Janina Gavankar is another young and raising star that will join The L Word for its 4th season, which currently is filming in Vancouver. She will play a character nicknamed ‘Papi’ who will challenge Shane. According to the Showtime announcement, “unlike Shane, Papi is competitive, gregarious, loud, bossy and boastful. She canoodles with everyone and competes with Shane.”
Is she simply a replacement for Sarah Shakhi as another Latino character or will she bring more diversity and excitement to the show? Just who is Janina Gavankar?
There’s not much known about Gavankar and the best source to learn anything regarding her biography is an article on Wikipedia.com.
Janina Gavankar, who has Indian and Dutch ancestry, combines several artistic talents because she is not only an actress but also a “classically trained pianist, vocalist and orchestral percussionist”.
While she was studying at the University of Illinois in Chicago, Gavankar majored in Theatre Performance.
According to Wikipedia, Gavankar was a part of a singing group, Endera, which ceased to exist “after they were signed to a subsidiary label of Universal Records and did one album, including a brief tour, before finally disbanding.”
Like many other young actresses, Gavankar began her career by appearing in commercials, short films and independent films as well as theatrical productions.
Her first major big-screen appearance was in the movie Barbershop and its sequel, Barbershop 2: Back in Business.
After she moved to Los Angeles in 2004, she was featured in several music videos, including such groups as Pratichee of Viva and Recliner as well as staring in upcoming movies Bull Runand Cup of My Blood.
According to her interview to Red Hot Planet, Cup of My Blood is an independent film that went straight to home video without theatrical release and was only shown for a short time in Chicago in Gene Siskel Theater. Incidentally, Gavankar considers it her favorite horror movie.
Apart from her movie career and the exciting news that she is the latest addition to The L Word, Janina has other interesting music and television projects in her future.
In her 2006 interview to the Red Hot Planet with Joe Vannicola, Janina talks about her childhood, her passion for music and her career. One interesting and less known fact that she revealed during the interview was the story about her accomplishment as a seasoned traveler at a young age. She said, “My older sister and I were dragged around the world with our parents,” until her family finally settled in Joliet, Illinois. As mentioned in Wikipedia.com Trivia, Gavankar’s father is Pete Gavankar, producer of RD Burman’s only American album, Pantera.
Talking about her experience with the Barbershop series, Gavankar reminisced, “The cast was just hilarious and being on set with such an ensemble, I’m one of those people I just like to keep quiet and just watch and learn … if you’re lucky enough to book a massive role and you really get to work on it, then you just have to go for it…it was just a great opportunity and they make you think, ‘… I really want to do more’.
Another question was asked about her awareness that producers could always try to cast the actress in certain stereotypical roles because of her Indian descent, which could be also the reason for portraying another Latin girl for The L Word.
Gavankar replied that this question has to answers, “Yes and no. If they ask for a Latin girl, she’s gotta be Latin. They’re a huge community who get terribly upset if you cast someone who’s not of the ethnicity of the character. Because minorities in mainstream entertainment – it’s still a problem. The population on TV and in film is still growing and they really want to make sure that they’re represented well when they do get their chance to have a minority cast. So, I understand that. And of course you know since the Indian population is just now breaking out, there’s just not a lot of roles for us. So in that respect, yes. But at the same time it’s just who I am. I’m all American. So when it comes to submitting all ethnicities, I apply to pretty much everything.”
The inquiries about one of her movies, Cup of My Blood, also brought forth the question of the subject matter in the movies. Gavankar replied, “I’m kind of okay with most subject matters. I think it takes a lot of bravery to make a movie in the first place about really scary things that you have to face on a daily basis. And I think that if someone actually gets the chance to get the funding to make a movie that they really believe in, that you should respect that and really think about it … I’m not one to really shy away from subject matter.”
Even though this answer was about a particular movie, it also shows that Gavankar doesn’t apply her convictions only to horror genre since she’d signed up to appear in a lesbian drama, which is a subject matter that would not be appealing to many Hollywood actors.
Where does she see herself in ten years? In the same interview Gavankar replied, “I see myself doing primarily film. I could see myself doing TV as well. I love sitcoms. In coaching and training right now, which is really a big focus of mine. I love working on sitcom scripts. So, yeah, either TV or film. Whichever the world will accept me in.”
Well, the world soon will accept her as another lesbian character in the show, which, paraphrasing Janina Gavankar, “is a show that takes a lot of bravery to be made in the first place.”