Austin Basis – Beauty and the Beast
By: Lisa Steinberg
Q) What are the recent projects that you are working on?
A) Right now, it’s “Beauty and the Beast,” but I’m constantly creating, writing and developing my own stuff while auditioning for other peoples’ projects.
Q) Where do we pick up with the show and with JT?
A) We pick up in the honeymoon portion of Vincent (Jay Ryan) and Catherine’s (Kristin Kreuk) relationship. They just got married at the end of Season Three and at the beginning of Season Four we find them on their honeymoon. I don’t want to spoil anything, but from the trailer they are in Paris and everyone else kind of got back to their normal lives. I think half the group is content with this new chapter in their lives and half are not content. They are not necessarily feeling fulfilled with the buzz or high of adrenaline that comes with life and death circumstance. JT is one of those people who feels he isn’t fulfilling his greater purpose in this world by being a professor at the university. His relationship with Tess (Nina Lisandrello) is moving forward and they are possibly moving into together. He still wonders where he fits and belongs in this new chapter in life and whether or not his greater purpose will be realized. This effects his relationship with Tess. It kind of puts a holding pattern on their relationship moving forward and that is a back and forth throughout the season along with all of the things happening in the “beast world” like bounty hunters and possibility of exposure. I think fans have realized that after a while in today’s modern world of cell phones and cameras, the possibility that people finding out about a beast being in this world has increased exponentially. In Season Four, we hear rumblings of that and start to deal with it in that will hopefully keep the “genie in the bottle.” Or the beast in the bottle!
Q) The show seems to be packing so much into this season and going to a lot of darker places.
A) I don’t know if in the beginning of this season we knew it would be the last season. So, the set up of the season was this new bounty hunter, new people and possibly government entities hunting down the last beast in the world. Exposure had to be dealt with because of today’s culture anything can happen in a camera culture. In getting thirteen episodes this season (as opposed to the first seasons where there were twenty-two episodes) there is less time to fill space. There are episodes in every show, whether it be twenty two or twenty four episodes, that are just filler. It’s really hard and people take it forgranted with cable shows how hard it is to do twenty-two or so episodes. So, when you have thirteen episodes and the luxury of cable TV format, not only will every episode be filled with action and character stuff but you don’t have to waste time coming up with alternate storylines that distract from the ultimate main storyline you are telling. These last thirteen episodes will be a rollercoaster ride and I have said it before that there will be a few of episodes that will stand up to the best episodes we have done. I think when all is said and done, they will live in the fans’ memories as some of their favorite episodes.
Q) What has been your favorite part of JT’s character development?
A) I feel like JT’s integrity has never been violated. I think characters and stories need to expand, especially if a show lacks years or seasons. They start stretching the capabilities of the characters and who those characters are. I feel like with JT; however, his character has changed over the years his integrity has always remained intact and his integrity is totally embedded in his loyalty to Vincent, Cat, Tess and the greater good in general. And Heather (Nicole Gale Anderson) too! There was a big episode in Season Three where JT kind of became the hero to Heather’s journey and protected her like an older brother. The integrity and loyalty of JT and the courage that a character like this (who initially on first introduction) was the comic relief/ confident to the main character. Through the timeline, he was there to do the pep talk speeches to Vincent. He was allowed by the writers, network, etc. to become a little more three dimensional. On procedurals and other shows, there are guys in the tech world that do research or are in the lab (like CSI work, field work or computer work) that stay within that world for the most part. JT has been allowed to have a love interest that far exceeds the level of girls he might go out with. He’s dating a hot cop! [laughs] He’s had the ability to step into the hero shoes every so often and be the loyal wingman to the show’s main male character. The layers and the sides to the character that have played out over the series I’m definitely grateful to have played that because as you go off and read new roles and audition, it may have some of those elements but it doesn’t have all of those elements of that character.
Q) What were some of your favorite episodes this season?
A) It has been a pleasure and a privilege to play a character like that and it comes in at episode four. He really puts himself out there in the line of fire in a different way. I think it will be fun and revealing for him as a person. As an actor, it gave me more to work with and a new situation to play. It’s always fun to be in new situations on a TV show. In Season One or Two, I found myself in similar situations. Lately though, I haven’t had to do that on the show. It’s been a bit of a roller-coaster in the sense that I don’t have to worry about repeating myself or find myself playing the same thing that has already been played. So, in episode four, JT has adventures and really has some fun in the field (let’s just say). Episodes four, twelve and thirteen are great JT episodes. Also, episode three is a great JT episode and there are a couple episodes between five and twelve where JT has his moments. Even the finale! Episode and five and twelve may stand the test of time where the fans will respond to with, “Oh my gosh!” Between exposure (in every sense of the word) the fans will like it. There is beast exposure and exposure-exposure. Because of last season (especially in episode twelve) references to how far the characters have come and where they come from. It’s that history of the show without doing a montage episode of the best moments from the show. It incorporates it into the season’s arc and allows you to be in the present conflict while kind of harkening back to these moments of episodes past that have held up as fan favorite moments, but also pivotal moments in the course of the series. I think between exposure and nostalgia and those wow moments (and maybe aha moments) this season I think are what the fans take away from it.
