"True Blood's" Latest Shape-Shifting Star
As HBO’s True Blood wraps up its fifth season, Janina Gavankar’s character is stepping into the forefront of the action. Playing the sexy shape shifter with serious “mama bear” instincts, we’re hoping Luna can reunite with her daughter and have a few more steamy scenes with fellow shifter Sam Trammel. I mean, we’ve had to go this entire season without the Sookie-Bill-Eric love triangle, the least we could hope for is lasting love for the fierce human-animal hybrid with a wounded heart of gold. (Man, we love True Blood for the sentences it allows us to write alone!)
Gavankar, 31, has been a fixture on the small screen for more than a decade, including a season on Showtime’s The L Word where her sexually ravenous character, Papi, showed someone could rack up conquests while still maintaining her humanity. Shortly after wrapping this season of True Blood, Gavankar hit the recording studio to pursue her other passion: music. Her single, “Waiting for Godot,” comes out on August 28. We talked to the actress about her role on True Blood and how she’s a bit of shifter in real life when it comes to her multitude of talents.
DivineCaroline: A wonderful, but tricky, thing with True Blood is portraying these far out stories but infusing them with reality. How do you as an actress approach that?
Janina Gavankar: Luna has only one priority: her daughter. The world could crack in half, and all she would be thinking about is Emma’s well-being.
DC: How do you feel Sam Trammell did in portraying you/your character when Luna shifted into Sam?
JG: (laughs) I loved it. When I got the script, I couldn’t believe it. But Sam nailed being Tommy (in season four), so I couldn’t wait to see him take a crack at Luna. I loved watching him swing his hips. We had a blast doing the first shift, at the mirror. Stephen Moyer (who portrays vampire Bill Compton) directed that episode, and he had me do the first bit, sneak out of frame and have Sam take over. We’d run to the monitors to watch playback.
DC: When Sam isn’t hogging your lines, how is he as a scene partner?
JG: He makes work very easy. He’s relaxed and real, and as long as you step up to his plate, you walk away feeling good about the day’s work.
DC: Playing a character that can literally shift into all sorts of animals and even another person, how do you try to give a perspective on those experiences when you play Luna in her human form?
JG: That is my favorite part about playing a shifter. The connection to other forms, the idea that this body isn’t the only vessel that connects you to your soul.
DC: When I first saw you on True Blood I thought, this woman played the sexiest character on The L Word but managed to never take off her clothes. Your second scene on True Blood you were naked. Does the nudity faze you at all?
JG: I’m not afraid of nudity, and I’m not afraid of sexuality. Real people get naked, and real people have sex. If you want to tell their stories well, you have to be unafraid of their entirety. Shifter nudity is a non-issue to me, because of their connection to other forms. They don’t feel naked as a horse, so they don’t really feel naked in their human form because it’s not sexual to them. It keeps me in an easier headspace.
DC: Speaking of The L Word, you played a character with supreme self-confidence. How did she impact you?
JG: All of the characters I’ve played feel like old friends. She is a favorite because she found a point of connection with every person she met. She also came from a place of non-judgment. Those are two things I’ve carried with me.