Austin Basis Interview
Austin Basis is one of the stars of The CW’s Beauty and the Beast. We spoke with the actor about that series, life and more.
What has been the best part of playing J.T. Forbes on Beauty And the Beast?
Getting all the best jokes! Being the comic relief for a highly dramatic sci-fi romance with action and drama allowed me to endear myself to the audience. As JT, I got to break the tension of scenes that were highly emotional with a sarcastic punchline… I lucked out with that!
Do you share any attributes or characteristics with J.T.?
Obviously, our snarky sense of humor. I fancy myself a perpetual optimist, so JT has always been a little more cynical and pessimistic than me. I’d say JT’s loyalty is something I can relate to. I respect loyalty and try to be as loyal a friend/husband/brother/son as I can be. I don’t think anyone can be as loyal as JT, barring giving his life for Vincent. Also, science and math were my best subjects in school- so I guess mixing serums & talking “BioChem” came naturally to me.
How rewarding has it been to know the show’s fans have been so devoted that they have voted “Beauty and the Beast” to four consecutive People’s Choice Awards? And with that, who gets to keep the awards or do you all take turns?
That’s what makes what we do worth it. The PCA’s were the cherry on top for a fan base that had earned us season after season of renewals- all because they wanted to watch more! The Beasties have earned their name, and that is a Beauty-ful thing (get it?). Also, I don’t know who got to keep the 4 awards, either the producers or the studio/network. I call dibs if we win next year- the final season is definitely worthy!
For those aspiring actors out there, what is the best piece of advice you can offer them?
Learn about all the acting techniques out there. That’s the only way to figure out what works for you. I take elements of every technique I’ve studied & use it to prepare for every scene I do. I’ve studied Shakespeare and use my knowledge to scan text; I am a member of The Actors Studio and use sensory work (Strasberg Technique) to make choices from my own life to use to personalize the material; when I’m in a scene, I utilize skills I learned studying Meisner Technique to listen more closely to the other actors and work off of their choices in the moment; and, when useful, I use my experience doing improv comedy to add to the comedy of a scene. If you have the talent and backbone to do it, perseverance is an essential component to succeeding.
What was the best piece of advice you received from a teacher or mentor?
After studying with him for 2 years in college and going to grad school for 3 years to study with other teachers, I took a private acting class with my drama teacher from college (Gene Lesser) and he told me to “LET IT GO!!!” …So all the stuff I’d learned over the previous 5 years, he wanted me to let go. What he meant was: When I’m working/auditioning/acting in a scene, I shouldn’t be worried about any of the intricacies of the methods I’d learned- none of that technique should be seen. When it comes down to it- I put in the work preparing, so I should just trust myself and feel confident that the work will be there. Be present in every moment and trust my instincts. The rest will take care of itself… It’s not as easy as it sounds. I actually work harder to make that possible.
Can you share what your experience was like working on “Supernatural” and being part of the Ghostfacers?
Amazing! Really collaborative- one of the most rewarding experiences I’ve had in my career. We filmed a lot of the episode and web series ourselves, in addition to improvising moments & contributing to the creation of our characters’ backstories. It started with the original episode written by Ben Edlund and directed by Phil Sgriccia, who actually let us film all of our web videos and the eventual web series at his house! Then A.J. and Travis wrote the web series with Patrick Doody & Chris Valenziano. The positive energy came from the top on down and really shows in all the work. It started with the pilot episode on “Supernatural” and it’s still one of the best web series I’ve ever seen- a perfect combination of comedy and horror. We all hope for a reunion show or web series to bring us back together for more ghostfacing!
“Life UnExpected” was, excuse the pun, an unexpected hit with the critics and its loyal fans, but just didn’t seem to catch on in the ratings. How great was it working on the show with Shiri, Britt and Kristoffer (and the rest of the cast and crew)?
It was a show about love and community- a group of people coming together to support one another. Working with Shiri, Britt, Kris, Kerr, Reggie, Ksenia, Erin, Arielle, Austin, etc. was a dream. Liz Tigelaar who created the show really set the tone and gave it a ‘sleep away camp’ feel. I remember watching the pilot at Liz’s house and thinking this was the best thing I’d ever been a part of. We really thought it was going to last for years. It was like getting called up to the “Big Leagues”- I had to up my game just stay relevant. There were ups and downs with show’s ratings and success, but we all remain close in real life. The affection we have for that experience has carried over to starting our own real life families and continuing to support each other both professionally and personally. I linked that show to my first love… I’ve compared every professional experience afterwards to that and it’s been difficult for any to measure up in quite the same way.
I understand that some of the cast still gets together with executive producer Liz Tigelaar even all these years later?
Yes. Like I said- for weddings, baby showers, or just randomly when it’s been too long since we’ve seen each other! Every event we all have in life has a separate “Life Unexpected” version of that event- just so everyone in the ever-growing family will be included!
Is there a dream project that you would like to someday work on? And if so, can you share details about that project?
I feel it’s like a wish: if I say it, then it won’t come true! I also feel that my dream role/project hasn’t been written yet. It will undoubtedly include both drama and comedy, since I enjoy doing both and since both are present in real life. I’ve always wanted to write, produce, and act in my own project. And play a historical figure- maybe show a different side to a villain of the past.
What has been the best part of being a celebrity ambassador for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation?
Getting to meet and interact with hundreds of kids with Type 1 Diabetes and their parents has been the most rewarding. I can see by the look in their eyes that I’m making an impact- maybe even a difference in their lives. The fact that I have lived a healthy, successful life gives them and their parents hope that they can do the same. I never had a public figure to look up to as a kid, so I’m hoping to provide that for them.
Do you watch TV? Which shows are currently watching?
Besides “Beauty and the Beast”… “Game of Thrones,” “Mr. Robot,” “UnReal,” “Scandal,” “The Path,” “Bloodline,” “Fargo,” “The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” “The Walking Dead,” AND “Talking Dead,” “Transparent,” “Inside Amy Schumer,” “Key & Peele” re-runs, “Casual,” “Masters of Sex,” “Family Guy,” “Real Time with Bill Maher,” “Black-ish,” “Top Chef,” Election coverage on MSNBC and CNN. I used to go to the movies more, but TV is just SO much better now! Why leave the house!?
Can you share what it was like working with such legendary actors like Al Pacino, Faye Dunaway and others at the famed Actors Studio?
It was a life-changing experience. It was extremely enlightening to see their process- watching them work through scenes or analyze a beat or discover something new- after watching the finished product in so many movies. I once saw Al Pacino go from laughing to crying in a matter of seconds- and to be directed by Faye Dunaway was empowering because she was so collaborative and respected my opinions. Usually, coming out of school as an actor you’re confronted by the brutal reality of rejection and the slim odds of success. But being admitted to life membership at The Actors Studio and getting to work with people like Al Pacino, Faye Dunaway, Estelle Parsons and to be in the presence of people like Ellen Burstyn, Lee Grant, Martin Landau, and Arthur Penn (ALL Academy Award winners!)- you get to see the positive side of hard work, talent, and technique. It gave me hope to be witness to success stories like theirs- in addition to the obvious resume boost and the opportunity to learn from the masters of my craft- directly. It kept my focus on the work and the craft of acting, as opposed to the hundreds of thousands of people that I was competing with for the next job!
What would be your idea of a perfect day off?
Well, I like work- so I’d choose to be working rather than being off… But a day off would revolve around family and food. Sleep late, brunch out, a hike with my wife, go to a baseball game with my brother and dad, dinner and drinks out with friends, or maybe a movie. Then, a bottle of wine on the couch with my wife to binge watch some TV. The rest of the night will be left to your imagination!