Last night’s “Beauty and the Beast” can certainly be described as a game-changer for the JT character, and it all has to do with a shoe that we have been waiting to drop ever since the premiere: What are the effects of the injection that he received at the end of season 2? We know officially now that he has the power seemingly to heal himself, but that may not be it. These sort of powers often come with a downside, and based on what Austin Basis told us in a recent chat about this big change for his character, we could be learning more soon.
We tried to bring you as much information as possible straight from the man himself, and below you can see Basis talk extensively not just about his powers, but also his reaction to getting to film a fourth season this summer (while season 3 is airing), when he learned that this twist was happening with his character, and also what the future could hold in the JT – Tess relationship.
CarterMatt – When I last talked with you, it was back during season 2, and the show was about get into that long hiatus. We didn’t really know whether or not the show was coming back, but now it must be nice to have a little bit of security, you can take a step back. You guys have [this season] that’s on, and before this was even premiered, you were renewed for a season 4.
Austin Basis – It is definitely a better work environment, that’s for sure on multiple levels. We’re doing 13 episodes throughout the summer and the fall. We get into November in our filming schedule, and [it will be] in November a little chilly. But it’s really December, January, February, and even March that are the rough months in Toronto. We’re living life outside, and Toronto has packed all of their festivals into the kind of five-month period of nice weather, and we happen to be here for most of it! That’s a positive thing.
Creatively, there’s something to be said about having a shorter season or not filming while [the current] season is airing. What ends up happening [with filming while the show is airing] is that you start to focus too much on ratings or the audience response. Actors, not so much as writers, may be adjusting things [based on reaction]. It’s like the first half of episodes are like the test for the second half of the season. That can be a positive thing, a lot of success happens out of that, but there’s no real formula to micromanaging a season of TV or a story arc based on responses. I feel like specifically season 4, but even with season 3 when we were doing it, we weren’t cramming and we weren’t rushing to get it done. There was no immediate pressure from the network or the studio. Everything was taking the time to do the season, and it was going to air when it was going to air. [During season 3 we knew it] probably wasn’t going to air until we were almost done with it.
In this case with season 4, we have beautiful weather in a [fantastic] city in familiar circumstances, we’ve all worked with each other for the better part of three years. We have a lot of returning writers, all the actors are pretty much the same, and there’s a fluidity and a trust and a calm that comes with that environment that allows the writers and the crew and the actors to come together to focus and not be distracted by anything else. [They] can make the best show possible. I kind of see it in the results of what is airing in season 3, and what I’ve seen of the episodes. I think I’ve seen them all … I can pretty much say with confidence that it is our best season, it is definitely one that I’m most proud of because JT’s arc is in the forefront. There’s something to be said for the precedent for networks like HBO, whether it’s like with ‘Game of Thrones’ or ‘The Sopranos,’ that sometimes film entire seasons and then you start seeing it. It becomes more of the long-form storytelling process and you don’t have these other factors going into it and destroying the balance of creativity that comes with public exposure and ratings systems and the threat of cancellation.
This past episode was a big one for you, given that we learned so much about JT’s new ability to heal people. When was it for you that you first found out about this?
I think I was told as I was reading them. I know [with executive producer] Brad [Kern] at the end of season 2, part of the process of getting picked up is that the executive producers pitches what the next season will be, and that is a factor in the show getting picked up for another season. I don’t know if [JT’s ability] was part of the general pitch, because they were pitching it when they were at the end of season 2 and JT was being injected. JT could have died were it not for the final scene. They could’ve edited it in a different way and killed off JT! I know that Brad has talked about it with other shows, killing characters, and there’s always that potential. (Laughs.)
With regards to JT’s arc, I gave them a few scenarios that I thought would be cool arcs for JT. One of them was superpowers or that kind of enhanced abilities, whether that meant that he was better at serum-making to come up with a cure or whatever it meant. I didn’t come up with a specific thing. It was something about his abilities being enhanced, that was one of the pitches that I had. Or, he was totally not himself and can’t do or provide the services to Vincent and Catherine that he used to in regards to hacking and his Ph.D in biochemistry. Maybe he can’t do it anymore; his game is off, and every time they need him, he struggles with this inferiority complex. There’s another scenario working there. I don’t think they chose that one.