Q) What have you discovered about yourself or your craft from being a part of the show?
A) The simplest thing is how long it takes me to memorize a scene. Early on, because of the re-write process and how long it takes the studio, network and writers to get through all the drafts of the script and get it approved – some cases we would get the final scripts the day before we shot them. The script you have to memorize. So, between with getting done with one day of work and then going home and memorizing all of the next day’s episodes scenes I’ve had several days throughout the last few scenes where I’ve had upwards of five scenes to memorize the night before because we got the script late. I’d get home at 11pm and knowing there are five scenes that are forty-five minutes per scene and an hour and a half every two page scene. So, that would be about four to five hours. I figured out how long it takes to memorize a scene and also that the ability to kind of give over to the process in those situations. Everyone knows you have short time and maybe there will be a day where we get one or two takes per shot set up. So, there is a bit more freedom and less pressure on yourself. They may be better work too because you’ll be more relaxed. If I have a short time with scripts, it’s taught me to sometimes it is better to let it go and give over to the moment and trust that your work will be there independent of you holding onto the handlebars and controlling every moment.
Q) Will the fans be satisfied with the ending of “Beauty and The Beast?”
A) I hope so! It’s interesting because there are certain ways certain shows end. Sometimes it is taboo. There is always a sense of closure, but whether that closure can lead to an enjoyment into the future of the series that is part of how our series ends. Hopefully, the fans will be able to take after the series ends into the future the enjoyment of watching the entire series and continue watching it whether it is watching it in reruns (syndication) or on DVD. The ability for the fans to have that enjoyment after the series ends I guarantee there will be tears shed and sometimes there is joy and sometimes non-joyful tears. It will be emotional because it is the last episode and because of the emotional rollercoaster the writers have always put us on. DVR it because you are going to want to watch it again and again!
Q) JT has been quite a fan favorite from the start. What do you attribute that to?
A) I feel I’ve been lucky enough to get cast as characters that come from an every-man’s perspective and generally tend to be the voice of reason. That voice of reason is usually the thought process of the audience. In this weird wacky world of beasts, sci-fi and mythology and all the other things that have come into play, you have a scientist computer hacker guy with a somewhat cynical sense of humor bringing a sense of realism and connection for the audience that sometimes might be disconnected from the fantasy of this beautiful romance. To speak for the audience and kind of be the voice of reason, that the audience can relate to, is something where I kind of feel like I speak for the every man and the normal guy in extraordinary circumstances. He’s that nerd outsider that has been put into these extraordinary situations and had this epic lifestyle thrust upon him, but has always maintained his sense of reality. He kind of always keeps his feet on the ground. His heart and head are in the right direction and I think the fans have recognized that. I’ve tried to put that into the execution of the role so I could be that for the audience. It’s never a bad thing when you can make people laugh or amuse them with your sarcastic quips.
Q) What was it like filming the last episode?
A) It’s such an awkward thing to end a series that has been going like a freight train over four years and working as a machine. So, when you end the last day it’s awkward because we are all doing the day’s work, but you’re also saying goodbye, too. It also depends on the tone of the scene you are filming on the last day. When we did the end of Season Three it was the wedding, the bar scene. Part of it was celebratory and a fun couple of last scenes. They tried to schedule like that for this season, but for some reason this season it didn’t work out. The wrap party was the weekend before. So, I wasn’t even able to go to the wrap party! You’re rushing to say goodbye after these long term relationships with these people so you kind of put it all into a card and hope that the cast and crew carries that experience and memories and your sentiments along with them. It’s kind of impersonal, but also vulnerable. I write things in a card thanking people for the experiences that we shared and I don’t necessarily get to see them once I give them the card because that’s what happens with the end of the series. I didn’t really want to leave set, but we were lucky enough to do a mini cast, crew and producers dinner on the last night for a kind of smaller celebration that allowed for more closure than normal. We did party into the wee hours of the morning, but it was only a few of us – not the entire cast and crew. There is already post-partum depression because you are giving out gifts and it feels surreal. The cast and crew are trying to do their job and you’re also saying goodbye. It’s never quite cathartic, but that’s how it works sometimes.