Television audiences have enjoyed the work of Austin Basis on The CW’s Supernatural and Life Unexpected. But it’s his current role as J.T. Forbes on Beauty and the Beast, that has endeared him to a legion of fans in the United States and internationally.
I recently had the opportunity to chat with Austin about Beauty and the Beast and his character J.T. Here’s what he had to say.
Beauty and the Beast is a show that is loved by many people, they love the show and the characters although this may not reflect in the ratings. Why do you think the show has such a strong fan base?
“Specifically for our show, I don’t think the ratings necessarily judge it accurately. When you’re talking about shows with a lot more viewers like some CBS shows, whether it’s NCIS or The Big Bang Theory, they have 15 to 30 million viewers. The numbers for our show, jumps all over the place from week to week. One week we’ll have a lower rating but higher numbers. Then we’ll have lower numbers but it’s the same rating.
They only count certain aged fans as a buying public. They’re not counting fans over 49 and I don’t think that’s fair, I don’t think those fans buy any less! I think the ways people are watching TV is changing. People are watching on cwtv.com, iTunes, etc. You have all these different sources. How do you combine those numbers in a ratings system and compare them to other shows?
I would love for us to be a huge ratings success here in the States, but the fact is we picked up our audience and fan base from around the world and not necessarily traditional TV viewings. A lot of people watch it online, unfortunately, some people watch it illegally, but they’re still active on social media.
The bottom line is there’s a lot of shows that do better than us in the United States. They don’t have as big of a following internationally and don’t make as much money around the world. That’s a market where we do well for CBS!”
How would you describe your character J.T.?
“I would describe J.T. as first and foremost, a loyal friend. He has a sarcastic sense of humor, but he’s insanely intelligent. He works well under pressure, even though he doesn’t like being under pressure. He doesn’t have the temperament for the pressure situations he has to be in, but he always comes through.
It’s interesting, not to give away too many spoilers for the fourth season, that pressure, that living life on the edge, at the beginning of the fourth season, that doesn’t seem to be there. I think J.T. misses that and that’s part of his arc for the next season. Over the course of the series I would have described him the same, but now he’s a little more courageous.
He is willing to take the bull by the horns and step into the driver’s seat and not just give directions. He’s on his own. He’s no longer living with Vincent. He’s kind of found his own footing as his own man with a lot of help from his relationship with Tess. With the confidence he has in her, he’s confident in himself. Being in a relationship, it’s kind of feeding his personality in a way that living with Vincent for ten years off the grid didn’t.
He was stuck a little in a premature social mindset. He wasn’t exercising his muscles to interact with people. It was just Vincent, experiments and computers and now that he has these people in his life and has a girlfriend, he is learning to be his own man.
I’m really enjoying the arc he has taken because you don’t see that as much on TV. You see it with main characters, but you don’t see it as much with supporting characters. You get to see a full arc. On our show there are things that have happened that are similar to things that have happened before. We’ll meet another beast or supernatural character, a person has this power or a person has that power.
Math on Life UnExpected served a certain purpose and didn’t sway from the purpose in the few seasons that show was on. I liked the character and I’m still friends with a lot of the people from that show. But, with J.T., there’s so much that has happened to him and he’s evolved so much outside the stereotypical cliche nerdy professor, computer hacker, best friend character. He’s stepped out of that in an awesome way! I couldn’t be happier!”
The characters of Cat, Vincent, J.T. and Tess are like The Four Musketeers. They’re in each other’s corner, they’ll lie and risk everything. How is it like working with your co-stars?
“Well, definitely that has evolved in the sense of who I work with. For most of the first season, I worked with Jay and Kristin. I never worked with Brian. I only worked with Max for a couple of episodes.
It was an interesting thing, we’d have this one show with two different sides of the story and both sides didn’t really interact. The same thing with Jay. It’s evolved. My scenes with J.T. and Cat don’t happen that often so when they do, Kristin and I try to make the most of them. I do have the occasional scene with Jay where it’s the sort of bromance but a lot of those scenes are big group scenes. The writers are challenging us.
