Janina Gavankar

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Janina Gavankar

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Janina Gavankar
Janina Gavankar, Star Wars The Last Jedi premiere, Dec 2017.jpg

Gavankar in 2017
Born Janina Zione Gavankar
(1980-11-29) November 29, 1980 (age 37)
Joliet, Illinois, U.S.
Occupation Actress, musician
Years active 2001–present
Website
janinagavankar.com

Janina Zione Gavankar (/əˈnnə ɡəˈvɑːnkər/; born November 29, 1980)[1][2][3] is an American actress and musician best known for her roles as Iden Versio in Star Wars Battlefront II, Luna Garza in True Blood, and Shiva in The League. Gavankar is also trained as a pianist, vocalist, and orchestral percussionist.[4] She majored in Theatre Performance at the University of Illinois at Chicago.[5][6]

Gavankar’s roles include Papi, a lesbian lothario in The L Word; Leigh Turner, a cop with a big secret on The Gates; Ms. Dewey, the personification of a Microsoft branded search engine who comments about the user’s searches; Shiva, the namesake of the sought after trophy on The League; shapeshifter Luna Garza on HBO‘s True Blood; McKenna Hall on The CW‘s Arrow; and Meredith Bose on NBC‘s The Mysteries of Laura. She also played Diana Thomas on FOX‘s supernatural drama Sleepy Hollow.[7]

Personal life[edit]

Gavankar was born in Joliet, Illinois to Peter Ganesh Gavankar an engineer from Mumbai, who first traveled to the U.S. to pursue a master’s degree, and Mohra Gavankar from Pune, Maharashtra, who also emigrated to the US from India. Her mother is half-Indian and half-Dutch.[8] Her grand uncle is renowned Bollywood sound re-recordist Mangesh Desai.

From 2004-10 she was in a relationship with DeviantArt CEO Angelo Sotira.[9]

Career[edit]

Gavankar has acted in theatre, film, television, and online. Her most notable roles include Iden Versio, canon Star Wars character, and protagonist of Star Wars: Battlefront II, shapeshifter Luna Garza in True Blood, lesbian lothario Papi in The L Word; Ms. Dewey, the personification of a Microsoft live search engine; and Shiva, the namesake of the sought after trophy on The League[10]. She regularly appears in Funny or Die shorts.[11]

In 2006 she joined the cast of The L Word as a series regular, and shot all of the clips used for Ms. Dewey.[7] In 2007, she landed a lead in CW pilot Dash 4 Cash.[12] In 2008, Gavankar appeared in TV series Stargate Atlantis, Grey’s Anatomy and NCIS, My Boys, and Factory. In 2009, she appeared in the TV shows The Cleaner, Dollhouse, Three Rivers, and The League, as well as indie movies Men, Interrupted, Indian Gangster, and Quantum Quest: A Cassini Space Odyssey. Gavankar played the voice of Nikki in Quantum Quest. She landed a lead role in The Gates, since cancelled, on ABC.[13] She appears on CW’s Arrow as a vice squad police officer and former flame to Oliver Queen.

Gavankar is an admitted gamer[14] and has appeared on, as well as co-hosted, G4 TV’s Attack of the Show!, Epileptic Gaming’s Up All Night, where she helped review Rock Band, Burnout Paradise, and Army of Two.[15]

In 2011 Gavankar became a series regular in HBO’s True Blood as a public school teacher and shapeshifter, Luna Garza, who gets romantically involved with one of the main characters of the series.[16][17]

Her indie movie, Satellite of Love,[18] premiered at the Dallas International Film Festival in 2012, and her 2012 indie I’m Afraid of Virginia Wolf is currently in post-production.[19] On December 20, 2012, Gavankar was the last person interviewed for the now cancelled Attack of the Show! which aired on G4 TV.[citation needed]

On August 3, 2013, Gavankar landed a role as a witch named Qetsiyah in the fifth season of The Vampire Diaries.[20] She guest starred in the third season of Husbands.[21]

In 2014, she starred as Amita in the video game, Far Cry 4.[22] She also played Detective Meredith Bose on The Mysteries of Laura from 2014 to 2016.[23]

She starred as Iden Versio, the main character in the campaign mode of the 2017 Electronic Arts video game Star Wars Battlefront II.[24]

In 2018, she has two films releasing. Blindspotting is premiering at the Sundance Film Festival[25]. The Vanishing of Sidney Hall is being distributed by A24 films[26].

