Austin Basis, who plays J.T. on "Beauty and the Beast," shows off a t-shirt with a nod to the show"s... <+> fans, the Beasties. (Photo by Bobby Quillard)

"Beauty and the Beast" premierestoday in its fourth and final season. The one character who has arguably changed the most over the course of the series isn"tthe leading man, but rather the wingman: J.T., best friend and caretaker for the "beast," Vincent.

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We caught up with Austin Basis, who plays J.T., to talk about his character, the end of the show, and his other passions, including some pretty awesome J.T.-inspired poetry and some inspiring work with diabetes-related causes. Need to catch up? You can stream the first three seasons from CBS All Access (do it in the trial week and it"s free,) and the first two seasons on Netflix. Spoilers for previous seasons lurk inside:

QUESTION: You"ve been a bit of a man Friday for Vincent in "Beauty and the Beast:" friend, confidant, manager, matchmaker. How do you go about creating your character in a way that helps him be more than just the lead"s buddy?

Basis: I always start by asking: how is this character like me andhow does this character differ from me? Since I approach every part trying to use as much of my own experience as possible, it"s easier to play the qualities in J.T. that are similar to me. Then, for the qualities in which we differ, I create an environment using sense memory technique I learned at the Actors Studio that allows me to play against my own personality.

J.T. thinks of Vincent as his brother, and I actually have a younger brother, so those choices can be deeper and align with my real life. However, I am much more laid back than J.T., so in order to become as nervous as I need to be, I create scenarios that make me nervous--using experiences from my own life. I know very little about computers, so for that I have to do my research by googling terms or asking my wife! All this contributes to creating J.T. as a three-dimensional, real person. I do my best to bring another level to what the writers give to me. Getting good writing is half the battle. It"s easy to make the stakes life or death on a show like BATB.

Q: Why does J.T. stay in this relationship? What is it that keepshim with Vincent?

Basis: Loyalty, for one. They"ve been best friends since childhood. They"ve always depended on each other. We worked out a backstory early on in Season 1 in which both their parents weren"t really in the picture, they were absentee for the most part. So J.T., Vincent, and his brothers were left to fend for themselves. In New York, that goes a long way- friendship and brotherhood. I would also say guilt. Guilt drives a lot of people in this world. J.T. feels responsible for all the crap that has happened to Vincent, so he is forever trying to redeem himself and correct those mistakes of the past. Plus, J.T. looks up to Vincent andenvies him in a lot of ways. I don"t think anything drives him away, that"s been proven.

Q: How would you say he"s changed as a person over the past three seasons?

Basis: J.T. has evolved from a guilt-ridden, cynical person with no life; who put his life on hold to care for his friend andsupport them both; into a person that has managed to find a life of his own with the woman he loves, while still being able to be loyal to his friend. He has developed into a more patient, sensitive andromantic man with a sense of courage andvalor not seen in your average hacker-biochemistry professor without losing his sense of humor andsarcasm. It"s all a testament to the trust the writers had in me andthe character of J.T.

Q: What"s your favorite episode, and why?

Basis: That"s always a tough one for me, because lots of episodes are difficult to shoot, but come out amazingly. While some episodes that are delightful to film don"t always come out to my liking. It"s almost a rule at this point: If you"re having a horrible time filming, it"s going to be an awesome episode! And if everything is honky dory, watch out "cause you"re in trouble!

That being said, there are a few episodes every season that I am extremely proud of. Dare I say a few of my favorite episodes are in Season 4, namely episodes 404, 405, 412, and 413. The scene from Season 2 in which J.T. confesses his secret to Vincent will stand out as one of my favorites. A few scenes coming up this season may surpass that one, but I can"t reveal those without major spoilers!

Q: What attracted you to this part?

Basis: Gary Fleder, the director of the pilot. He brought me in to meet the producers, Sherri Cooper andJennifer Levin. I worked with him twice before on "Life on Mars" and"Life Unexpected" and he thought I was perfect for J.T. And I guess the producers, CBSand CW agreed!

Q: Were you in favor of the revelation that J.T. had superpowers? Do you think it added to JT"s meaning in the series? How did it change your relationship to the show as an actor--and J.T."s relationship with Vincent in the show world?

Basis: Yes. I spoke with Brad Kern about all the possible scenarios after J.T. was injected with the serum. I was glad it was a double-edged sword. J.T. got powers, but there were consequences. I also think of J.T. as an unconventional hero. He"s always been courageous in the face of danger, but having powers forced him onto the front lines. He was able to save the day in a few episodes, which is something that comic sidekicks on TV shows don"t normally get to do. I mean, what nerd/comic-book-geek wouldn"t love super powers, right?!

I think ultimately these "powers" made J.T. more of a pivotal character in the series. He had his own arc that didn"t depend entirely on what Cat and Vincent were doing. It gave me as an actor more to work with, it was more fun and challenging. I think his relationship with Vincent was deepened because they not only shared an upbringing together, they both shared the experience of living with mutated DNA.

Q: What will you miss most when the series is over?

Basis: I think I"ll miss playing J.T. the most. It was a privilege getting to inhabit such a dynamic character for four years. I also enjoyed working with the cast and crew in Toronto and eating at all the great restaurants that city has to offer. Lastly, I"ll miss interacting with the fans on social media. The Beasties are a special bunch. I"ll miss the excitement of finishing an episode and waiting to see how the fans react to it. It"s a real blessing to have a group of enthusiastic people to appreciate your work every episode.

Q: Would you mind if we shared one of your poems?

Basis:I"ve written a love poem by J.T. about Tess called "DON"T MESS WITH TESS." I find it helpful to write poems in the character"s voice to try andget inside their head. It"s a creative way to do some fun character work. I"ve done it for several other characters I"ve played. It"s extremely enlightening to think andtry to write like a character.

Q: You"re a celebrity ambassador for the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation. What drew you towards diabetes as a cause? How have your fans helped?

Basis: I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes about 10 days before my 9th birthday, so I"ve had it for more than 30 years. Growing up, my parents provided a great environment and allowed me to have a normal childhood. But I didn"t have a role model with Type 1 Diabetes that I could look to. I want to be that role model in kids" lives, someone that they can look at and say "I can do that, too!"

It"s important for people to have success stories to inspire them. As an actor, you"re told over and over early on how hard it is to succeed and have a career. But it was the success stories of actors I knew that inspired me and told me that a life as an actor was possible & within reach. I think it"s the same as a person living with Type 1 Diabetes. Providing these kids an example of a success story is important to me.

The Beasties have raised about $23,000 for the JDRFso far, and looking to push it over $30,000 by the end of the year. I"d say that"s pretty darn helpful. Because of their passion for the show and my connection to diabetes, they"ve created these campaigns to raise money and awareness. It"s amazing andI couldn"t be more grateful.

Q: What one thing about the show would you like to tell us about, that people never ask?

Basis: Just the thought, preparation andeffort that goes into every moment andframe of every episode. Hundreds of people contribute at every level--from the people in writing each episode anddeciding on the storylines, to the people that carry equipment all day, to the artists that build, paint anddress the sets, to our fabulous costume, hair, make-up, special and visual effects departments, to the wonderful camera crews we"ve had, to the directors andproducers in Toronto that make the show happen on a day-to-day basis. I think it always comes down to the quality of the finished product, but I have such a respect for the process of how a TV show gets made, and think that sharing that with our loyal fans can only strengthen their appreciation for the show.

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I’ve been a gaming and technology journalist for more than 25 years. Get my stories by email at or follow me on Twitter

I’ve been a gaming and technology journalist for more than 25 years. Get my stories by email at or follow me on Twitter
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