Last season on BEAUTY AND THE BEAST, Tess Vargas (Nina Lisandrello) had the biggest shock of her life. She found out that her partner’s boyfriend was a beast — literally. In Tess’ world, that should just not be possible. Humans are not beasts. Yet what her brain were telling her and what her eyes told her were distinctly at war. Still trying to assimilate to this new reality where human-beasts are actually possible, Tess returns in Season 2 determined to do two things: (1) help her friend Cat (Kristin Kreuk) any way she can and (2) get their professional careers back on track. This all sounds easier than it is to achieve. Fortunately, Tess is a resourceful woman. In a recent press interview from the set, Nina Lisandrello candidly talked about the hurdles ahead for Tess and whether or not there may be love blossoming in the air for the heart-broken detective.
With Tess now part of the Dream Team in search of Vincent (Jay Ryan), is she trying to rein Cat in or is Tess prodding her on to keep up the search?
NINA: Tess is having a hard time at the beginning of Season 2 because she really does want to help Cat find Vincent. But Tess is also been inundated with all the cases that the D.A. has overturned because they were tampered with. So Joe is gone and now Tess is responsible for fixing all these cases and she’s a little bit buried. She’s like, “Come back and help me solve all these cases because I need some help!” (Laughs) “You’re boyfriend’s cute, but I really need to keep my job!” It’s awkward. Tess has to balance being a really good friend and understanding what Cat has gone through: she’s lost her mother, she’s lost her father, and looking for Vincent. She’s lost everybody and Tess is trying to straddle the fence of being a really good friend and being sensitive, and also trying to help Cat move on with her life.
We also discovered the fun dynamic of Tess and J.T. (Austin Basis) last season. It was unexpected. Are we going to be seeing more of them working together a little bit?
NINA: You will definitely see more of J.T. and Tess working together. It is a very rocky relationship, but they end up discovering that they have more in common than not. They have a lovely, lovely chemistry. It’s just battle of the snark. That’s what it is.
It seems like they bring the layers of comedy to the show.
NINA: Austin and I are from New York, so we just have a way of talking to each other and then when we are in character, it’s like that times ten. It’s fun because we also just chip away at the walls that J.T. and Tess have. He’s very disarming and Tess sees right through him, so I really look forward to the blossoming of this relationship.
J.T. and Tess didn’t interact a lot in the first half of last season, but as soon as they started interacting, it was like, “Wow, those are fun scenes!”
NINA: (Laughs) Like, “Those two got something going on!” Yeah, the chemistry is great. One of the things I loved about this season is comedy is what Austin and I do, and in our roles this season have only been about making the scenes funnier and lighter and trying to just inject energy because the stakes can’t always be so high — so life and death. That’s why we watch. It’s so epic. Then everybody need a break now and then. That’s just also life. You go through really hard times, but then there’s humor in everything. And that’s what Tess and J.T. bring to the show.
Will Tess push Catherine to let loose at all, like have a girl’s outing?
NINA: That is an amazing question. Tess will definitely push Cat to let loose, and Cat lets loose a little too much. So when Cat is letting loose more than Tess, and Tess has to rein Cat in, we’ve got a serious problem. So that’s a really funny episode. That is Episode 204. Good girl’s night.
Where is Tess’ heart at? Is she completely heart-broken or is she protective of her heart right now because Joe is gone?
NINA: Tess is definitely not the most communicative person. She doesn’t like to talk about her feelings, but she will end up yelling at you or having attitude or just hiding behind snarkiness. But deep down she’s completely heart-broken that she’s lost her boyfriend. And she is a woman that leads such a difficult lifestyle that she kind of thinks now that Joe’s gone that she’ll never find someone again. She’s lonely and Cat has this journey, but at the end of the day, Cat is all that Tess has. So Tess is feeling very lonely, very vulnerable, and just desperate to connect with someone who understands her.
Who is Tess turning to with Cat so distracted and in her own world?
NINA: (Laughs) She’s trying to turn to Cat and Cat is not available, and it’s really awful. Like Tess is such a needy girlfriend this season. I feel for her. She needs a big hug and she really needs to connect with somebody because I think in a lot of ways Joe wasn’t what Tess thought he was. So she’s going to have a lot of issues trusting.
Do you find yourself tapping on the writers’ shoulders saying, “I can think of a few things for a man for Tess”?
