Since his arrival in LA, Austin has appeared on numerous television shows and has been cast in lead roles on a number of films, traveling as far as India to shoot them. Austin played the role of MATH for two seasons on the critically acclaimed CW drama “Life Unexpected.” Currently, he plays J.T. Forbes on CW’s “Beauty & the Beast”- winner of the 2013 People’s Choice Award for Favorite New TV Drama. He is also a published poet & artist. Austin’s first collection of poems & drawings “An Actor Without An Audience: Poetry For Artists, Lovers And Everymen” can be found on iTunes, Amazon, Smashwords & BarnesAndNoble.com, among others. In his spare time, Austin is an advocate for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. The JDRF is the world’s leading fundraiser for Type 1 Diabetes research.
Austin Basis plays J.T. Forbes, the beast’s best friend, on the CW’s “Beauty and the Beast.” He has been called a one-man social networking phenomenon, interacting extensively with the show’s fans, self proclaimed #beasties. This has resulted in the #beasties, as Austin says, “earning us a 2nd and 3rd season.” He is also an activist, raising money and awareness for Type 1 diabetes. Here, he answers my questions about playing J.T., why he credits his own diabetes with his success, advice to aspiring actors and, of course, fan art…
Rachael Drummond: Did you watch “Beauty and the Beast” in the 80′s? (I was 12 and somehow thought it was the end-all, be-all of romance.)
Austin Basis: Unfortunately, I didn’t. I watched sports, horror/sci-fi films & sitcoms as a kid in the ’80s. Lion men & sewer-romances weren’t among my interests! I spent most of my time running around outside like a vilda-CHaya, as my Grandma Lee used to call me… It’s Yiddish for “wild animal”!!!
RD: If so, how do you think it compares to the current incarnation?
AB: Despite not watching the previous incarnation, I know that the two shows are vastly different. Besides the character names & setting, most of the essential story points have been changed. The one unifying theme is romance. Whether it’s the classic fairytale, the Disney movie, the ’80s TV show or our edgier, post-9/11 version, the epic love between the “beauty” & the “beast” is at the center of everything else that happens.
RD: Do you consider yourself a romantic? I had the honor of being a guest at your wedding and I know you and your wife wrote your own vows. I was floored by the beauty and romance. That doesn’t just come out of nowhere.
AB: I’ve always considered myself a romantic… A hopeless one before I met my wife! I happen to be an actor, but that is only an extension of being an artist. I always saw the world through a creative prism that I expressed with poetry, art & performance. I wanted to be a Renaissance man like Leonardo da Vinci- and was up until I was halfway through college & decided that I’d rather try to be great at one thing than be pretty good at everything! I still enjoy writing poetry & the occasional blog.
“I firmly believe that having Type 1 Diabetes for almost 30 years has directly contributed to my success in life.”
RD: Your character, J.T., is getting to have a relationship of his own with Tess after the show focusing mainly on Vincent and Catherine. Are you moving from romantic to professional heartthrob?
AB: “Professional heartthrob” is a little bit of a stretch for me! I do like the way the writers have juxtaposed the #VinCat relationship with #JTnT …Both are equally dynamic, but the epic romance of Vincent & Catherine is balanced by the down-to-earth, opposites-attract relationship of JT & Tess. Nina & I try our best to bring a three-dimensional couple to the screen, with all the awkwardness, sarcasm, levity & love of a real relationship. I think this helps the audience look past the superficial reasons JT & Tess shouldn’t be together. As an actor, I always try to choose the most interesting & unexpected choice. In the past, I’ve always played the nervous geek, but I think JT is different. He’s an unconventional hero: The leading man of his own love story with Tess.
RD: As an actor are you learning about new sides and levels of J.T. through this relationship? Has anything surprised you or does the progression seem very natural?
AB: Most stuff hasn’t necessarily surprised me, except how “natural” the “progression” has been! The difference between JT in Season 1 & 2 has been amazing to play as an actor. It’s a character that has remained true to his core identity from the beginning, but has been allowed to slowly evolve. I have to thank the writers who have taken the risk to create a highly intelligent character with a sense of humor that has all the flaws & emotions of your average biochemist, hacker genius, beast’s best friend! In addition to having the confidence to show JT’s romantic & heroic side, the writers have also allowed him to be affected by all that he’s experienced. That’s real- and has been truly fun to play.