Life Unexpected’s Austin Basis
Calling all Life Unexpected fans! I know you’re out there and we couldn’t agree more with your love for The CW’s brand new hit drama. I got a chance to speak with Austin Basis who plays Math – Baze’s (Kristoffer Paloha) friend who been laboring a crush for Cate (Shiri Appleby) since high school! Whether you’re familiar with the show or not – you’re about to be.
Read what Austin has to say about the show, his character, what’s ahead – and what was up with those "Turtle Races".
First off when did you decide that acting was what you wanted to do?
I always felt comfortable performing in front of people and making them laugh; even as a kid. My favorite holiday was Halloween, so I tried my best to make it last as long as possible. I used to have a "Costume Chest" that I’d collect masks, wigs, hats, glasses, make-up, and capes in. And when friends came over, we’d dress up and act stuff out on my front porch for our parents. I did some musical theater in sleep-away camp and performed in school plays, but it wasn’t until college that I decided to major in theater and fully commit to being an actor.
How did landing the role in Life Unexpected come about?
The usual way, I auditioned… I met with the casting directors Robin Lippin and Jeff Meshel, along with the executive producer Liz Tigelaar and the producer Mary Beth Basile. I had a work session with Gary Fleder. Then they decided to TEST me for the pilot- which means that I would audition for the studio [CBS] and then, if I made it past them, the network [The CW]. I originally auditioned with Kris [Polaha] and Shiri [Appleby] in December 2008, but had to wait until January 2009 to find out I got the part. Brit [Robertson] was already cast as "Lux"; Kris was cast in December; Shiri and I found out around the same time in January; and Kerr [Smith] and Reggie [Austin] were cast last.
For those who haven’t tuned into the show yet, can you tell me about your character "Math"?
Math, is Baze’s best friend and roommate. In the pilot, Baze’s biological daughter-he-never-knew-he-had [Lux] shows up at their apartment. It turns out she was conceived from a one-night-stand "Baze" had with Math’s high school crush, Cate. SO all these people are thrown back into this dysfunctional little world together. Math, is Baze’s loyal confidante and impassioned motivator. Together with Jamie, their other roommate, these three stooges provide the comic relief of Life Unexpected. Math now teaches at their alma mater, and has "Lux" as a student.
"Math" had a crush on "Cate" in high school – did you ever have your own Cate growing up?
Yeah… I had quite a FEW Cates! Most of which never amounted to much. I was really shy in high school when it came to girls. If I was lucky, the girl I liked pursued me; but more times than not I didn’t have the courage to make the first move! I used to write songs and poems for the girls I liked, and a couple times actually recited them. When I think about Math’s crush on Cate, I take elements of all of those traumatic "experiences" I had growing up and use them as needed… it’s also pretty easy to have a crush on Shiri Appleby!
I really enjoyed the episode with the "Turtle Races" — how did you guys have to shoot that? Did you have to work around the turtles and catch a shot every time they moved?
Allan Arkush directed that episode and did a "Turtle Screen-Test" with the animal wrangler before we ever started shooting. The fastest one was cast as "Bolt"- Math’s undefeated 3-legged turtle; who is actually a tortoise. The secret to make them go was just a matter of warming them up and tickling their tails. When we wanted them to stay in place, the wrangler would cool them down, so they’d hide in their shells. They were pretty easy to work with, but it was a little intimidating at first. The owner said that they may bite and that their shells may crack if we drop them. After a couple of takes, though, Bolt and I were like 2 peas in a pod. Now, he’s gonna be the Best Man at my wedding!
I also really love seeing your interaction with Kristoffer Polaha and Reggie Austin on the show, have there been any funny moments off set that you can tell us about?
Most of those moments were ON set, we just had so much fun working together that we were constantly being told to "reign it in". The show is after all a drama, but somehow, with us … it always came down to farting! Since we were all in a foreign city together, away from our loved ones, all we had was each other. So we bonded; we drank beers together, we went to movies together, we ate oysters together, we drank beers together! What you see on-screen is a real chemistry, friendship and mutual respect. It’s really difficult to fake that.
While there are very funny moments on the show, it’s also a serious drama about these two people reuniting with the daughter they gave up. How do you find a balance between the comedic scenes and the reality of what’s going on in these characters lives? How do you find the balance to make it believable?
Well, they say "laughter is the best medicine" and I think that rings true when faced with dramatic circumstances like these. Just as in life – a little levity could relieve even the most tense of moments. And the writers, supervised by Liz Tigelaar, created a balance that injects a little humor just as a scene is getting too serious, while still maintaining and never sacrificing the dramatic truth of every character. It’s my favorite type of material. Because it’s most like life. Soap operas have no comedy at all, and sitcoms have too much. The best sitcoms occasionally have a poignant moment to bring the audience back to reality. The trick in executing this believability is in the actors commitment to the truth of every situation. I think you get the best comedy when the moments are based in reality. Gary Fleder, director/executive producer, set the motto for our show early on when he said he wanted to see "Less Lucy and more Tootsie" … we were all willing to lose a laugh in order to gain a moment, and ultimately hold an audience’s attention.
Is there anything you can share with about what to expect in upcoming episodes?
If you’ve been watching the drama between Cate, Baze, Ryan, and Lux keeps escalating with each new episode. In the final few episodes, we’ll see their relationships come to a head. Lux confronts Cate about giving her up for adoption and makes amends with Bug; Ryan decides if he wants to make it work with Cate; Cate tries to balance her life and maintain her sanity; Baze questions his relationship with Abby, makes strides on fulfilling his dad role by confronting his own dad, and finally comes to grips with his possible feelings for Cate – while Math & Jamie try their best to keep him in check. The big questions are: Will there be a wedding? Who will get married, if anyone? Who will be there and who won’t? Well… I guess you’ll all have to keep watching and see. But trust me – you won’t be disappointed!
Life Unexpected airs Mondays @ 9/8 c on The CW.*
photos: Personal Propaganda Photography /
*Photo by Jack Rowand – © 2009 The CW Network, LLC. All Rights Reserved.