I got the chance to interview Austin Basis who plays Baze's (Kristoffer Polaha) childhood friend and roommate on the show, Math, and got the scoop on how he got the part on the show, if we'll be seeing Math make any moves on his now single high school crush, Cate, and what he's heard about possible Season 2 renewal.
Kendra: How did you become involved with Life Unexpected?
Austin: Well, it's like any pilot season, it starts in November, December and goes through March or April even. I got the audition the Monday before I was going to leave for the holidays on a Thursday which led to a callback. So I met the producers on Monday, went to a callback to meet the director and got put on tape, then the director couldn't make it so I basically auditioned for them again, and then Wednesday I tested for the studio and then Thursday or Friday I wasn't sure, so I had to switch my ticket because I wasn't sure when the network test was going to be. So from that day until January 7th I didn't know if I got the part. January 7th was the deadline for them to tell me. When you test for a show, a pilot, you basically sign the contract before you audition so they know if they give the part to you, that you basically are contracted to them. SoI had to wait through the holidays, through New Year's, and come back to LA and say, "So, do I have the part?" And then they said "Yes, and you need to be ready to leave for Vancouver on Friday!" And it was a Wednesday. And so that was it! It was a whirlwind.
Kendra: Have you been doing all the filming in Vancouver?
Austin: Yep, we did the pilot in Vancouver and obviously it takes place in Portland, Oregon, but the decision was made to do it there. So yeah, we shot the pilot and all 13 episodes in Vancouver. It's a great city.
Kendra: What have you enjoyed most about working on the show?
Austin: I enjoy acting in good shows with good scripts. And, you know, the first thing I get as an actor is the script and then you meet with the director after you've read the script. Liz Tigelaar, the executive producer and creator of the show, is just an amazingly talented, awesome person to work for to the point where her ego, or lack there of, allows constructive criticism from every possible part of the show. So when she put out a script, and we read the script, we were given a 48 hour window to give feedback. Just to give your feedback to the person who wrote the episode or the executive producer is an awesome opportunity to be a collaborator in creating your own part.
So even though my character is secondary to the core three of Cate, Baze, and Lux, she didn't reduce my input when I read the script. She welcomed everyone's feedback, even guest stars, to help her create these characters and the story. And just the people that I work with and the chemistry, you don't always find that and it's all basically because of Liz. But the casting directors, Jess and Robin, created this dynamic that just magically had this chemistry on and off screen. And, you know, you have a lot of chemistry on-screen with people but when you're living in another city with people you don't know that well, it's not always guaranteed just because you have on-screen chemistry and you're both talented actors that it's going to work well, and it just did. I just hope to continue working with these people.
Kendra: I've been wondering if Math is going to get a new love interest or it's just going to continue to be entertaining that he has this crush on Cate?
Austin: (Laughs) Well, yeah, he still thinks his love interest is Cate. As soon as she gets single, which she is now, so we'll see what happens with that. But, yeah, I think just storywise, obviously the dynamic between Cate, Lux, Baze, and of course Ryan, is just primary because it revolved around the initiator or the show which is Lux coming back into the lives of her birth parents. So those stories need to be told first, and totally understood, and that is definitely a consideration of the writers and producers, but in a 13 episode first season, I don't know if there was necessarily room for that [secondary storyline]. Although they contemplated that for Jamie, played by Reggie Austin, and there were possibilities for both of us to have scenes and "love interests," but the problem is that in the first season, you're not really going to see a scene between Jamie and Math by themselves, or Jamie and Math with other people without Cate, Baze or Lux. You don't even see a scene with Ryan and someone else. I think they're sticking to the core in the first season. Hopefully if it's a longer second season or if we even get the second season, it expands the storylines and the potential of the show when you open it up to have some B and C storylines going on that don't connect directly to this family of Cate, Baze and Lux.
Kendra: Will we be seeing Math do anything crazy to get Cate's attention now that she's single?
Austin: Well, I don't know if Math is necessarily, well, he's not intentionally crazy. Sometimes he gets a little fanatical when he deals with turtles or he plays some sort of game being that he played football with Baze in high school. But I feel like he might take a shot, and kind of ask Cate out, but not really. You know, everyone's been on one of those dates where you thought you asked a person out and you thought it was clear that it was a date, but you didn't make it clear enough because you didn't say, "Hey, you want to go on a date?" You know, you shy away from those words. So, I think that's going to be Math's experience with Cate. So he will take the shot, he just will do it passive aggressively, as he does with most things, and I do in my life. I know how to play it.
Kendra: On that note, do you feel like you're pretty similar to Math, maybe in some ways and not in others?
Austin: Yeah, I'm definitely similar. And it's like I was saying earlier with Liz, since this is my first experience on a series where I'm playing the same character on a continuation of episodes - usually I play guest stars, I've been in movies where you have a set script, you know where the story begins and ends so you can prepare based on that and where the character goes from A to B in that set script. Like with a guest star you're playing a character that comes on and is a witness, a doctor, a patient, you know the arc of the character. So what I did was not get in Liz's way, but I created a backstory for Math that tried to bring my life, Austin's, together with Math so that I understood the character, not necessarily experienced everything that person experienced, but using my imagination to create this backstory and also use it based on my experiences to inform Math's experiences. So Math is definitely a little more emotional than me, so I have to make choices that lead to that. He's a little nerdier than me, not that much, but just a little, and so I had to make choices that allowed me to be a little more as that nerd. Like my normal physical athleticism and my grace under fire (laughs) is kind of stifled and more vulnerable. And for some of the most volatile, especially with Baze, I could be adjusted and molded by me and Liz and all the writers to create a different person than me. But I think it's good to have a little in common so you know where to start with the character, or you have some experiences that are like who the character is and you can kind of forget your other experiences like when I was really cool and asked girls out and all that stuff and remember all the times I was too nervous and I got really shy and was the geek in front of them.
Kendra: You mentioned briefly Season 2, so what have you heard about possible renewal so far?
Austin: I just read what you guys write on the internet basically. So, if you want to write that there should be a Season 2!
Kendra: There are definitely some fan petitions and other work online from fans trying to help keep it on the air.
Austin: Yeah, you know, I love petitions, but there have to be so many people, that it's hard to get anything done by that, but it just shows that we have a lot of supporters and the fans are around everyday - like the Facebook fanpage everyday goes up by about 1,000. Before we even started it was about 10,000, now it's 34,000 and it's good to know that people are supporting it and saying good things and the numbers are not obviously what we would like, we would like numbers that would've gotten us picked up with the rest of the shows that got picked up already for the fall, so we're obviously still on the bubble and we're just hoping that our fans understand that and are doing what they can do get people to watch and turn people on to the show because I don't think there's a doubt that it's a good show and that it's good for the network, it's just the bottom line is a numerical rating for ad people to use to say, "alright, I want to put my commercials, and sell my products while people are watching the show" so hopefully the fact is that it goes in our favor and it will push the tide for a second season and I can talk to you next year.