Autumn Best On Her Journey To The 4400

TV

Autumn Best is a young, up-and-coming actor who has lots of passion for her craft. Now she’s carving out a place for herself in the film and television industry.  

Autumn spoke to us about how she got started, what inspires her, working on 4400, and what she hopes to achieve with her work as a person with a disability. 

Check out our in-depth discussion below!

Mary Littlejohn: Tell us how you came to be part of 4400!

Autumn Best: It came to me through my agent. When I read the character and saw that they were looking for a disabled person, I got really excited — especially the fact that [Mildred] was a disabled person with superpowers in a sci-fi story because that’s super unique! I hadn’t seen that anywhere before.

It was also exciting because [they indicated] that this role would be tailored for the actress, so they didn’t have a specific disability in mind — they were just looking for someone who fit the character best, and they would craft the role around whoever they cast.

I feel like you see so much of everyone’s authentic selves in their characters — you’re all so genuine.

Yeah, the cameras go off, and we just continue to be, because the characters are so similar to who we are!

Except without superpowers.

Exactly. [laughs]

How much did you know about the show going in? Did you watch the original series?

I had not seen it when I auditioned. I watched the pilot before I did my final screen test, just to get a general idea of what I was getting myself into. It’s an interesting concept! After I booked the role, I watched the entire original series, and I liked it a lot, actually!

I’ve never been a big sci-fi person, but the way they frame it in our version is so fun, even to someone like me who doesn’t usually enjoy sci-fi.

It’s so grounded in our world and reality. The characters are actual people and, if you take the sci-fi away, it all feels like it could actually happen. The relationships and the characters still make sense and have dimensions. 

I was a big fan of the original series, which is why I was so excited for this reboot. It’s so different in tone, but it’s blown me away with the stories it’s choosing to tell. It’s so much more than I could have ever hoped for. 

It’s so cool because they’ve taken the original premise, and done something completely different with it. It’s a brand new version. It’s tough to compare the two, in my opinion. 

And, as you said, this reboot is a reflection of the modern world of today — it’s very much a product of the times we’re living in. 

What do you think makes this show different in how it portrays people with disabilities?

With my character, the focus isn’t on my disability — at least not in the episodes that we’ve filmed so far. I think it’s great when storylines focus on disability heavily, and obviously, that is a part of who I am, so it is a part of the story as a larger whole.

But in this show, it’s more about a seventeen-year-old girl having this experience like anybody else might have this experience. With my disability, the way I interact with the world, I see myself as everybody else.

So, when I watch content where it’s disabled people who are constantly traumatized, dehumanized, or every disabled story is tragic or inspiring — it’s not very realistic.

I mean, this is sci-fi, so it’s not exactly realistic! But as far as me just showing up and being myself, a human being experiencing things just like anyone else, I think that really sets my character apart. At least from what I’ve seen in media in my life for disabled people.

Mildred — Millie — is still a bit of a mystery. She’s a little hippie from the 1970s. Are we going to be learning more about the life she disappeared from?

You’ll definitely learn more as the season goes on, specifically towards the last few episodes of the season. I can’t say much, but there is going to be some backstory provided for my character, and you will meet people from her past.

We do explore the darker side of the hippie world in the 1970s, which I think is a really interesting take. A lot of people look at hippie culture as rainbows, sunshine, rose-colored glasses, but that’s not everything that it was. There were things that were very wrong about hippie culture that were very problematic.

So, in 4400 Season 1 Episode 4, Mildred ends up in the hospital because she lost control of her powers when Andre touched her neck. Is that why she couldn’t control it? How did she lose it at that moment?

There is more to it. I can’t say much because it won’t be until a lot later in the season, but I will say keep it in mind. Andre touching her neck definitely triggered her. It was PTSD from her past, so we will circle back to it.

If you could choose to have any superpower, what would it be? 

Telekinesis is a pretty good one — I feel like I lucked out in that department! But I also think super speed [would be great] because I could get so much done! As a hyperactive Virgo, I would appreciate just being able to speed through everything and do my day ten times. 

Do you have any favorite shows? Do you have time to watch television/film? 

It’s funny — I never really had time to watch TV before booking 4400. I was so busy with school, but moving here [to Chicago], I realized I could watch TV instead of having to do homework!

