Friday, June 8, 2012

INTERVIEW: Daren Kagasoff Previews 'The Secret Life of the American Teenager'

If THE SECRET LIFE OF THE AMERICAN TEENAGER is an ABC Family institution, Daren Kagasoff (Ricky Underwood) is then certainly a teen-soap icon.

Earlier this week, We love Soaps spoke with Daren who shared his thoughts on Ricky and Amy and their relationship, and previewed some upcoming episodes of SECRET LIFE which begins its fifth season on Monday, June 11 at 8 p.m. ET/PT. He was candid and charming, as usual.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: Could you describe for us, in your own words, Ricky Underwood's current predicament going into the summer?
Daren Kagasoff: Well, last season left off with Ricky proposing to Amy at graduation, so this whole season he's been just wondering, "What is going on?"

Because Amy is kind of postponing the wedding, and she hasn't been as thoughtful, or nice, to me, I don't think, as she had been before. So it's been a difficult road for Ricky. He was hoping, coming back from summer break, that he was going to get married.

It's left him wondering, "Does she want to get married, or is this just a game? What is it?" So fans are going to be excited to see what happens.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: As an actor, what do you see as his motivations this season? Or as we regular folks say, what does Ricky want?
Daren Kagasoff: I think he just wants to be the best guy that he can be, now that he's a dad.

You know, when the show started, I think Ricky was kind of irresponsible, and he didn't really care about anybody but himself. To his credit, he did have a tough childhood, so I think the whole turnaround of the character has been fun to play as an actor, and I look forward to it, everytime we get a new script, to see what they have me doing.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: That heartwarming graduation speech--and then the public proposal--really had us thinking Ricky had become a good boy, but then things kind of changed a little and now we hear that he's thinking about possibly eloping--good boys don't elope! Do you think this might indicate a return of the "bad boy" Ricky we used to know?
Daren Kagasoff: It could--it could. I think this next episode is going to be the big "tell-all" for Ricky and Amy's future. Either we're getting married, or we're not, and I think since day one, when we knew she was pregnant with my baby, that everybody wanted us to stay together, and be the family that we should be.

Hopefully he stays the guy that he's been for the past two seasons, where he's trying to be a better person, and, you know--grow up; mature. So we will see. . . The next episode is going to be the big tell-all, like I said.

WE LOVE SOAPS TV: I've been told by a lot of male actors, especially, that they like playing the villian. Do you miss playing "bad boy" Ricky?
Daren Kagasoff: I do miss playing the "bad boy" because it was a lot of fun--and not that this isn't fun, because it still is. It's just that it's a lot of fun playing the jerk. It just is--and there's no way around it.

Can you talk about how you got involved in the show?
Daren Kagasoff: Like any actor, I auditioned and I actually was one of the last ones to get casted. I never really knew what the show was going to become. I don’t think anybody did and everybody just kind of has been on the ride and we’re just all so thankful that it’s been the success that it has been.

What’s your favorite part about working on the show?
Daren Kagasoff: It’s just such a great work environment. Going to work every day—it doesn’t feel like a job to any of us. We’re all such great friends and we just put as much input as we want in our characters with talking to writers and the producers. So, it’s a very great work environment I can say. So, we all have a blast doing it.

What be in store as far as challenges that “Ricky” and “Amy” will be facing next season.
Daren Kagasoff: Well, the next episode is kind of a big one. I think the “Ricky” and “Amy” fans have kind of been waiting to see if we get married or if we don’t. So, I think the next episode is kind of the lead into the next season. So, you can expect a lot of drama of course, the big answer of are they getting married or are they not, and next season you kind of get to see my character develop with “Nora,” his real mom, a lot, which is actually pretty cool to see since he gets some advice from her rather than giving her advice. So, you kind of see the tables turn in the next season.

Have you been looking into starring into any other roles over the summer maybe in films?
Daren Kagasoff: Yes, I have. There’s a couple of things that I’m looking at. I just need to work them out as far as schedule-wise or if I want to proceed and do them. But yes, there’s a couple of things that I’m interested in doing after Secret Life.

With the proposal weighing on everyone’s mind, what do you think is the best option for “Ricky?”
Daren Kagasoff: It’s hard to say because at the end of the day we are still young kids. We do have a son. So, I think for every family, every situation is different. So, it’s hard to say.

I think everybody wants to see “Ricky” and “Amy” together raise “John” and just be their happy little family, but there are a lot of struggles with “Ricky” going off to college and “Amy” still in high school that they need to deal with. Hopefully they get through that and are mature enough to really take that next step of marriage.

