In sidekick role, actor keeps CW's 'Beast' from getting too dark
Austin Basis knows firsthand that it never pays to judge a book by its cover.
With a healthy dose of skepticism, his decision to claim dibs on the role of J.T. Forbes on the CW's “Beauty and the Beast” proved to be a pretty good call. Spawning a fan base of self-proclaimed “Beasties,” the People's Choice Award-winning show has eschewed the popular cartoon rendition in favor of a sultrier, darker version of the beloved fairy tale.
But within all that angst, his character provides much-needed comedic relief as the ultimate wing man to his best friend and “beast,” Vincent. J.T. has been learning the fine art of managing his bromance as Vincent begins to heat things up with his leading lady, ensuring a breezy break from the trials and tribulations that come with falling in love — even for the bad boys.
Lightening up the moment is something that seems to come naturally for the veteran actor, who was always one to shine in the limelight — especially when it comes to making people laugh.
Fast-forward to today, and he's a long way from his days spent bartending, bouncing and bussing as a struggling actor in New York City. Nowadays, the Los Angeles-based star boasts a resume that includes roles on “Curb Your Enthusiasm,” “Supernatural,” “NCIS,” “Spellbound” and “MATH.”
Question: When you first heard “Beauty and the Beast,” what went through your head?
Answer: Disney. Like, “Be our guest, be our guest, put our magic to the test…” I thought of the candelabra talking. I actually had to read the script and think differently about it. ... It changed my mind about “Beauty and the Beast” a little. Part of the impetus to do that was the guy (Gary Fleder) who directed the pilot. I had worked with him several times before. He just gets the best out of things, and most of the pilots he directs get picked up.
Q: This is a pretty sultry version of the original, but it obviously works, given your ratings and the “Beasties” fan base. What do you think resonates?
A: I think that if we didn't have the Disney classic “Beauty and the Beast,” what we would know of the fable, of the classic fairy tale — not the cartoon — (is) there's a part of that story that everyone could relate to, whether you're the beauty or the beast. And so, I feel that the show, no matter how edgy or sultry or action-packed, has kept that as the core and stayed true to that and, if anything, gotten closer to that as the season has progressed. So, I feel like that's where the success is and that's where the biggest audience is going to come (from), because we're not violating the trust of people who were fans of the fairy tale, the movie, the original show.
Q: The “bad boy” thing that Vincent has going on doesn't hurt, either.
A: Yeah, but he's like a bad boy with a heart of gold — just like the beast in the original. You have that beastly instinct, but underneath it all, it's a defense of vulnerability and tender heart. He beasts out to protect himself.
Q: Is this preparing you for the day when you're a father and your daughter brings home a bad boy?
A: We'll see what happens! I'm pretty open to tattoos and piercings, but if I sense something ... . I'm a pretty good judge of character, and as long as I can see that heart through all the facade, I'll be all right. I don't own a gun, so he doesn't have to worry about that.
Q: On the show, J.T. and Vincent kind of have the ultimate bromance going on. Is your character going to be able to handle seeing his best friend fall in love?
A: From the beginning of the season, it's been an evolution, because (J.T.) just couldn't stand (Catherine), was probably threatened by her. Before, he was emotionally threatened, like, “You're taking my bro away … you're risking our lives. You're bringing danger into our lives where we've been tucked away in hiding and living the most normal life we can without violence or death.”
Even though J.T. was kind of butting heads with Catherine on everything, there were always glimmers. Writers gave the opportunity for J.T. to see that Catherine really cares about Vincent. He saw Vincent having these feelings about Catherine, and I feel that as a good-hearted, loyal friend, after 10 sexless years of living with another heterosexual man, he wanted his friend to get some action.
J.T.'s in a better position to date and see people, too. He's just kind of like playing the ultimate wing-man role and being like, “Take it while you can get it and enjoy it.” She passed the tests – months and months of tests — she saved us, she kicked some ass, she's taken a bullet. So, she's earned it.
Q: Are those crazy kids going to beat the odds?
A: I think always. Because the next few episodes are very action-packed, it's not going to be until three or four episodes down the line that they come down to a reality or a level where they could evolve or work on their relationship like normal people. Like talk about what they want outside of kissing or sultriness. So, it's gonna be interesting, because it's a conversation of, “Do we have the same idea of our futures together?”
Any type of relationship you have always has to have that conversation. The spark and the chemistry (are) there and you ride that for as long as you can, and you have that conversation, “Are we both on the same page?”
Q: Do you think that love really does overcome all, or is that just for fairy tales?
A: I don't feel like love alone conquers all. That's the fairy tale aspect. I think on our show and, in my opinion, in real life, it's more complicated than just having love. ... I feel like love is not going to conquer the world on its own, but if compelled by love, you can conquer the world with the one you love or using love as a sword, or whatever. That's the essence of the show — there's this world they've created and the world they've been fighting, but the core of their love is boundless.