'Beauty And The Beast' Star Austin Basis Talks The Evolution Of J.T. & The Upside To Uncertainty
It's hard to explain a show like the CW's Beauty and the Beast . It's a romantic, supernatural, action-packed drama that doesn't fit nicely into any TV boxes, but works well on the CW. With the third season about to air, and Season 4 of Beauty and the Beast already in production, it's clearly doing well, likely due to the vocal fan base and a large international following. At the center of the show are star-crossed lovers Vincent (Jay Ryan) and Katherine (Kristin Kreuk), and right by their side is the man redefining the best friend sidekick: Austin Basis, who plays the smart and witty J.T. Forbes. Basis sat down with Bustle to talk about the show, the fans, and what it was like to work under the constant threat of cancellation.
"At the end of Season 2 there was a resolution to the conflict and a proposition for the future. That leads the story forward." Basis says when asked about the Season 2 season finale, which could easily have doubled as the series end. "The same thing will happen in Season 3. There will be a resolution to the arc of the future but there will be things that push the story forward that lead us to what we are now dealing with."
It's a push-pull balance the show has perfected over the years, walking the tightrope of wanting to lay the groundwork for overarching plots and future stories, while giving fans the resolution they desire each season.
"I remember hearing advice when I was on Life Unexpected," Basis says of the fantastic show that aired on the CW from 2010-2011. "The executive producer had gotten advice that if you only have 13 episodes, write the best 13 episodes you can think of. If you get picked up for another 13, deal with that then. Don’t save any awesome ideas for Season 2 or Season 3 because that’s not how TV works."
That advice is even more appropriate in the digital age where streaming is king and even ratings giants struggle to retain their audience. Basis then related working a single season (or even episode) at a time to Louis CK’s creative challenge of taking only his closing jokes and then cutting the rest and re-writing. It invites increased creativity, but also increased pressure. "When you know you have multiple seasons it allows for other story-lines and layers to come up to the surface," Basis tells Bustle. "Knowing it might be the end, you have to leave a loose end or two, but you want it to be resolved and closed up as much as is acceptable."
Basis is grateful for the show's supporters and very aware that they are what keeps the show going. "The fans and the international fans in the market are two of the main reasons this show is the show that keeps on going," he says.
I'd agree, but have to add their strong performances, and their constant creative reinvention as reasons Beauty and the Beast has been successful. The characters keep moving forward and changing, and J.T.'s character — who easily could have been a one-note sidekick, is the perfect example of that.
"It’s not interesting unless it’s always evolving. There’s only so many times you can say the same thing," Basis tells Bustle. "As an actor my challenge with the persistence is, if they’re writing the same beat it won’t be the same, it’s building to something. Evolution wise it's the writers' and actors' jobs to go back and evolve."
While we can rest assured that J.T. will still be as quirky as ever this season, he is still going to struggle with his brush with death and what it means to be saved. "J.T. is like: What did they shoot me with? What's the greater purpose of why was I saved?" Basis says, reflecting on the changes his own character gets this year. "Tess gives him a reality check of: You’re alive. Accept it; you’re meant to be here, you just have to figure out why. That drives J.T. throughout the season."
It's that character evolution in action, and it sounds like it's going to take the show to the next level this year. I can't wait to see what happens!
Images: Ben Mark Holzberg, Sven Frenzel/The CW; wifflegif