November 29, 1980
Joliet, Illinois, United States
Actress and musician Janina Gavankar parlayed her exotic appearance into a regular series of appearances and regular roles on television series like "The L Word" (Showtime, 2004-09), "True Blood" (HBO, 2008-14) and "The Mysteries of Laura" (NBC, 2014-16). Born Janina Zione Gavankar in Joliet, Illinois on November 29, 1980, she was the daughter of an Indian father, engineer Peter Gavankar, and a half-Indian, half-Dutch mother, Mohra. She developed a dual interest in acting and music in high school, but decided to focus on the former after being accepted to the Yale School of Drama's summer program. Gavankar began appearing in features and on television in the early 2000s, making minor appearances in films like "Barbershop" (2002) before enjoying her first widespread exposure as Ms. Dewey, the personification of an interactive search engine launched by Microsoft in 2006. The following year, she was cast as Papi, a sexually voracious recurring character on "The L Word," which led to higher profile guest stars on series like "Grey's Anatomy" (ABC, 2005- ) and recurring turns on "NCIS" (CBS, 2003-) and "The League" (FX, 2009-2015), the latter of which cast her as the namesake of a trophy coveted by the series' fantasy football league members. While working on these and other projects, Gavankar also found time to play shapeshifting schoolteacher Luna Garza on "True Blood" and release several pop music tracks, most notably the title track and accompanying music video from an EP, Waiting for Godot, in 2012. More guest starring roles on high-profile television series followed, including "Arrow" (The CW, 2012- ) and "The Vampire Diaries" (The CW, 2009-17), as well as vocal performances in video games like "Far Cry 4" (Ubisoft, 2014). The following year proved to be one of Gavankar's busiest: she was the voice of FERO, one of the main characters in "Hunt the Truth" (Tumblr, 2015), an animated online marketing campaign to promote "Halo 5: Guardians" (Microsoft, 2015) while also pulling double duty as a series regular on "The Mysteries of Laura" and a guest star on an untitled comedy for CBS from "Modern Family" (NBC, 2009- ) producer Dan O'Shannon. Gavankar also released a music video for her take on the Martin Garrix/Usher single "Don't Look Down," which featured her singing and performing marimba with the Jersey Surf Drum and Bugle Corps, that same year.