Direct from Dragon Con: An Interview with Janina Gavankar
[Editor’s note: We have another report from our roving correspondent, Lisa, catching up with one of our faves, Janina Gavankar! Enjoy!]
Earlier this month at Dragon Con, I was lucky to sit down with the fabulous Janina Gavankar for a one on one interview. She was an absolute joy! She was energetic, sweet and super fun (even at 9am on a Saturday morning)! I felt like I was talking to a good friend! We talked Arrow, True Blood, her music, and how she’s really a fan girl at heart.
Lisa: Welcome to Dragon Con!
Janina: Thank you. It’s my first time.
Lisa: Really? How do you like it?
Janina: I am loving it!
Lisa: Would you dress up as a character and come to Dragon Con?
Janina: Oh Yes! Actually Jim (Parrack) got Rutina (Wesley) and I masks just so we can walk around. I was going to put together a Chell costume from Portal, which is my favorite video game, and the character kind of looks like me. That was my idea but I’m down here working on The Vampire Diaries so I had no time to put together a costume.
Lisa: How do like working on The Vampire Diaries?
Janina: It’s a totally different show than True Blood. It’s a completely different mythology and I’m a character from someone’s past, so I had to learn the mythology from when I existed until now and I was flown in a good week before I had my first day of work for fittings and hair testing etc. One of my major concerns was physically I wanted to look very different than my character on Arrow because they are both CW shows. I didn’t want people to go “wait a second, is McKenna in Mystic Falls? I thought she was rehabbing her leg in Coast City”- where the Flash is from by the way. That’s pretty cool.
Lisa: That is so cool!
Janina: Did you not know that?
Lisa: No I didn’t know that! You learn something new every day!
Janina: Yes, very cool. Ok, so that was a major concern and then I was very lucky that I had a full week to sit with the producers, the writers, and the story producers and track the entire mythology of the show. It’s so different, I would say it is much less about vampires and much more about doppelgangers as it pertains to the mythology, which is a completely different show than True Blood.
Lisa: That’s very true.
Janina: My brain is like oh Geez this is a lot! I thought I knew some shit about vampires (laughing) but it’s different.
Lisa: Yeah, every show is different. Vampires cry blood tears on one show and not on another; they have daylight rings on one show and not the other. It’s all in the details.
Lisa: It is a lot.
Janina: It is. I’m into it though, ya know? I keep doing all of these genre shows. There has got to be a reason why I get a lot of them. (Laughing)
Lisa: That kind of leads into my next question. You get to play a lot of different characters from Arrow, True Blood and now The Vampire Diaries. What would be your dream role?
Janina: I really want to do a musical. I really want to go do a musical that is on camera. Because that is what I did before I became an actor. So I’d really like to get back to my roots.
Lisa: Speaking of music I loved your cover of Kanye West’s Love Lockdown.
Janina: Thank you.
Lisa: It was amazing and I already liked that song, but when I saw your video of it I liked it so much better! (Laughing)
Janina: Thank you!
Lisa: Your music video “Waiting for Godot” was great too. I loved how you had the black and white contrast and that it was all you! It held my attention the whole time I loved it!
Janina: Thank you! My director, Caitlyn Pashalek, who directed both videos and also did another video that I starred in for another artist, is incredibly talented, and she talked me into doing that. I had this idea where I was like “Well I’ll just play one of the characters and I’ll get one of my fancy cool friends to play the other one. We’ll just get a cameo from someone really cool.” She said “No!” She was like “You’re gonna do this,” and quite honestly, as an actor experiment, it was exhilarating because we rehearsed the heck out of it because we had to do the whole thing in 11 hours.
Lisa: Wow! That is not a lot of time.
Janina: Yeah, it’s unheard of and I pulled it off with the help of some friends who were stunt doubles and stand-ins. So there were 4 bodies dressed the same so I could play against somebody; one of them is a really talented actor and an insane dancer, who was a principal dancer for Cirque Du Soleil. I Die!
Lisa: That is really cool!
Janina: Her name is Amrapali Ambegaokar. She was my stand in and because she was an actress we could look into each other’s eyes and be rooted in the scene. Caitlin wrote the narrative and she mapped it out according to the song. We rehearsed in my loft and figured out that I had to do the whole scene as both characters, by myself, and visualize the entire thing. That’s the only way we could pull it off. So, ya know, Caitlin is a beast!
Lisa: Wow. That is so cool. So I have a confession, when I first saw you on True Blood you looked so familiar and I kept saying to myself “I know her from somewhere.” It had to be about 4 or 5 episodes in when it hit me. I was like “Oh my God, Luna is Papi from The L Word!” I loved that show and Papi was one of my favorite characters.
Janina: That’s funny! Some of my favorite things on Tumblr are gifs or tweets that are basically like Papi is Luna=Mind blown! Or the moment you figure out that Luna is the same chick that played Papi.
Lisa: That is exactly how I was. Mind blown! I can’t believe it took me that long to figure it out. (Laughing)
Janina: People are somehow shocked, sometimes they are dismayed. Whatever, it’s still kind of awesome because I feel like I get to pull magic tricks sometimes. Ya know?
Lisa: Do you still get recognized for being Papi? Do people still come up to you?
Janina: Nobody ever has, generally, because we don’t even walk the same way so people don’t spot me. I could walk around West Hollywood while I was on the air as Papi and people wouldn’t recognize me.
Lisa: I was talking to the girls at True-blood.net and have to tell you how much we miss you on True Blood.
Janina: Aw! Thank you.
Lisa: Do you think Luna might pop up in flashbacks?
Janina: I don’t know. I would love that. I love everybody on that show. Man did I get lucky, Sam was a dream! I loved looking into Sam Merlotte’s eyes. I would read a scene a certain way and I would show up to set and he would do these things, where he was basically like “I’m gonna handle shit.” He would take a moment where maybe the line was “OK” but his whole subtext was “I got this!” (Laughing) and I would be fanning my face and I’d tell him “You are doing this thing where you just are handling shit! You are great, and I love working with you.” (Laughing)
Lisa: (Laughing) Woo! That is AWESOME!
Janina: He’s fantastic! So, if they ever called me, I would be crazy not to go back, but I didn’t even think I would get past a year.
Janina: Yeah, I really didn’t because everybody dies.
Lisa: That’s true. I was really hoping you wouldn’t though. I definitely missed Luna’s presence this season.
Janina: Really? That makes me feel great. Thank you!
Lisa: Switching gears to Arrow, are we going to see any more of McKenna? The last time we saw her she was a little injured. (Laughing)
Janina: Yeah I was a little injured, but they said on their panel at Comic-Con that they were going to kill me! But we got along so well that they just kind of shot me.
Lisa: Well I’m glad they didn’t kill you!
Janina: Yeah, so she is rehabbing in Coast City – who knows if she’s met The Flash, it’s probably a big city – but I don’t know. It’s all about schedule ya know? I would love to, I had a great time up there. But if you want to see her, then you just gotta bug the creators on Twitter.
Lisa: Oh we will! (Laughing)
Janina: Just spam them until I’m like, ok stop I’m in Vancouver. (Laughs)
Lisa: That’s awesome. Well we lost you on True Blood, but we have you on Arrow and The Vampire Diaries.
Janina: Have you seen Husbands?
Lisa: I saw the first episode, I’m way behind.
Janina: Meaning the one on the CW or the original one?
Lisa: The original one. I haven’t seen any of the new stuff yet.
Janina: It’s great! They released it so I can talk about it. I’m in the next 3 episodes –it’s basically a 3-part, 24-minute situation. I’m not sure how they do it. I’m in the next 3 bits on the CW seed.
Lisa: Yay! I read that Husbands was going to the CW seed.
Janina: Yeah, it’s very cool. I’ve got to commend them for that.
Lisa: You’re like the Queen of the CW! (Laughing)
Janina: (Laughing) I don’t know about that. It just so happens that I have back to back CW projects within one year. But hey, you go where you’re needed and apparently I’m just supposed to do genre/cult shows. I’m ok with it though because if it means I get to come back to stuff like this (referring to Dragon Con), because you realize there is no difference between us. I couldn’t even say hello to Edward James Olmos yesterday! I was like Ah! I can’t deal! I’m a fan girl, so the fact that I get to be on this side is some grand trick I’ve pulled.
Lisa: It’s amazing! Well I hope you enjoy your first Dragon Con and all the fabulous costumes!
Janina: I definitely will. I’m excited to take photos today.
Lisa: Thank you so much for taking time to speak with me today. It was fun!
Janina: Thank you it was nice to meet you.
Season 5 of The Vampire Diaries premieres on October 3rd at 8/7c on the CW. Arrow returns on Oct. 9 at 8/7c on the CW. You can catch Husbands the web-series here. You can keep up with Janina and all of her awesomeness on Twitter @Janina or on her website here.