I think Sex Education is brilliantly done, and I think the disability rep in that show is great, too. I would definitely recommend that. Succession is really fun, too, with great writing.

My favorite movie that I’ve seen this year is Blue Bayou, which is about a Korean immigrant trying to stay in the US for his kid. It should be required watching — the acting is so beautiful, the writing is stunning. It’s definitely the best movie I’ve seen this year. 

How did you get into this? Did you always want to be a performer? Am I right in assuming you were a theatre kid? 

Yes, I was a theatre kid! I started doing theatre when I was little. I appreciate my training in theatre because it gives a different perspective on collaboration and showing up for the craft.

I actually got into the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University. That’s what I was going to do for college before I booked 4400. So life took a 180 there! [Laughs]

I did a pre-Broadway workshop of a new musical in New York back in 2019, and my manager happened to be there. She watched the reading and then reached out to me. I started working with her, and then the pandemic hit, so there was no more theatre.

So I started focusing on the art of film acting as opposed to theatre acting and how those are different. I have always loved film and television and wanted to make the transition, but I never really carved out the time for it. When the pandemic hit, I had all this free time to just focus on what I was doing.

I met my agents through my manager, signed with them over quarantine, and started doing more auditions. 4400 was my first callback from a self-tape which is crazy to think about!

It was all about meeting the right people at the right time and just persevering. I was also going to school at the time, writing and directing a play for my senior project while doing all these self-tapes, so there was a lot to juggle.

I actually met my agents for the very first time in person last weekend, and I’ve been working for them for a year! It’s definitely a brand new time. 

What was the pre-Broadway show you were involved with? 

It’s called Fly More Than You Fall. We did the workshop in New York, then the world premiere at a theatre in Utah — I moved to Chicago from Utah.

I played a bird named Willow in a story that the main character was writing to cope with her mom battling cancer. I was a bird with a broken wing who fell out of the nest as a baby trying to fly. My character goes through the grieving process with the other lead and learns that she can actually fly.

It was cool as a disabled person to play a role about believing that you’re broken and that you can’t do something because you’re not like everybody else — and then realizing that you do have the power. 

Fly More Than You Fall taught me that there is a place for me in this industry. There is a place for me to do this work, and I just have to keep trying. 

You do all these things — you sing, you act, you do plays, you’re in a television show on the CW, you’re 19 — what are your long-term goals? What do you see for yourself for your future?

I want to keep doing things that make me feel passionate and happy. I’m working on a concept for a movie right now with a writer friend. I would love to produce and star in my own film! That’s a big dream I have right now. 

I want to keep doing this for as long as I can and keep being a voice for people who don’t usually see themselves on stage and screen. I just want to keep telling stories that ask hard questions but also make people feel good.

So, to that end, what’s one piece of advice or wisdom you can offer other young people like yourself who are trying to pursue their dreams in this very challenging world?

Remember to believe in yourself and surround yourself with people who believe in you and believe in what you want to accomplish. You also want people who are going to tell you the hard truths because if you’re not getting the feedback or training that you need, you’re never going to make it to the level you want to be at.

When I was younger, I would stay with mentors and people who made me feel comfortable and safe. It wasn’t until I got to high school that I started surrounding myself with people who challenged me, who wanted me to succeed and told me what to do to make myself better, who pushed me outside of my comfort zone.

I think the most important thing is having people around you who will give you tough love.

Who or what is the biggest inspiration in your life? 

The biggest inspiration in my life has definitely been my mom. She has never been afraid to do exactly what she wants to do. She never lets anything hold her back. Without my mom, I don’t think I would have had the courage to keep doing this day after day. 

In general, I’m influenced more by projects than celebrities or people — seeing something like Sex Education discussing these issues or reading the script for 4400, and seeing a role that feels written for me. It’s so inspiring that people are actually out there writing these stories.

Projects that I’m working on inspire me! I was in a production of Into The Woods when I was younger as an understudy, but just [taking that on] inspired me to work hard, be humble, and respect the people around me. 

We’re so excited for all the work you’re doing and for the future of 4400. We hope to see many more things from you!

Thank you so much!

4400 airs weekly on The CW, Monday nights at 9/8c.

Portions of this interview have been edited for length/clarity.

Mary Littlejohn is a staff writer for TV Fanatic. Follow her on Twitter.

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