Actor Austin Basis talks new TV show, big break

The CW has re-imagined and revamped a classic Disney story in its new show, “Beauty and the Beast,” which premieres this fall. Based loosely on an ‘80s TV show with the same name, the show tells the story of detective Cat Chandler who finally meets Vincent Keller, the man who saved her life when gunmen attacked her and her mother years ago. Keller had managed to feign his death and hide out with the help of his friend J.T. Forbes, played by Austin Basis.

The Miami Hurricane got the chance to talk to Basis about the show, his activism for Type 1 Diabetes and how he got into acting before the show’s premiere on Oct. 11.

The Miami Hurricane: How did you get into acting?

Austin Basis: Well, going back all the way to my family gatherings and functions, acting was always in my family. My parents were in plays and I did a bunch at summer camp, which was a great experience. As a kid, I had a costume chest; I would always pick up a new costume or hat or mustache and just while away the hours in front of the mirror.  I was also an athlete, which was interesting, balancing dressing up in costumes and having fun with that and baseball and tennis and gymnastics. So then I really started to focus on my acting.

TMH: When do you think it became more than a hobby for you, and what do you consider your big break as far your roles go?

AB: Well, it became more than a hobby when I took out $90,000 in student loans. I did a lot of off-off-Broadway theater, and independent films got me the experience and the knowledge of work in a professional environment. My big break I’d say was in 2004, with my role on “Law & Order: Criminal Intent.”

TMH: You’re going to appear in CW’s new show, “Beauty and the Beast.” Can you tell me a bit about the show?

AB: Well, the show is a reimagining of the classic fairytale with some roots in the original CBS series from the ‘80s, but it’s now set in post-9/11 New York with Catherine, a police detective, and Vincent, who turned into a beast. It’s a dark supernatural romance, but we’ve got a procedural twist. Every episode Catherine tries to solve a new murder mystery. It’s really got everything you need for TV: mysteries, secrets from the past and romance. It takes a couple episodes for a show to find its path. And now that we’ve filmed about five, it’s really in its own element.

TMH: Could you describe your role in the show for me?

AB: J.T. is Vincent’s childhood best friend. He’s a biochemistry researcher turned professor, and he’s pretty nerdy when it comes to science, but a great friend.  Together they’re working on an antidote for him, to get him human again.

TMH: You were diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at a very young age and that’s become a huge cause for you.  Tell me more about your activism.

AB: I always find it kind of weird fundraising for my own cause, but I’m really looking forward to using my influence to provide an example of someone who has had diabetes for over 25 years and hasn’t let it adversely affect their life.

It has actually helped me focus and become a better person, and a better actor. I ultimately want to find an organization that will help me give an example to kids going through the same thing I was.