Then, there are the side effects. Like, what are the effects of the serum? If there are superpowers, are there risky side effects and what are they? I think a few of those are going to play out over the season. It’s definitely cool, whether if [the writers] listened to me or if we were just all on the same page, where the character could go [from here] and what potential storylines could come out of that that [to go alongside] Vincent and Catherine and the storylines that are rising up in their world. Obviously that connects directly to JT, because he was shot with the same serum.
Specifically when it comes to healing, I think that’s a really interesting power for him. He’s never exactly been a real fan of danger, but he’s now in this position where he can actually throw himself into a lot of it. Is that interesting to play?
Yeah. I’ve always felt like his loyalty and his guilty conscience and putting others first, I always felt that seems to be a common thread in what he does. With that coming into this, he doesn’t like danger but he has put himself in harm’s way before, whether it is with a baseball bat or a tranq gun. Not, he has this kind of newfound confidence. I always looked at JT and his exploration of what’s happening as there being two sides of it: The thrill of the idea that he could be a superhero, a beast, as cool as Vincent, and could live out his comic-book fantasy. There is that real thrill of becoming a superhero and having that origin story that he has lived on fictitiously from his youth.
But, there’s also this fear as a scientist because he has seen what Vincent’s story has told, and that is that there are side effects, whether it be physical or [something else]. He has this constant fear and thrill at the same time. He’s a scientist and he doesn’t know and he needs to know all the facts, like if there is a problem how to resolve it, if there is an antidote or a serum that he can take.
I think there is a thrill or positive vibe of being a superhero, living in the boots of a superhero for however long he does, and there are throughout the season moments where he fills those boots either as the hero or the man that he is becoming in a way that he hadn’t before. Maybe it is because he has the healing power, but beyond that he is finding more courage and more power in who he is and what he is capable of.
One of the last [other] things I’m curious about here is the relationship with Tess, since he’s always had some sort of insecurity there, like we saw in the episode with her brothers. Without giving anything away, how do you think something like this new power changes the dynamic they have?
There’s the fact that he’s in a positive, growing relationship and taking the baby steps towards a more serious relationship. This is confidence-building enough. I know from my own experience. It’s like when you’re an actor. When you’re not working, you are out auditioning for roles, and you never know if you are going to work again. It’s the same thing when you’re single, it’s like ‘are you ever going to find someone that I’m going to be with?,’ especially when you’ve been in a relationship before. JT has had relationships … I guess there was a serious relationship way back when, but JT had a hard time keeping the secret on Vincent and JT chose Vincent over lying to his [significant other].
I think just having a woman, a good strong, even-stronger-than-you woman at your side is confidence-building enough, but then multiply that by his new-found confidence and his powers and filling the hero shoes in an unconventional way. [It can be] good for their relationship. I think it’s the other part of the powers that he’s fighting against. Obviously Tess is grappling with this too, him getting over his s**t and the adversity and worrying that all of this stuff is [going to be bad]. He’s always been a cynic and a pessimist, and it’s hard to break out of thinking that the light at the end of the tunnel is not real or a vision and there’s no end.
[The change] helps the relationship enormously and helps to grow him into the man that he wants to be, but at the same time the worry and the side effects that he fears works against the progress that he’s making with Tess. To what end and how long that will happen, that will play out throughout the season. I like having the positive and the negative. It’s like if there’s a dramatic scene as an actor, I always look for if there is a moment of levity or comedy in there, just to make it more well-rounded, and the same thing in a comedic scene. It’s always coming from a serious place or a deep need for something, whether it is a relief of tension or something else. I like stories and characters that are always juggling both, because I feel like that is real life, more than broad-stroke characters that are only juggling one thing or the other.
Thanks to Austin for his time, and his tremendous responses and insight! If you missed it, you can read more of our “Beauty and the Beast” coverage at the link here, or sign up here to get some further TV news on all we cover via our CarterMatt Newsletter. (Photo: The CW.)