An interview with Janina Gavankar

AE: I’ve read interviews where you’ve said you are a big fan of supernatural shows. Did you watch True Blood before you auditioned?

JG:
I didn’t, but not because I didn’t want to. I’m a weird marathoner, meaning I can’t do the week-by-week thing. I’d rather wait till something’s in its fourth or fifth season and marathon the whole thing over like a week. I like watching something from beginning to end.

AE: So you’re all caught up then?

JG:
Oh yeah! I have to be. They sent me the first script and I was like “Who the hell are all these people?”

AE: Now you know!

JG:
I very quickly martathonned it all, right over Thanksgiving break and I was traveling from LA to Chicago to DC. I didn’t get to spend any time with my family because I had my headphones on and was obsessively watching the show. It didn’t take very long for me to think “Why did I wait this long?”

AE: That’s how I was with the show, too. The Gates was a very supernatural show, too. Were you surprised that didn’t get picked up? Vampires, werewolves – those things are huge right now.

JG:
Yeah, I was just more sad than anything, because I loved – I still love, we’re still very close – most of the cast. It’s just really sad to not be able to go back and tell their stories. My character had the dopest back story ever. So for me not to be able to flesh that out with everybody, kind of, was annoying.

AE: One of my favorite things that I read about your time on The Gates was you would call up a friend of yours who was a cop [like your character] and ask her what side you should wear your gun on and things like that.

JG:
Absolutely.

AE: Well, who do you call up when you’re trying to be a shapeshifter?

JG:
Good question! If you’re dealing with an animal I will call a friend whose dealt with that animal and learn about them a little bit, maybe. [Laughs] It’s really funny, the reality allowances you have to make in your brain to make things work and to make things real so you don’ feel like your schmacting.

AE: It’s got to be hard.

JG:
It’s like, if this was real, I would totally be able to do this and this, and this would be happening in my life, and I probably went to school here, and my dad was probably like this and – you know? The things you do in your brain are very strange. Good thing I have a very, very healthy imagination! You have to think about the emotional – there’s just a lot of emotional questions that figures out they can turn into [an animal].

AE: You seem to end up on very progressive and LGBT-friendly shows. Is that something you seek out or is just coincidental?

JG:
I think it’s coincidental. I also think that when you’re building a show – like Alan Ball is out and gay and is obviously a huge part of the movement of making it a non-issue in Hollywood. And when I joined The L Word, people who are part of the community can tell when someone’s also part of the community, whether they are wearing a shirt that says it or not. My best friend my entire life has been gay. It’s always been like that. My sister’s senior prom date, his name is Brandan McShaffery – let me tell you about him. He’s the coolest guy in the world. He now runs a theater and they do gay-themed productions. He was like the most talented person I had ever met in my life. He would do accents in my kitchen with my sister and I used to look up to him like he was the most talented person I had ever encountered. He’s gay! It was a non-issue.

AE: So you’ve just always known gay people.

JG:
Yeah! It’s like “and?”

AE: Did anyone ever try to sway you not to play the lesbian role of Papi on The L Word?

JG:
No, if they had, I would probably — first of all, I don’t surround myself with people who are judgmental. I just don’t. I naturally don’t. Anybody who knows me knows that if they were going to say something like that they’d be pretty quickly be cut out of my life.

AE: So obviously you’re just a very open person and no one would want to f–k with you.

JG:
[Laughs] It’s not even like they’re going to get “I will cut you if you,” it’s just “Oh – goodbye!”

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