Trubies might know Janina Gavankar best for her role as Luna Garza on True Blood. But as Emma Brown from Interview Magazine discovers, she’s quite the busy actor! When she’s not filming True Blood, Janina has regularly contributed sketches to Funny or Die, produced and engineered music, and starred in an indie film called Satellite of Love which premiered at the Dallas Film Festival last night. In the interview that follows Gavankar talks about everything from how she got Luna on True Blood to her start in acting
Prior to joining True Blood for season 4, Janina had joined Showtime’s the L Word several seasons in. So she was asked about how it feels to join the cast of an established show. In situations like that, she’s always approached them expecting to feel like the freshman in a group of seniors. But in both cases she tells Brown that everyone was very professional and the shows were run very well so she didn’t feel out of place and that made things easier.
Janina also revealed that unlike some shows, she only sees most of her fellow cast members at table reads because the cast is so big.
Unless their storylines cross, she won’t see many of them on a day to day basis. For example Janina has seen Rutina Wesley (Tara Thornton) at table reads and hung out with her in real life but they’ve never worked together. And when pressed about whether she’d ask the writers to write them a scene together, she says she respects how complex and difficult it is to write a show like True Blood so she wouldn’t lest that throw things off.
As for how she got the part, Janina says that she was more cautious at first as opposed to wanting to be cast right away:
“I was told that there was a role that might be good for me, but I wasn’t immediately chomping at the bit, I had a whole bunch of conditions before I was ready to sign onto the show: One, I didn’t want to be a vampire because vampire sex freaks me out and I know that everyone has sex and gets naked on the show. [laughs] Two, I didn’t want to play a stripper or anything like that, not that I’m opposed to playing strippers, it’s just that at that moment I wasn’t really into it. And I didn’t really want to audition if it was a small part. But it [the role] was a new series regular, a classy schoolteacher and she was a shape-shifter. Those three things made me go, “Huh. That’s really interesting,” so I auditioned the next day and they brought me back to have a chemistry read with Sam Trammell (Sam Merlotte), who I got along with swimmingly, immediately, and it was straight to work.”
But as it turns out, the nudity Gavankar has been required to do on the show has worked more for her than it did when she was on the L Word. It isn’t a big deal for shapeshifters because they can turn into anything not to mention the horse she turned into was just as naked as herself so that helped make things easier. Janina also revealed that she can ask some pretty nerdy but interesting questions about shapeshifting to the writers:
“I have all these nerdy shape-shifter questions I always ask on set and to the writers and annoy them: “If I’m wearing fake nails, and I turn into something else, the fake nails would fall off… right?” But I don’t think we can turn into vampires, because they are dead. I think [the writers] don’t want to answer it because until they have gotten to the point where that is up for debate, they want to leave it open-ended. They don’t answer anything for me. “
Janina also told Brown that she doesn’t seem to get recognized by fans for her acting roles in every day life unless she’s in “drag” with her hair and make up done and wearing a nice outfit. When asked about how she got involved with Funny or Die, she says she met with one of the producers who pitched her something and she loved it. When she shot it though, Janina found herself calling on her early acting career skills doing commercials. Her first one was for Mellon Bank:
“It was for Mellon bank. It was sort of “Our bank is going to help people achieve dreams! Here’s a montage of these people that we’ve helped.” I was a college student standing behind a desk with a globe on it. There was a blackboard behind me with a really long equation on it, which I realize now was totally racist because I’m Indian. [laughs] I was 18, and all I did in the commercial was start with my piece of chalk on the last stroke of the equation, put the piece of chalk down, turn to the camera, and smile.”
The talk then turns a little more serious regarding Satellite of Love which is a small independent film directed by Will Moore and shot in Texas. It’s currently screening at the Dallas International Film Festival. So what is it about?
“It’s a cast of four people in this movie, three of them were cast and she pitched me for the fourth role. I read the script that night and really loved it, so I signed on. We went to Austin, my first day of work, it was 114 degrees outside. It’s about three friends and I’m dating one of the friends. They all go on a retreat to a vineyard and have to deal with their own past and history together. It’s a very artistic relationship indie. I’ve done a million indies, but I’ve never done anything that was in this genre, which is more “mumblecore.” The sort of “Let’s all pontificate and talk about relationships and life.” But it’s a beautiful film and it’s doing the Dallas Film Festival.”
Gavankar plays a DJ named Michelle in the movie and she herself has real music skills in real life. While she does identify more as a musician than a singer, Janina doesn’t reveal that aspect of her life for acting roles unless the part really calls for it. She doesn’t want it to turn into a talent show, preferring to keep the character as pure as possible within where and how they grew up.
To read the interview in its entirety click here.
Source: Interview Magazine.com– “Janina Gavankar Shifts Keys”
Image Credits: HBO, Inc. Interview Magazine, Jason Merritt, Getty Images, Satellite of Love