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Hailing from 7th Heaven‘s Brenda Hampton, Secret Life turned heads when it debuted in the summer of 2008. The one-hour drama, featuring breakout star Shailene Woodley, focused on the relationships between families and friends and how they dealt with unexpected teen pregnancies. By no means a critical darling, Secret Life had an audience and its growth in viewership showed that. By the second-season premiere in June 2009, it would attract a series high 4.7 million viewers.
Daren Kagasoff, who plays bad boy Ricky, hopes that viewers will be happy with the way things end for all the characters. “I want them to have a sense of closure,” he tells The Hollywood Reporter. “It’s been five years and the show has had its ups and downs with relationships and people coming on the show and off the show. Of course, you want the audience to be happy, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do to make TV exciting.”
THR also exclusively debuts a tense scene between Amy (Woodley) and Ricky as they encounter Ben (Ken Baumann) in the school hallway. To say Ben won’t go away easily is an understatement. (Watch the scene above.)
Kagasoff talks to THR about starring on Secret Life (his first big Hollywood gig), the final day on set, whether Ricky/Amy fans will be happy with their resolution and what’s next.
The Hollywood Reporter: The Secret Life of the American Teenager was your first big gig. What have the past few years been like?
Daren Kagasoff: It’s been an amazing journey for me. I think everybody in the cast when we first signed on to do the show, nobody knew how big of a success it was going to be. And now coming up to the finale of five seasons and more than 120 episodes later, it’s crazy. As an actor, you just want to be working and I’m just so thankful for that time.
THR: When you were going through the audition process, what was that like for you?
Kagasoff: This was like my sixth audition ever. I never acted before. I went in and read, and ended up reading for the creator of the show. I must have read five, six times after that. It came down to Brenda Hampton, who made the final decision of giving me the part, because the network wasn’t too fond of me at the time. I was pretty green. It was a pretty substantial character in the show and I don’t think they necessarily trusted me with the material, but Brenda did. She fought for me and said she wasn’t going to do the show without me, so that’s how I got the job. It was basically because of her.
THR: Did she share any particular reasons why she was gravitating toward you for Ricky?
Kagasoff: She never really got into that with me. She just said that it’s a feeling. When [Shailene Woodley] walked in and read for her role, the second she saw her, she knew she was the girl. It’s a feeling you get. You could have a hundred actors reading for one part and they could all be spectacular but one sticks out for some reason.
THR: How do you think you’ve evolved as an actor after playing a character for such a long time?
Kagasoff: Being on the set, in general, you grow that way. Being around it, watching people work. We had a lot of guest stars, a lot of people who had been working for a long time; watching the other actors act. I take my craft and work very seriously so it wasn’t like after I left the set I screwed around. It was the grind for five years.
THR: Do you have favorite on-set moments?
Kagasoff: Probably the most fond memory was when I got the job, I didn’t know. Brenda Hampton came to my parents’ house in an Escalade with a dozen roses telling me I got the job. I had no idea she was coming. It was a complete surprise. The finale episode was amazing because everybody knew this was the last time we were all going to be together so it was an emotional thing.
THR: What was that final day like?
Kagasoff: Very emotional. It was a different tone from the other episodes because I think we knew we were done. The way that Brenda wrote this final episode is heartbreaking. I remember reading it and [I had] that sense of, “It’s really over.” Everybody was really serious. We wanted to do the best work because in this business, you never know what your next job is going to be. You’re only as good as your last project, so right now I’m only as good as my last episode on Secret Life.
THR: A lot of the fans wanted to know if Ricky and Amy will ultimately have a happy ending. Are they going to be happy with how their story is resolved?
Kagasoff: You know, it’s hard to say. Throughout the years, everyone has been rooting for Ricky and Amy to be together and end up together and I can’t say if they do or if they don’t. All I can say is I was very happy with the way Brenda decided to end the show. We were told in such a short amount of time that we weren’t doing another season so the writers had to scramble and come up with an ending that satisfied the characters and the audience members. I was very happy with the ending. Very, very happy. Some people might not be, but I was happy.
THR: Was the end of Ricky’s story the way you had imagined it?
Kagasoff: No, it definitely wasn’t how I imagined it. After shooting it, it seemed like it was the right thing to do and I get why they went the route that they did.
THR: What do you hope viewers will take away from the series finale?
Kagasoff: I want them to have a sense of closure. It’s been five years and the show has had its ups and downs with relationships and people coming on the show and off the show. Of course, you want the audience to be happy, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do to make TV exciting.
THR: What do you hope people remember about the show 10 or 20 years down the line?
Kagasoff: Just knowing that I met some of the greatest people who have become some of my best friends and I’ll always have that. Great people, great learning experience and I’ll always have Secret Life under my belt.
THR: What are your plans for finale night?
Kagasoff: My parents called me and they said that they would love to watch the finale with me, so I’m going to watch it with them on Monday.
THR: You were cast in the Fox pilot Delirium, which didn’t make it to series. What’s next for you?
Kagasoff: There are a couple of things I’m looking at. After doing Delirium, I got to see it and it turned out absolutely amazing. The only thing I’m mad about is my fans don’t get to see me in another light. Now it’s finding the next thing. My main focus is doing stuff I’m passionate about and that I want to do.
The Secret Life of the American Teenager airs its series finale at 8 p.m. Monday on ABC Family.
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