If you follow Janina Gavankar on Twitter, or have seen her in interviews, it quickly becomes clear that in addition to starring on True Blood, she's also one of the show's biggest fangirls. Oddly, that wasn't always the case as Janina was a total neophyte when she was cast as Luna, a shape-shiting love interest for Sam Merlotte.
But one quick series marathon later, and she was hooked! I caught up with Janina to talk about her first season on the show, what the biggest challenges of joining this kind of secretive show are and what fans can expect from Sunday's season premiere!
TheInsider.com: Whether or not you're a TV fan, True Blood is the kind of show everyone seems to know about it. How familiar were you before being cast?
Janina Gavankar: I was aware of it – all the of the people who have taste that I respected watched the show. I was the person you'd yell "I can't believe you don't watch True Blood" at with disdain [laughs].
Insider: Do you think that worked to your advantage in the audition process?
Janina: Absolutely. I definitely think it was to my advantage to not be as much of a Truebie as I am now. Once I booked the show, I had a short amount of time to marathon all the seasons. Which in some ways was almost worse because I was overcome with all this pride and love. It took over my whole psyche and suddenly I was nervous to work with these amazing people.
Insider: Luna isn't a huge character in the books, so how much did the writers tell you about the character coming in?
Janina: Unless you're a series regular, they don't give you any information. I didn't know I had a daughter until episode three, so as soon as I learned that, I had to spend some serious time making up all this backstory.
Insider: Whoa. That must have changed your take on Luna a lot.
Janina: Yea – for sure. That was a big one. Not only her being a mother, but not knowing what her daughter would turn out to be changed a lot for me. Suddenly, Luna's priorities changed and Emma's safety and self-esteem became the only thing Luna cared about to me.
Insider: Do you like that malleable storytelling, or would you prefer to know the character's full season arc at the outset?
Janina: I think it is harder – for me, at least. That doesn't mean it's less fun, it's just more of a challenge because you have to find the happy medium between creating backstory and being flexible because the writers could change your plan on a moments notice. Everything I've made up, I still have to be OK with the fact someone could contradict that at any point.
Insider: Fans seem to like Luna with Sam. Do you?
Janina: Yea. He's a good man. You know how when you meet somebody and are automatically willing to accept whatever baggage they come with? That's what Sam and Luna have. Even when sh*t goes completely south -- like when Tommy got in the mix -- she didn't get mad at Sam because that wasn't his fault. It's just the baggage he comes with. And she's probably done worse [laughs]. At that point, Sam is really falling for Luna too, so he's willing to take everything as it comes with her because they share something special.
Insider: How do we find them in season five?
Janina: It's definitely a rollercoaster this year for Sam and Luna. They haven't been together very long, and he just killed her ex-husband – so the drama is inevitable [laughs].
Insider: What else can you tease about the upcoming season?
Janina: You're about to see some badass shifter-ness. You are going to see a little bit of the darker side to being a shifter too. You'll see what happens when a shifter can't control their temper. That's a very dangerous situation for you – and those around you.
Insider: If you could shift into any animal, what would it be?
Janina: I often say a winged cockroach because, well, they can fly, but mostly people run from them as opposed to trying to squish them. They move fast and can survive almost anything. It's super resilient. Also, I could crawl up through walls and listen in on conversations. I could be a cockroach spy!
Insider: I'm sure that's a skill many fans would love to use on the True Blood writer's room!
Janina: Well, funny story -- I'm obsessed with Game of Thrones. I met one of the showrunners at Comic Con last year so whenever I'm on the lot, I try to say hi. The other week, I was walking over to his office when I realized I'd walked right behind the True Blood writer's room. They had the windows open and I could see the white boards [where all the stories for the season are listed] – I was freaking out! This happened around episode 9, so I was trying so hard to lean in through the window and figure out what was coming up, but someone walked by so I carried on with my business. Had I been a winged cockroach, I could have flown myself in there and no one would have known!
True Blood: The Complete Fourth Season is now on DVD, while season five premieres Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO.