The beautiful American and Dutch actress and musician, Janina Gavankar, gave UrbanAsian an exclusive interview so you guys can get to know her a little better! Did you know that she’s a music nerd at heart? Keep reading to learn more about the stunning “True Blood” actress!
A: You can call me whatever you want! My closest friends call me Janina, JaninaZ, J9, Ninja, J Ninja, etc.
Q: Where were you born?
A: Joliet, IL
Q: Where did you live most of your life?
A: Joliet, IL.
Q: How would you describe your University years?
A: Exhausting! I was taking an overload of classes to graduate early, I was doing theatre and commercials, and was also signed to Cash Money with a pop group all at the same time. I have no idea how I pulled it all off.
Q: Who would you say is your inspiration to make you who you are today?
A: I think it’s a combination of the characters I play, the people I work with, my family, and the people I’ve surrounded myself with.
Q: How was the experience when you collaborated on a project for a song called “Tell Me What” in India with Pratichee Mohapatra?
A: It was very fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants. One day I got a call from the producer (Deep) who said “remember that song you sang in my sister’s closet? I’ve remixed it, and we’re shooting a video here in India next week.”
Q: Coming from a mixed Indian and Dutch descent are you a Bollywood Fanatic?
A: Nope! I never watched Bollywood films growing up. I don’t know why, either! My extended family has been in the business for generations, apparently. Mangesh Desai, my dad’s uncle, did sound design on Sholay, and my dad’s best friend growing up was Pancham, (R D Burman). Recently, we had a conversation about what fate would have brought our family had he stayed in India. He probably would have joined his friends [The Mukherjee’s] in the industry, and I would have ended up doing exactly what I’m doing now. Makes me feel like I’m doing what I ought to be. (laughs)
Q: Being 3/4ths Indian, did you ever get the ‘become a doctor’ topic lecture?
A: Not even close. My parents have always been original thinkers. I never felt pressure to become anything other than the most badass version of who I am.
A: We were a five girl pop/r&b group. We sounded kinda like EnVogue, and danced like Ciara. Lots of harmonies. Lots of choreography. Lots of hours in studios. That’s where I learned how to edit vocals with ProTools.
Q: Tell UrbanAsian readers how you became a fantasy fanatic?
A: I grew up drawn to books written by Douglas Adams, Michael Crichton, and Kurt Vonnegut. Seemed like those characters were having more fun; as opposed to the Sweet Valley High twins, and the like, who seemed to be worrying about which boys like them in high school.
Q: By the way is that how you scored your role as a deputy in the show “The Gates?”
A: Hm. Not really. They never asked me if I liked sci-fi/fantasy in my audition. The thing that makes all these shows work is that we play the characters as humanly as possible.
A: Playing someone gay has always been a non-issue to me.
Q: Was there ever a role that you felt out of place or felt scared?
A: Nope. The more I feel challenged, the more I want to play the role.
Q: Is there a type of role that you wouldn’t consider playing?
A: Generally, I’m up for anything, except for repetition. Example: If someone wants me to basically play Papi again, I’m going to decline.
Q: From all the gigs you have done; if you ever had to choose music vs. acting what would it be?
A: I think it’s pretty obvious I’ve already chosen acting. (laughs) But it’ll never stop me from making music.
A: Oh definitely. I’d say “music nerds” are in the realm of, but definitively different from “music snobs”. We tend to celebrate less “mainstream” music, but we never think it’s better or cooler than any other genre.
Q: If so we know that every music nerd has a favorite instrument; which one do you enjoy.
A: My 8 foot, 4 and 1/3 octave Honduras rosewood marimba.
Q: Having worked since 2001, can you tell us what your favorite role was and why?
A: Ooooo. Such a good question, because I’ve been so lucky to play a wide variety of people. I’d say Ms. Dewey. [Microsoft’s interactive search engine that went viral in 2007] She was the most worldly, classy, sexy, whip-smart badass I’ve played. She has a wicked sense of humor… and a manservant.
Q: Being multi-talented do people ever ask you that “is there anything that you can’t do?”
A: Yeah! Someone just tweeted that at me a few hours ago, actually! Though it’s flattering, it’s a ridiculous question. I generally walk around thinking I suck at everything, and that fuels me to be better at the few things I’m willing to dedicate my life to.
Q: What are some of your upcoming projects – both in music and in television and film?
A: I just wrapped on a beautiful art house film in Austin, TX, I’m always making music, and occasionally making nonsense with the folks at FunnyOrDie. And, of course, we go back to Bon Temps for season 5 in a few months.