Janina Gavankar On Her "Don't Look Down" Music Video & Getting More Lady Bosses Behind The Camera In Hollywood

photo credit Brie Childers

KEERTANA SASTRY @KEERTANAKS

By now it’s pretty obvious that being a woman in Hollywood can be difficult. Gender equality is nowhere close to being a reality and being stereotyped is common practice. So when you want to do something for yourself, that’s exactly how you have to do it: Yourself. At least that’s the mindset of Janina Gavankar, who took a moment on the set of her latest project to speak to Bustle. You may recognize Gavankar’s name from the many incredible TV shows in which she’s played a part including Arrow, The League, The Vampire Diaries, True Blood and now The Mysteries of Laura on which she is a series regular. But aside from Gavankar’s many television credits, she’s also a talented and classically trained musicians who takes her not-so-free time to produce and remake insanely ambitious songs and music videos. Her most recent video might the most ambitious of all, Gavankar took Martin Garrix’s single featuring Usher “Don’t Look Down,” and reimagined it completely with help from The Jersey Surf Drum and Bugle Corps. 

So where did such an out-of-the-box idea come from? Apparently all it took was for the song to rotate through Gavankar’s workout music. “I was on a treadmill and this song came onto my headphones and into my ears, and I immediately saw it all play out in my head. I couldn’t tell you why and how, it just came to me in a fugue state,” she says. “Then I just decided that I had to make it happen. It was just sheer will.”

As soon as the plans formed in her mind, Gavankar began calling “literally anybody and everybody” she knew at Drum Corp International for help by stating “I have this insane idea, I have no time to do it, but who wants to run with me?” Doesn’t sound like the best pitch in the entire world, but clearly it worked and things started coming together extremely quickly. 

I basically amassed this crazy team of people and we all pulled it off in a month,” Gavankar said. “That means the entire arrangement, the track which was done over three separate studio sessions and then also the video. I basically produced it all simultaneously while also being on set of The Mysteries of Laura in New York.”

In fact the turnaround for the music video was so quick that Gavankar had barely finished the mix for the track the night before the release of the music video on Tuesday afternoon.

So make all of these projects in the first place? Gavankar’s primary focus outside of continuing her love for music comes from female empowerment. 

“As a female performer/entertainer, people try to turn you into a muse, and at least in my life I have learned you cannot be the muse and the maker. I am the latter,” she says. “I much prefer being the latter because nobody’s going to do it for you… At some point you just have to have that manifest destiny and insanity in you.”

Gavankar stated many times the entire process of making this video with the drum corp was a huge dream of hers as she grew up in drum corp in high school and continued the musician streak through college as well. In fact, Gavankar even admitted that she quite the “nerd” about drum line in high school (she was also head of drum line her senior year), so much so that her senior pictures include her wearing her drum line uniform in all its glory. In fact, she even joked that she can’t imagine how big of a weirdo she would have become if she stayed a hardcore musician instead of pursuing acting full time. 

But there’s a reason Gavankar acts so much. She’s talented yes, but she also stated that she believes she’s drawn to female-centric series. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence that I have worked on many projects where there has been a strong female voice at the forefront or behind the scenes,” she said. “We all know the statistics of Hollywood. Women are not even close to having enough representation behind-the-scenes. But if I look at my career, I have noticed along the way that most of the shows I’ve worked on are run by and/or have included female leads.”

She’s not wrong. Gavankar got her big break on a very female-heavy show, Showtime’s The L Word. Her other work very clearly features women in important positions. Even The League is run by a husband and wife duo, and features Katie Aselton in lead role out-sassing every single male lead on the series.

“Something’s up with that with me for sure,” she said. “Nobody’s hiring me to play the ‘shrinking violet.’ It’s not that I can’t play one, but I think people would rather me be the opposite, and I think that you attract what you want to be around anyway. I’m very interested in being around badass boss ladies,” she says.

Gavankar continued by stating an obvious yet important message about Hollywood: “I can guarantee you that the content we have available to us would be so much better if we could just gender balance period,” she says. “I mean the world is a better place when everybody works together and is inclusive.” 

No wonder the actress/musician wants to make her own projects. And thankfully she’s actually able to make her dream work a reality.

“I got really really lucky… This thing happened so fast, it was like pixie dust,” she said. “The two days with the big massive studio session with drum corp and the brass, and the music video were quite the possibly the two most magical days of my life.” 

“It’s all downhill from here. I’ve peaked. It’s now it’s all over. I can close my eyes and sleep forever,” she joked. Thankfully this isn’t true. There’s no way we’ve heard the last from Gavankar. 

Images: Brie Childers; Giphy