Oct. 3 (UPI) -- Jonathan Bennett, aka Aaron Samuels to diehard Mean Girls fans, said there's one particular aspect of the new romantic comedy Surprise Me! that he relates to -- and it's about food.
Bennett, 38, has made food a cornerstone of his career, with Food Network hosting credits including Cupcake Wars, Cake Wars and Halloween Wars, which recently kicked off its latest season.
Bennett told UPI in a recent interview that his off-camera relationship to food is not unlike that of the protagonist in Surprise Me!, which is available on video on-demand platforms Friday. The film follows Genie (Fiona Guberlmann), a party planner torn between her best friend Danny (Bennett) and mysterious new love interest Jeff (Sean Faris).
Genie uses food to deal with her stress -- a trait Bennett said mirrors his own life.
"I eat my feelings all the time," Bennett said. "I constantly live between going and working out real hard, and then going home and feeling bad about myself and then eating my feelings and having to work out again."
The film is the latest in a string of romantic comedy leads for Bennett, including TV films on the Hallmark Channel, Lifetime and UPtv. Bennett said he sees the genre as a means of helping people escape from the negativity in the world.
"I just love romantic comedies, I think they're so much fun," he said. "I think there's enough crappy stuff going in the world that I enjoy making content that takes people away from bad things and lets them have a nice two hours of laughing."
The actor said he isn't worried about being typecast in the genre.
"Everyone says 'cornering yourself' and I think that's the dumbest thing ever," he said. "You go where the amazing jobs are. And if you're doing a job you like, you're not cornering yourself."
'Mean Girls' forever
Bennett's romantic lead career began in 2004's Mean Girls, the Tina Fey-penned and Mark Waters-directed comedy that has gone on to achieve cult classic status, with legions of devoted fans. The role of Samuels, good-natured love interest of Cady (Lindsay Lohan), has followed Bennett ever since.
"There was a moment in my life where I realized Mean Girls isn't just a movie, it's a part of people's lives. I decided to just lean into it, because if I can help spread happiness with a movie that everyone loves, why not do it?" Bennett said.
Bennett released The Burn Cookbook: An Unofficial Unauthorized Cookbook for Mean Girls Fans in 2018 and a Mean Girls-inspired line of Pride-themed clothing in June of this year. Bennett stepped back into the Samuels role in late 2018 for pop star Ariana Grande's "Thank U, Next" music video, an experience Bennett said was like traveling back in time.
"Aaron Samuels is such a big part of my life and then to just become him again, it was like I was hanging out with an old friend," he said.
The actor said he wouldn't be partaking in any celebrations for this year's Mean Girls Day -- a fan holiday observed Thursday due to an exchange where Cady tells Aaron the date -- but he has a good excuse.
"I'm actually going to be filming a new TV show with Shonda Rhimes on Oct. 3," Bennett said. "I can't say which one."
Bennett's rise to fame in Mean Girls was followed up with a recurring role on cult teen detective series Veronica Mars, where he played rich kid turned cult recruit Casey Gant. The Kristen Bell-starring series recently returned for a long-awaited fourth season on Hulu, and if a potential fifth season happens to bring Casey back to Neptune, Bennett has an idea of where character might be today.
"Definitely he would be in some kind of CBD cult," he said with a laugh. "Selling CBD, something like that."
Much of Bennett's time is dedicated to Halloween Wars, one of several cooking contests he hosts for the Food Network.
"I have never seen pumpkins or sugar or cakes like this before," Bennett said of the new season. "And our guest judges are some of the biggest stars in Hollywood. We have cast members from Stranger Things, Walking Dead, Twilight -- all the biggest stars."
The hosting job gives Bennett something he doesn't get from his film career -- the opportunity to be himself on screen.
"I love being me. I think it's so much fun. I feel like Jonathan -- the quirky, crazy, silly Jonathan is more interesting than any character anyone's ever written for me," he said.
Bennett said he is hoping his "next role" might be as the star of his own cooking show, although he's in no hurry to write another cookbook.
"I don't think I'm going to write another cookbook for a while, because that was exhausting. One cookbook's enough," he said.
Other potential projects Bennett said he would like to pursue include a multi-camera sitcom and hosting a game show.
In the meantime, Bennett said he and boyfriend James Vaughan are busy at home with their new puppy, Yasss.
"He's so cute, he's so much fun, he's the best thing that ever happened to us. He's literally the perfect dog," Bennett said. "My favorite trick he does is 'pose for the camera.' We say 'pose for the camera' and he falls down on his back and opens all his legs, it's very funny."
Surprise Me! is out Friday on video on-demand platforms. Halloween Wars airs Sunday nights on the Food Network.