'The Secret Life of the American Teenager': Creator Brenda Hampton reflects on five wonderful seasons

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My favorite scene for Francia and Ken was in a later episode when Adrian and Ben fought over dismantling the nursery. Ken had gone from playing a freshman kid with a crush on a girl to a man suffering the loss of a child, and Francia was no longer just thriving in her comfort zone as the high-school bad girl,. She was exploding into this more complicated role where both her anger and her need to be loved rose to the surface. Francia and Ken were both already really good actors when they came in to the show, and both were amazingly better by the time we wrapped.

Secret: Francia was recently the “best man” at Allen Evangelista’s (Henry) wedding.

Another secret: I’m one of the sponsors for Ken Baumann’s dad, Bob, who races at the Bonneville Salt Flats. I really believe Bob is going to break a world record in his ’79 Chevy Camaro, the Brendavision Special. Someone should write a movie about Bob. Maybe Ken. He’s a writer too, you know.

Really, it was like a second family, the cast and crew of Secret Life. We spent so much time together and the years went by so quickly!

I remember the day Megan Park walked into the room to read for the part of Grace. Usually there’s some conversation so the actor can settle in, relax, get comfortable, but she entered in character, in the scene, and made me laugh out loud with the first words out of her mouth. Megan is a very funny woman. She and Greg Finley (Jack) made me laugh a lot, both on and off the set. Greg was just perfect as the ever-failing Christian athlete. And some of the funniest times we had on set were with the actor — Luke Zimmerman — who played Grace’s brother, Tom. He was only supposed to have a few lines here and there, play the Greek chorus to the wacky Christian family, but he was so good, we loved coming up with stories for him, and I’m going to miss working with him.

Secret: I loosely modeled the character of Grace after my niece, who is a Christian and was a cheerleader in high school. But unlike Grace, my niece stuck to her commitment not to have sex until marriage.

By the way, I don’t know which one of you posted the pictures of Josie Bissett (Kathleen) with the song “Stacy’s Mom,” but we loved that! Could Josie be any more beautiful than she is? Wow. And such a nice woman. And funny too. And a mom in real life, juggling raising two kids with working on our show and writing children’s books. I just wish we had gotten George and Kathleen together sooner. Those two have great chemistry and comedic timing. My favorite scene with the two of them is coming up this season.

Secret: Mark Derwin gets his sense of humor from his hilarious Irish mom, who was a favorite visitor to the set.

I really hope the audience is going to stay tuned for George’s final words of wisdom this season, when Amy’s final-final-final decision comes down to the wire. This follows my favorite scene of the entire series, the confrontation between Ricky and Amy where they’re both going to admit the truth. About everything.

Before¬†Shailene Woodley (Amy) ever walked into the room to audition, I looked at her headshot, looked at Peter Pappas, who we can all thank for casting this show, and I said, “She looks like a star.” And after reading for the role of Amy, when Shailene left the room, I said “She is a star.” So no, I was not surprised when her agent called asking if she could be released to co-star in a film with George Clooney. We found a way to write the story to the actor, as we do so many times in television — whether we’re forced by an outside situation or not. Shailene wanting to leave for the film became the parallel for Amy. From the day we got the call.

And what about Daren Kagasoff? What can I tell you about our Ricky? When we were on location, crowds of girls would find us and they’d scream his name with an enthusiasm not unlike that of girls meeting the Beatles at the airport. Ricky mania! He’s got “It,” whatever “It” is, and he’s got “It” in spades. He’s immensely talented, he’s a hard worker, and he’s a kind man. He was off-book every rehearsal for every scene for every episode for five seasons. He never used sides, ever. That’s commitment.

Secret: Daren’s brother Justin, whose been an extra on the show, has Fragile X syndrome. Daren learned empathy for others and got his big heart from growing up with his brother, so really, he owes his acting career to Justin.

Secret: Justin’s favorite character on the show is Jack.

Shailene’s and Daren’s best scene will be the last scene that they do together as Amy and Ricky, so…

Stay tuned, please. And thank you for watching for five seasons. And thank you ABC Family for putting us on the air and for giving me the best job I ever had and allowing me to give the same to our cast and crew.

Read more:
‘The Secret Life of the American Teenager’ on EW’s PopWatch


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