite song is hard. I almost can’t, I can’t answer it. I’m paralyzed.
Moderator Do you have an official Twitter or Facebook fan page?
F. Raisa I have a Twitter handle. It’s @therealfrancia, and as far as fan pages, I haven’t made one personally, but I know that some fans have made it.
K. Baumann I do. I have an official Twitter, it’s just @kenbaumann, and I Tweet pretty compulsively. Yes, you’ll find it.
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