JANINA GAVANKAR TAKING SHAPE - Starry Constellation Magazine

JANINA GAVANKAR TAKING SHAPE by: Jamie Steinberg

Q) What are the recent projects that you've been working on?

A) For half the year, we've been working on "True Blood," making a pretty crazy season for all of the fans. Before that, I was working on a few shows. One is "The League" and the other was "Traffic Light." I did a bunch of funny things I've been working on. Marshall Allman and I just did a Funny or Die skit.

Q) Please tell us  about your character Luna on the show "True Blood."

A) I can tell you that Luna is a shapeshifter and a school teacher by day. She meets Sam (Sam Trammel) at a gathering of shapeshifters. We all hang out and talk. Whatever happens from there, we shall see...

Q) Did you read any of the Sookie Stackhouse novels to get into character?

A) I was going to read them, but I was told they strayed so much from that. They said I could if I wanted, but they don't really completely follow them anymore. The other thing was I am really nerdy with backstory. I hear backstory and I dedicate my life. This is my life history and I really stick to it. If anything changes, I get very upset. It's actually a bad idea to read the books and have it change so much for the show.

Q) What is the most challenging aspect of the role?

A) There is a lot of wearing not much of anything. It has it's own challenges, of course. Mostly, when we're freezing we're trying to pretend we're in nice Louisiana weather, just warm and toasty. That's definitely a challenge from stopping your jaw from shaking in the cold.

Q) What's it like being a part of a show that's so iconic?

A) I kind of got a taste of that when I did "The L Word." I joined a group of people who had already been making a hit show for years. That was iconic in its own way. It wasn't a big fear for me because I was like, "Alright! I've kind of done this before. Let's go!" This is totally different because it doesn't just have a cult following, it brings out the culty part of every person that watches it. Everybody gets a little geeky! Everybody gets in touch with their geeky side when they watch. They fall in love with "True Blood."

Q) Do you find filming any of the bloody/gory scenes particularly difficult?

A) There's a scene where my character gets a nose bleed. Just a little drop of blood. That's it. Well, a person is standing there with a squeegee next to your nose. They'll say, "Squeeze! Now, action!" Then, that person jumps out of frame. So, it's so logistically complicated that it's not gory. You're just trying to make it work.

Q) Have you gotten used to being recognized yet?

A) Everyone says, "You're life is going to change!" Nothing has really changed for me. If anything, I do really look like my character. This is the first time I actually feel like I've been hired to look like myself. But I have no fear of strangers. I have never had a problem connecting with somebody and having a real moment on the street with anybody. I am not afraid of being able to share my happiness with a stranger. I get to be part of an amazing show and for somebody to like the thing that I like, we can like it together. Yeah!

Q) What is it like working with creator/writer/director/EP Alan Ball?

A) Amazing! He's so unassuming! Meanwhile, I know how brilliant that brain is in that giant head. You think, "Alan Ball, he must be able to float around. He's like a superhuman himself." He's just a normal guy that goes to work and works really hard. He has an amazing team around him that he's built throughout his career. I was talking to one of the writers and he worked on "Cybil" with Alan. I asked how they met and he said they used to work at "Market Week Magazine" together where Alan used to make charts and he used to write copy. They've known each other since they were babies, basically. They've been together their entire career. Alan has brought him with him everywhere because he's clearly talented. When you surround yourself with people that you can trust and that you like working with, that's a talent in itself.

Q) All the actors have had a chance to bond over the last few seasons. Was there instant chemistry when you joined the cast?

A) It's not too hard to find chemistry with people that are that juicy of humans. Everyone on the show is pretty special. It's hard not to like everyone. I think it's more about finding when you fit when you walk into a show that's so developed. You just kind of have to give it up and say, "You guys are awesome! I'm happy to be here. Where do you want me to stand? I know my lines." You just get to work and by the end of it everybody is one big happy family.

Q) What has been your most memorable moment from filming "True Blood?"

A) I would say it was my second day of work when we were shifting when we were very unclothed and cold. It was my second day of work and Sam and I were trying to work out a scene. We're just talking to each other, we're so natural...He was kind of like, "Welcome to 'True Blood.'" It was great though. The crew was so lovely and threw blankets on us any moment they could. It was definitely like jumping in with both feet.

Q) Why do you think people continue to tune in to watch "True Blood?"

A) There are so many reasons! Obviously, it's sexy. Obviously, it's dramatic. More than anything, the material is smart. We go to table-reads and people are laughing their asses off because the writing is so good! We get so much to play with. The level of the writing is just great. It's a smart and sexy show.

Q) You actually have great comedic timing. Is it something that comes natural to you or have you had to work at it?

A) I generally play everything real. So, I don't attack a drama script very differently than I do a comedy script. I think if the material is good then you can treat it real. If it's funny, it's real. If it's not, then oh well! You have to believe in the joke and then just play it real. It's my big secret, ya'll!

Q) You're also a musician. When can we expect some new music from you?

A) I don't know...

Q) Where can people go online to learn more about you?

A) It's really easy to find me online. I'm on everything! I am on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/janinagavankar. I am on Twitter, which is @Janina. I also have my own website, which is http://www.janinagavankar.com.

Q) Why is Twitter such an important way for you to connect with fans and promote your work?

A) I was the first actor to tweet, before it was tweeting. I started using it because my life moved so quickly and I could hardly remember any of it. So, I was using it as almost a micro-diary just so I could remember. Then, people started watching and I haven't really changed that. Sometimes I use it to talk back to fans. When I write back to people I direct message them. Really, it's just kind of a place where I share whatever moment with the internet and who ever wants to come along can come along. In that way, I am really organic. It's not, "Here is the product. I am the product. I'm telling you about me, which is the product." It's just, "This is my life. It's crazy. Come along!"

Q) What would you like to say to everyone who is a fan and supporter of you and your work?

A) I don't really consider them fans. I don't like that word, especially now because the internet just connects all of us. I don't feel like there's some divide between us and them. I feel like we get to share the things that we invest our lives in, these creative moments. We're telling these awesome stories and we've worked really hard. For us to be able to share that with people is really great. It's not like, "Ok, it's going to air and the fans will go crazy!" It's not really like that for me. I just kind of feel like we're all in this together and because of that, I'm thankful that I am not going through this life alone.

 

 

PHOTOS BY JOHN P. JOHNSON/HBO