I recently was able to do an Interview with Actor Ken Baumann. For those of you who do not know who he is he is an actor best known for playing Ben on the hit TV show “The Secret Life Of the American Teenager.” Ken was diagnosed with Crohn’s in 2012 and had to have bowel surgery at that point while in the midst of filming the TV show. I reached out to Ken while I was in the hospital last month he gladly agreed to do an interview with me. He answered questions, we videoed and he also sent a video just telling who he is! I asked him three simple questions related to his illness.
1. When were you diagnosed with Crohn’s Disease?
2. How did it affect you and your acting career?
3. What advice would you give someone with IBD whose pursuing something as stressing such as an acting career or just a high stress career in general?
Here is his response:
1. I was diagnosed with Crohn’s around April of 2012, so I’m a relatively fresh Crohnie.
2. Well, when I was diagnosed, I was in the midst of filming episodes of The Secret Life of the American Teenager. I’d been feeling awful—losing weight, running a high fever, limping—and so Mariana Fayman, a wonderful PA at Cedars-Sinai’s gastroenterology department, commanded that I go to the ER. Turns out I had a huge abscess on my psoas muscle that had formed via a hole in my small intestine. I had no idea; Mariana might’ve saved my life. Because I was in such horrible shape, I had to undergo a couple surgeries. The second surgery, a small bowel resection, required a month of recovery at home. I couldn’t work, but Brenda Hampton, my boss at the time, was incredibly generous and concerned about my wellbeing, and so managed to reorganize the show’s production schedule to accommodate my monthlong recovery. Not many bosses are as understanding and generous as Brenda, so I lucked out. After I recovered, I went back to work and finished out the season. But the question lingered: would going public with my having Crohn’s be detrimental to my career? To me, though, this was a silly question, in that I figured that the opportunity to comfort a bunch of IBD sufferers via making it less of a stigma and by saying, “Hey: I’m sick too! Don’t be ashamed”, would FAR outweigh the possibility that I might find less work as an actor because of my non-stable guts. I’m so glad I made the decision to speak about my experience with Crohn’s, and about IBD in general.
3. Good question. You know, I like to keep my advice negative (so as to avoid being a charlatan who isn’t exposed to the harm that might arise if positive advice I doled out wound up backfiring): don’t let your stress become so real as to feel like a monster that can’t be slain. Try to remind yourself that, no matter how stressful your career might seem, that you, like everyone else, have to die; let this reminder of your mortality shrink your current stresses by putting them in a proper, long-term perspective. Your career—your work—need not define you; who you are when you’re with your friends and family and when you’re interacting with the myriad strangers on the street, that is the person that you properly are. To put it really simply: don’t believe that your career—as an artist, lawyer, actor, writer, doctor, or whatever—will be the boon that will pave your life into one smooth beautiful road. And good luck.
He was extremely kind and humble and had some great advice! Ken is married and is still doing some acting and writing books and he also runs a non-profit foundation. He is an awesome person and very encouraging when it comes to living with IBD.