With the four of us, or five of us with Nicole, it can so easily go off the rails. With the seriousness of the show, when the camera stops rolling or even when the cameras are rolling, we’re laughing. If you take a step back and think about the reality of the things that happen on this show it’s sometimes funny (laughs).
Same thing with Supernatural, they have ‘The Apocalypse’ stuff. Things that don’t really happen in life. We’re treating this like reality so that’s always funny.
I get to work with Nicole more. She came on as a series regular finally! She should have been one from the beginning, but it just didn’t work out that way. She’s a great actress. She’s kind of like the younger sister of the cast.
For me, she has a kind of sponge like mentality. She’s searching, she’s educating herself. She like an explorer. As older, more settled actors the four of us look at Nicole with envy and with joy for a time that has since passed (laughs). It’s fun to work with her. I think she’s more talented than she knows. She doesn’t take it so seriously that it stresses her out like it does with a lot of young actors.
I don’t really work with Jay and Kristin that much, like I said, except in big group scenes. It’s really me and Nina, J.T. and Tess. These scenes have dominated my last couple of years of work. We’re good friends on set and off set. We have the same artistic outlook and view points. We talk shop but not a lot. We talk about life and she gets along really well with my wife so that’s an important thing (laughs).”
Thursday’s episode, particularly the action scenes with J.T. and Heather were like watching an action film. Great acting, great directing. It was a real treat for the fans.
“It’s fun to have an episode that comes together so well, and has all these story-lines running. With the pedal to the metal to a certain degree, most of the episode was fast-paced. Everything was running concurrently and it all came together at the end.
Our crew member got a chance to direct (for his first time) that episode. It was like seeing a family member step up and be part of the reason something is so successful. He was on set for most of the first two seasons as the first AD, Assistant Director. He was the guy that runs the set and the crew.
The director depends on the first AD to do everything, keep the schedule, make sure everything’s going smoothly. Make sure all the cogs are in the wheel, and the people are in place. The director is focusing on the shot and the actor. The first AD takes the rest of the responsibility.
That’s what David MacLeod had done for the first couple of years. He got a chance to direct and he’s coming back for next season. I’m definitely looking forward to it! I couldn’t be happier that the episode came out so well.”
I want to talk a little about J.T. and Tess. The fans were so upset when Tess broke up with J.T. What are your thoughts on that?
“What are my thoughts on it? Nina and I have a back and forth with the writers. (laughs). What happens, what the scenes are, but we don’t write the show. Once the scenes are written, we don’t have the power to change them. We can only finesse the story that’s already there. To make it as real and as grounded as possible.
I think that’s what J.T. and Tess bring to the show. Vincent and Catherine are the epic romance. J.T. and Tess have their own destiny, but it’s a more realistic kind of approachable, relatable relationship for the audience. VinCat, are a sort of romanticized idea of what a love affair should be.
We do our best to make J.T./Tess moments real and to bring a spontaneity and a sense of humor too. Vincent and Catherine have that, but they’re dealing with issues a lot of the times. They don’t get a chance to be as funny as they could. Which both Jay and Kristin can be.
Both the script and the story of Beauty and the Beast as a show, they have to hold the weight of most of the drama. With Nina and I, we negotiate different things. If there’s a break up scene, we don’t want it to be a hate break up scene, it’s just a miscommunication or disagreement and we have to play it as best as we could.
To be honest, we weren’t big fans of J.T. and Tess breaking up so soon but it’s TV. There’s got to be some sort of back and forth. The question is whether the writers want to break people up and bring them back together or have people fight for a couple weeks about a certain issue then resolve their issue.”
If J.T. could save only one person, Vincent or Tess, who do you think he’d choose?
“He would definitely be torn, but I think J.T. would have to save Tess! Or get punched again! (laughs).”
Have you gotten injured during the filming of any season three episodes?
“I slammed my finger in the door in Episode 302 when Anton throws J.T. into the hospital lab”.
When the show ends, is there any souvenir you’d like to take home?
“I’d take home a glass in the shape of a skull that’s on a shelf in the bar at the Gent’s Club”.
Do you think Beauty and the Beast will get a fifth season?
“In the words of Life UnExpected writer Liz Tigelaar ‘We’re not dead yet’!”