[photos: Ben Mark Holzberg/CW]
I am back again, Beauty & The Beast fans, with an amuse bouche in advance of the show’s season premiere tonight on the CW. BATB’s very own Austin Basis (J.T. Forbes) took time out of his busy season four shooting schedule to talk to me about music, the show, his character, and some advice for those looking to break into the biz.
For those of you who aren’t already aware, I’m a Texas girl; so to get started, Austin and I chatted a bit about the awesomeness that is Texas. As Austin observed, “Everything really is better in Texas!” And then get this, kids; Austin casually mentioned Anita Graves (@mamabeastie) as one of the most active fans of the show, because he remembered that she lives in Houston. Let’s absorb this for a moment: he knew her by name, and remembered where she lives. I mean, c’mon! How many primaries of a TV show are plugged into their Twitter fan base enough to store personal details about them in long-term memory!? His generosity, and that of the rest of the cast, towards the fans has intensified loyalty to the show, which is partly the reason for the massive efforts by the fans to keep the show going.
Austin and I next moved on to an ice-breaker question I love to ask people about their musical tastes. Not only does music hath charms to soothe the savage beast (see what I did there?), but it’s also a way we have of constructing our personas, the way we want people to see us. I, however, want to see behind the persona to the real person and humanize him or her. Since there’s nothing more humanizing than embarrassment, here’s my go-to question about music: “What musical artist or group are you most embarrassed to admit you like?”
Austin’s answer was pretty funny, actually, not so much in terms of what he said, but in that he jovially dodged the question for as long as he could. He spent a fair amount of time talking about how his playlists help him get into the right headspace, that he uses them to create big moments for dramatic scenes, how often the universe will serve up just the right song in shuffle mode to fit exactly what he needs for inspiration, and how his playlist for working out is called, “Energy.”
While this was all actually pretty interesting, I wondered for a few moments if he was going dodge this question altogether. He finally sheepishly admitted, with self-professed amazement that he was admitting it, that he has a couple of One Direction songs, as well as some Katy Perry and some Taylor Swift. Now, I don’t know about you guys, but from my perspective, there ain’t no shame in Taylor Swift when all the liars and dirty, dirty cheats of the world be all up in your grill. As far as One Direction, goes, you’re on your own there, my friend! Only thing I can recommend is that you own it.
We next discussed the impending season, and here’s what Austin had to say:
“We are currently filming the fourth season, so the third season is going back to when we started last year in late August, ten months ago. What the season doesn’t necessarily deal with is Cat and Vincent getting together and breaking up. That’s over, the courtship is over. The issue is now how are they going to attain a normal domestic life, cohabitating with another and the threat of more supernatural forces out there that Cat and Vincent are being recruited to fight. Cat at this point has two destinies. One is to be with Vincent. The second related destiny for them both is to fight in the battle of good and evil and for the good of humanity. Vincent is happy with the first option, and Cat is hearing the call for something greater. That’s the initial conflict between them that evolves over season…the back and forth, the pendulum and how it swings, whether both of them are in it full tilt…there’s no question about their relationship. The question regarding whether they’re committed to this greater cause to these forces out there will be revealed throughout the season.”
“As far as JT, when last we left him, he was strung up by Gabe and left to bleed out. I like that stuff; I was into gore as a kid. Silence of the Lambs is my favorite movie; this is my Silence of the Lambs moment. But I’m not Hannibal Lector, I’m the victim. In this new season, we’ve picked up several months after the drama that was caused by Gabe, and J.T. continues to the be the victim in this season, which is an interesting arc because he just keeps taking the hits for the team…he’s the crash test dummy for season three. He’s been recovering physically if not emotionally. He’s weirded out by the amazingness of the fact that he’s still alive.
“His search as a scientist is for the cold hard facts, and not just theory. He wants to figure out every detail related to his recovery…if he’ll be ok, why he’s not recovering so quickly, what he was shot with, so that he can close and move on. He’s trying to balance his newly developed relationship with Tess with his fixation on his situation, but it’s impeding his relationship. Tess calls him on it in first episode, and it continues to be an impediment that plays throughout the whole season with Tess directly. Anything that comes in between them, it’s the stuff that Tess wants to put behind her so she can live a normal life, which is a constant struggle between all these people. They all want to live a normal life, despite abnormal circumstances and destinies.”