Will things really be over between Adrian and Ricky?
Daren Kagasoff: That’s hard to say. When the show first started, we were together, hooking up. We never were very serious about each other I don’t think. It was more about the sex, I think. That’s what they were making it out to be. And ever since he got “Amy” pregnant at band camp, I think his whole attitude has changed as far as what his values are, what he wants out of life. So, hopefully he doesn’t go back to his ways.

Your character’s past has been one of abuse. Did that inspire you to get involved with the anti-bullying campaign or what did inspire you to get involved with the anti-bullying campaign?
Daren Kagasoff: It kind of happened when I wasn’t shooting too much of Secret Life. We were on hiatus and a lot of stories were popping of teen suicides and I just really wanted to, I don’t know, lend my voice to try and make it relevant, more relevant. So, it’s tough to say. My character’s past has been very bad and he was sexually abused, but I really got involved with that because of the young teens that were taking their lives because of being bullying or whether or not they were gay or not.

It was just a matter of just me wanting to do something positive. I tried to do something with a song. It was just fun. It was a lot of fun to do and it was a great message.

What advice would you give anyone that may be dealing with bullies right now?
Daren Kagasoff: Just to keep your head up high. When I was younger, there were bullies at my high school at well and you just got to keep your head up high, know that it’s just a phase, that it’s going to pass and the stronger you are, the more that they’ll probably stop doing it. So, I feel like bullies like insecure people. So, they go after the weak. So, if you just stay strong and be proud of who you are and what you’re about, people won’t mess with you.

Are there any fellow cast dates you wish you had some more screen time with or maybe that you’ve particularly enjoyed acting alongside as your time playing “Ricky?”
Daren Kagasoff: Yes, of course. Anne Ramsay, she plays “Nora” on my show, I absolutely adore her. I love working with her so much and we do have some scenes together. We haven’t been working as much together on this next season that we’re working on. So, I’m hoping that we get some more meaty scenes. I like doing more meaty stuff and it seems like our storylines always have that type of meat that we’re both looking for that.

I miss that and also probably Greg Finley who plays “Jack” on the show. We don’t get to work together too much because our storylines really crisscross I guess. So, when they do I mean it’s fun. I love working with Greg. He’s a great friend of mine. So, we always have a lot of fun when we actually do have scenes together.

How about any plot lines maybe you wish the show would explore or that you’d be curious to see play out on Secret Life.
Daren Kagasoff: To be honest, I think the writers do a phenomenal job with the storylines. Now, I don’t really know what else I could tell them to do. I think we’ve covered pretty much everything in five seasons that a team could go through. So, I think if I throw out any ideas, they probably have already done it.

What’s next for “Ricky?” Like will we be seeing “Ricky,” the college years? Will he continue working at the butcher shop?
Daren Kagasoff: “Ricky” has the butcher shop in store for him. He’s got college in store for him. I said it before, “Amy’s” still going to be in high school. She’s going to be graduating, I believe, at the end of this season. So, we’re going to see if “Ricky” and “Amy” can stay together while he goes away and she’s there and meeting new people in college. Some new characters come up and some new characters come back in “Amy’s” life.

I think the audience is going to be excited about the next episode to see if they say yes, if they go through with the wedding and if we do, how are we going to cope with that - with my being in college and her still being in high school and still being so young.

Did you ever see your character developing the way he has - becoming a great father and class valedictorian?
Daren Kagasoff: No, I never saw that coming. It came from about a mile away. When the show started, I was kind of the jerk and didn’t take any responsibility for myself and just kind of wanted to sleep around and now my character it seems will be taking a full 360. So, I remember getting that script when “Ben” had told me I’d be valedictorian. I couldn’t believe it because there’s no way in hell when I was in school I was anywhere close to valedictorian. So, it was pretty fun. It was cool.

Are there any guest stars that you’d really like to see on the show that you haven’t worked with?
Daren Kagasoff: Wow. It’s tough to say because I don’t think anybody that I would want to be on the show would come on the show because they’re probably too busy doing their movies and stuff. James Franco, I’m a big fan of him, and you guys did General Hospital. So, he might be able to come on Secret Life.

How you most like and most different from your character?
Daren Kagasoff: I think in order to get cast in roles, you got to be somewhat similar to the character. I think “Ricky” and I have some similarities and a lot of differences. I mean a similarity I can say is I’m a very vulnerable person. I kind of hold my feelings on my chest and I don’t think “Ricky” ever used to do that. He was always one to keep it inside and let it build up and then kind of just let it out.

