Actor. Musician. Geek. That’s what the gorgeous 26-year-old Indian-Dutch all American Janina Gavankar calls herself. Best known for her role as Papi on Showtime’s The L-Word, Janina has made appearances on several of TV’s most popular shows, starred in movies, been signed to a major label in a girl group, and blazed the trail for South Asians looking to make a mark in Hollywood with every step she’s taken.
Growing up with parents who were ardent supporters of the arts, Janina was fully immersed in pursuing music. Classically trained as a pianist and as a percussionist, she says that if you can hit it, she can play it. Vocally, Janina studied opera first, but when she discovered she couldn’t actually sit through an entire opera, she shifted her focus to broadway, rock, and pop.
So, how did acting happen? She didn’t grow up as a budding ingénue with stars in her eyes, but when she landed the role of Maria in West Side Story, her fate was sealed. “I had an out-of-body experience where I was living in a character. It sounds cliché, but it changed my life.” Janina says that acting is “a high I’ve been chasing since.”
After high school, Janina was living three lives. She was studying theater, music, and psychology at University of Illinois Chicago; auditioning for everything she possibly could and was a member for Endera, an all girl musical group signed to Cash Money Universal.
All of that work led her to Los Angeles. Janina graciously admits that she found work right away. “I think I had only said 4 lines on TV when I got my first series.” She joined the cast of The L-Word in its 4th season with the breakout role as Papi, and has done a myriad of TV shows like NCIS, The Cleaner, Grey’s Anatomy, Dollhouse, and many others. “I’ve been infinitely lucky. Hollywood has allowed me to play a wide variety of walks of life.”
Currently Janina is shooting The Gates, which will premier June 20th on ABC and will replace Desperate Housewives.
We can’t wait to see her in action. She’s definitely one to watch.
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