NINA: The writers usually have much better ideas than I do, but I definitely have helped guide in a way the more vulnerable side of Tess. It’s just really easy to come into scenes and be bitchy and snarky, but why is she like that? At the end of the day, it’s much more interesting to watch someone’s sensitive side and vulnerable side. The writers and all just decided that we’re really going to get to know these characters inside and out. So it’s going to be really exciting.
Are there any plans to bring a new man into Tess’ life?
NINA: There definitely are some prospects on Tess’ radar. Tess doesn’t necessarily know that the person that is meant for her is right in front of her face. (Laughs) I’ll just put it that way. It’s cool. She has no idea.
As an actor, since you may have an awareness of who a potential love interest is, how do you play that on screen?
NINA: It’s one of those things where you kind of don’t want to know. But because I know I just play the scenes from where that character is and whatever stuff you know about the future, it just doesn’t matter. You’re in the moment. That’s my job. It’s to not know all this information. It’s kind of like I’m a lawyer who doesn’t want to know whether or not you committed a crime. Like I can justify why Tess is in this psychological headspace in this scene. You can’t play what’s happening in the future. It doesn’t work.
It feels like the show became a much more ensemble oriented show towards the end of last season. How much did you enjoy getting to interact in that way, rather than just one-on-one type scenes?
NINA: I enjoyed it so much because in watching this show its just this epic, epic love story and it’s amazing. But it was at the point where I would see my scenes and I would be like, “Can you just shut up? Like there’s a lot of stuff going on with Cat and Vincent, okay?” You want as the character to be in on the importance of why the audience is watching this story, and you want to help or in someway involved. And I noticed that for a very long time on the show that Tess was completely unaware, didn’t know, didn’t understand just the vast complexities of what Catherine was going through. Now that she does know and she was allowed in, it was really exciting. That episode where Vincent saves Tess was so exciting ’cause now we can kind of drop the bullshit and now we can really start to have honest conversations. To have a character who is so New York and simple to be let in on the most bizarre, supernatural situation, it was fun to play that. Like, “Huh? Nah? That doesn’t happen.”
That was actually a fantastic episode ’cause she reacted with such disbelief, like “that’s not possible.”
NINA: Yeah, and that follows still into Season 2. I always like to give Tess the viewpoint of “this is not normal, this is not normal behavior for people to turn into beasts.” Cat is so in that world that it’s just not really that odd. But Tess is always going to come from the place of shock and discomfort.
Assuming they are able to locate and reunite with Vincent, will Tess now be Team Vincent or going to say, “The man’s a beast, what are you thinking?!”
NINA: I think that Tess — because Vincent gets taken off with Muirfield and at this point — Tess goes to the negative over anything else. So since he’s been with Muirfield, Tess doesn’t know what the hell Muirfield did to him and at the end of the day she is there to protect Cat. Whether that means saying something that Cat’s not going to like or coming from a viewpoint that Cat is not going to agree with. At the end of the day, she always wants to protect Cat. She comes from a good place. But her loyalty is with Catherine, not with Vincent; and at this point, anything could happen with the storyline and with Vincent she comes from a very cautious place.
Would you say that Tess is like an anchor in reality and very kind of practical?
NINA: I think Tess is very anchored in reality and at the beginning of this season Tess is coming from a place where lying and deceit ended up losing her relationship with Joe and it’s kind of a cautionary tale for Cat. It’s “just be careful because when you don’t have all the information ’cause you don’t know who to trust.” She just wants Catherine to be careful.
With the heightened danger now that Tess is aware of Muirfield and their world, how much physical training do you have to do to keep up with all that as far as how they write the show?
NINA: The funny thing is: I was just saying that Tess is brute in the relationship. Like Tess is Indiana Jones in a sword fight. She just shoots her gun and says, “I really don’t have time for all this.” Cat is a ninja — trained in martial arts. Tess is a New York cop. She’ll punch you in the face and maybe kick you in the groin. It ain’t going to get that sexy with Tess. She’ll break a chair over your head. But the really amazing fight sequences are with Catherine ’cause that is just what Kristin excels at. It’s beautiful and it’s amazing to watch. And Tess will just be there watching, sipping a beer, and just watching the show. There is a scene coming up where Cat has a very intense sequence while Tess is drinking a beer. (Laughs) So there is a lot of fun stuff coming up.
To see if actual sparks do fly as Tess and J.T. try to protect their friends no matter what the cost and if Tess can move beyond her recent betrayals and losses, be sure to tune in for the Season 2 premiere of BEAUTY AND THE BEAST on Monday, October 7th at 9:00 p.m. on the CW. Home is where the heart is — you just have to figure out where your heart is.
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