And now, it seems like he’s up front. He’s telling “Amy” how he feels about her, what he wants. It’s a big change; it’s a big step for him.

Your character “Ricky” has become a good father to “John.” Has the show influenced your ideas about parenting?
Daren Kagasoff: One hundred percent. I grew up in a family where my parents had been together for like 28 years. I’m very lucky that my family has been so stable since I was a kid. I’ve always wanted kids since I was younger. I always did, but I guess working with “John,” not that he’s not—he’s amazing. They’re amazing boys, but it makes me realize that, hey, one mistake can change your entire life.

Eventually, yes, I would love to have kids, but I don’t think right now, even at 24-years-old, am I ready to have a child. So, thinking that “Ricky” at 18 and “Amy” at 17 or they had the baby at 15 and 16 having a baby, I mean I just couldn’t even imagine it. It’s got to be absolutely just—my heart goes out to anybody that is going through a teen pregnancy or went through a teenage pregnancy.

What kind of father, if you decide to have children, do you think you would be?
Daren Kagasoff: I hope I’d be a great dad. I mean I hope I’d be a great data. That’s all I can ask for. Luckily for me, I grew up with a great father. He was amazing to me. So, I guess follow in his footsteps and raise my kid the way he raised me.

What would be your dream acting job?
Daren Kagasoff: I haven’t done a movie yet, so I would love to do a film and somewhere probably outside of Los Angeles would be ideal and just something that is where you watch it you feel. I’m not necessarily into the big budget movies or any of that stuff. The next project I do I want it to be gritty, raw and real. That’s all I can say. Maybe an independent movie is in my future.

Do you have like any favorite genre of movies?
Daren Kagasoff: I like them all. It depends on how I’m feeling that day I think. I’m a movie buff.

Since working on the show, what have you learned about yourself that you’re surprised to find out?
Daren Kagasoff: What I have learned about myself? I guess a lot. The business of being an actor is a very weird business. When you’re working, everything is good. When you’re not, it’s kind of like, “Wow, what do I need to do to get better?” You’re always striving to do more and sometimes you’re on a show—we’re in our fifth season. It’s kind of difficult to show up every day, not that any of us don’t because we all show up every day and do the best job that we can, but when you’re playing the same character after five years, it’s hard to find new things about him and keep it fresh.

I guess the thing that I found with myself with playing this character over the years is that you can’t give up on him regardless of how many times you’ve gone over the same storyline with other characters. You just got to keep at it because at the end of the day, the fans are the only people that you have. If you don’t have the fans then you don’t have the show.

I think it’s just always showing up ready to play and knowing your lines and just having good work ethic. I mean that’s one thing that I really try to have every time I’m on that set - knowing my lines and not holding up anybody. So, I guess just being a professional.

Why is it important for you to be a part of Twitter and interact with your fans?
Daren Kagasoff: I think it’s important to let fans know what you’re up to, what you’re doing. I’m not saying on a daily basis, but I think it’s good. I think people want to know not necessarily that I’m eating a turkey sandwich, but it’s just good. If I have anything to promote, like, for example, about the bullying, anti-bullying; if there’s something that’s good that’s going to send out a good message, I’m all for it. I’m one of those people that kind of Tweet dumb stuff and I really try not to, but to be honest, just because my actor doesn’t mean my life is crazy, crazy, exciting all the time. I mean I’m just like everybody else.

It’s a lot of fun to be able to connect with your fans and know how they’re feeling, know what’s on their mind as far as storylines and what they want. So, maybe you can kind of go back and brainstorm with the writers and say, “Hey, I’m getting a bunch of Tweets that “Amy” and “Ricky” should be getting married. Can we kind of go towards that way?” So, it’s good. Social media is great.

What would you like to say to everybody who is a fan and supporter of you and your work?
Daren Kagasoff: What would I want to say? Thank you so much. I mean I got into working as an actor just to make people feel. I don’t know. So, I portray something that somebody’s been through and people, whether or not they’ve been through it, just I want people to be able to relate to me. I want to be likable. So, I’m just thankful that I have any fans and thankful to be on a show that’s going over 100 episodes now. It’s been a dream come true.

Kevin Mulcahy Jr. is a Harvard alum who is currently working as a staff contributor at writing theater and web series reviews as well as other in-depth features. Read all his Web Series reviews here. To contact Kevin, email [email protected].

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