I then asked Austin if he had any favorite J.T. moments, either from the upcoming season or the previous seasons; here’s what he had to say:
“Sometimes the moments that are most difficult to film in the moment come out the best in the end. The building of JT’s secret, and reveal of the secret where he tells Vincent that he put him on the list for Muirfield…that was a big moment for me because no one knew about that. I don’t think Jay even knew about it. I discussed it with writers when the pilot got picked up, because I wanted the back story for what the history was to better understand the character, just anything they knew ahead of time that I could incorporate into my performance. It gave me the greatest subtext I could have asked for, that J.T. is responsible for this, that Vincent wouldn’t have been involved with Muirfield, if it weren’t for J.T. So this guilt and responsibility on his part are part of why he has been such a loyal friend for the first season and a half and the ten years before that. It’s why he went to great lengths to protect Vincent. And I liked that the reveal wasn’t rushed. As far as other past moments, I feel like any of the episodes where J.T. is taking care of business and giving one-liners, I enjoy those. (Note from author: so do we, Austin, so do we.)
“In the new season, there’s some good stuff between J.T. and Tess. You start to see the inner workings of their relationship. You also see J.T. step up and become his own man and step into the hero shoes. He’s been the hero behind the scenes, whether it’s creating a serum, hacking, or finding someone from a computer or a lab. Occasionally he gets in front lines, but he always had to be bailed out by Vincent or Catherine. But he evolves into unconventional hero this season, which was a fun arc for me to play and a fun road to travel, to be the unexpected guy to save the day, not just the wise-ass biochemistry genius hacker dude. It shows that J.T. does have a gamut of other emotions and layers to who he is. As an actor, to get to show all that stuff, that you can’t judge a book by its cover, that everyone is capable of any number of different emotions has been great.”
Given that Austin is a working actor in a competitive industry, I asked Austin if he has any advice for aspiring actors:
“All the plays that are being done now are contemporary, so read as many contemporary proven winners as you can. Be able to do Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Sam Shepherd. Read the plays, and be informed about your options. At some point you’re going to have to audition, and you’re going to want to know what good drama is. Good acting is finding the conflict in the event of the scene. College, training and study is the best preparation for the actual job. Once I got out of school with the training that I had, I just had to learn the business model and how to get into auditions. I had a model of what I needed to do once I had the job, you’re able to do it more easily because it’s more realistic. Now, an audition isn’t realistic; there are two people in the room, there is nothing in there helping you create the world you’re trying to fool people into believing.
“Seventy-five percent of people who go to LA or New York go there first before having any kind of background and then you’re just deep in it. New York is more of a training opportunity. In LA, there’s way more business, it’s way more spread out, there’s less theater, and less standard training, whether college or institutions that have 3-year or 2-year programs for training. If you step out into the real world with actual training, you’re a leg up. It doesn’t guarantee you a job, but when you’re pressed with an adjustment or a direction or something in the room or in the moment, you’re prepared and you’re open.
“One of my instructors said that only five percent of actors work, and only one percent make a living at it. Of those, probably seventy to eighty percent have training, have gone to classes, have a background that is more experience than just memorizing scenes and doing plays. They have technique. If as an actor you really believe you want to do it, if you have to have the motivation, ambition, and belief in your talent that will carry you past rejections, then you can do it. Anyone can work as an actor, given all the platforms. There are jobs out there, but it’s not for everyone. You just trust in yourself and never give up.”
Wise words from the actor and funny guy Austin Basis, not just for aspiring actors, but for all of us. A very special thank you to Mr. Basis for sharing his time with me and SciFi4Me. Although he was very generous with his time and his answers, I had a ton more questions I could have asked, so another interview at some point must happen! And it sounds like there’s going to be a lot to look forward tonight in the season premiere, as well as for the rest of the season. Tonight’s season premiere for Beauty and the Beast is at 8 | 7 c. Can’t wait to share the ride with all you devoted beasties out there. Buckle up!