Music[edit]

Gavankar returned to music with a cover of Kanye West‘s “Love Lockdown“.[27] Gavankar’s former all female singing group, Endera, was signed to Cash Money Records Universal Records.[28]

She collaborated on a project for a song called “Tell Me What” in India with Pratichee Mohapatra of Viva, Deep, and Navraaz. She has had songs licensed to movies and television, and has sung and played marimba on film scores. Gavankar was featured in Russian artist Ella Leya‘s music video for “Wish I Could”,[29] in the music video by San Francisco-based band Recliner for their single “Float Away”,[30] as well as the music video for Manu Narayan‘s band Darunam.[31]

In August 2012, she released the single for her upcoming EP, entitled Waiting for Godot,[32] and in November, Billboard premiered the official music video.[33] It went on to win numerous film festival awards.[34][35]

While in high school, Gavankar auditioned for the front ensemble of the Phantom Regiment Drum and Bugle Corps of Rockford, Illinois. Before hearing whether she had made the corps, she was accepted for the Yale School of Drama’s summer camp, and went there. “I fell in love with drum corps when I was 13 years old”, Gavankar has stated, and remains a strong fan of the activity. When she heard the Martin Garrix/Usher collaboration, “Don’t Look Down”, she had the idea of performing it as marching music. With assistance from Drum Corps International, she contacted the Jersey Surf Drum and Bugle Corps and arranger Colin Bell. She went into the studios in New York with fifty members of Jersey Surf and recorded the music video “Don’t Look Down- #JustAddDrumCorps Edition” that was released in April 2015.[36]

On May 20, 2015, Gavankar performed a percussion duet at Carnegie Hall with Questlove for the Best Buddies charity benefit.[37]

Technology[edit]

Gavankar was the first actress to use Twitter, signing up on Richard Branson‘s computer on Necker Island in 2006.[38][39]

Gavankar was the personification of Microsoft‘s interactive search engine Ms. Dewey.[7][40]

In 2011 she created a free template for actors and artists to help them control their online presence[41] and in 2012, spoke at the Suits and Spooks Conference about how she discovered a solution for data challenges faced by actors through the use of open source tools.[42]

In 2017, she launched a private discussion forum for members of the games industry[43].

Gavankar is a first round investor in ClassPass[44].

Awards[edit]

In 2008, Gavankar was nominated for an Asian Excellence Award.[45] In 2012, Gavankar received the Gravity Summit Award for Excellence in Social Media.[46]

Filmography[edit]

Film[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2001 Why Is God… Mina Short
2003 Dark Kaya
2005 Just Speak Melody Short
2005 Cup of My Blood Iona
2008 Shattered! Maria
2009 Indian Gangster Geeta Short
2010 Quantum Quest: A Cassini Space Odyssey Niki (voice)
2010 Men, Interrupted Cece Twain Short
2011 Custom Mary, TheThe Custom Mary Ms. Rime
2011 Victory or Death Selah Short
2012 Satellite of Love Michelle
2013 Who’s Afraid of Virginia Wolf? Katia Amour / The Stud
2013 Final Moments of Karl Brant, TheThe Final Moments of Karl Brant Det. Hostetler Short
2014 Code Academy Madame Counselor Short
2014 Think Like a Man Too Vanessa
2017 The Vanishing of Sidney Hall Gina
2017 Star Wars: The Last Jedi TBA Additional voices
2018 Blindspotting Val Post-production
2018 White Orchid Tina Post-production
TBA Cortex Sama Post-production

Television[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2004 Strong Medicine Nurse Juni “Omissions”
2007–2009 L Word, TheThe L Word Eva ‘Papi’ Torres Recurring role
2008 My Boys Terri “The Transitioning”
2008 Factory Laura TV series
2008 Stargate Atlantis Sgt. ‘Dusty’ Mehra “Whispers”
2008 Grey’s Anatomy Intern Lisa “There’s No ‘I’ in Team”, “Life During Wartime”
2009 NCIS Angela Lopez “Caged”
2009 Dollhouse Lynn “Epitaph One”
2009 Cleaner, TheThe Cleaner Usha Patel “The Projectionist”, “Trick Candles”
2009 Three Rivers Ada Rahimi “Place of Life”
2009–2015 League, TheThe League Shivakamini Somakandarkram Recurring role
2010 Gates, TheThe Gates Leigh Turner Main role
2011 Traffic Light Alexa Recurring role
2011–2013 True Blood Luna Garza Main role (seasons 4–5), recurring role (season 6)
2012 Exes, TheThe Exes Kerry “My Dinner with Phil”
2012 Choke.Kick.Girl: The Series Katie “Hammerfist, Knee, Guillotine Fiend”
2013 Love Is Dead Marisol Rajagopal TV film
2013 Arrow Det. McKenna Hall Recurring role
2013 Goodwin Games, TheThe Goodwin Games Hannah “The Birds of Granby”
2013 Just Face It Ava TV miniseries
2013 Husbands Kajal “I Dream of Cleaning”
2013 Vampire Diaries, TheThe Vampire Diaries Qetsiyah / “Tessa” Recurring role (season 5)
2014 Nikki & Nora: The N&N Files Lea Sadina Recurring role
2014 Garfunkel and Oates Dr. Sharma “Third Member”
2014–2016 Mysteries of Laura, TheThe Mysteries of Laura Meredith Bose Main role
2015 History of Us, TheThe History of Us Sabrina TV film
2017 Sleepy Hollow Diana Thomas[47] Main role (season 4)

Video Games[edit]

Year Title Role Notes
2014 Far Cry 4 Amita Voice
2017 Horizon Zero Dawn Tatai Voice
2017 Star Wars Battlefront II Iden Versio Voice, likeness, and motion capture
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