I think the first time I took notice of Janina Gavankar was the 1st season of DC’s Arrow, playing Detective McKenna Hall. Afterwards I started to see her popping up on other television shows like Sleepy Hollow, The L Word, and True Blood. I thought to myself “good for her” because I was rooting for her. I wanted to see more people of colour in major film and television productions. It was also great seeing East Indian female actors represented on screen. Not just playing stereotypical roles, but playing characters with depth and purpose. I later learned she was into video games. Ironically she started to pop up as voices in video games I played. Whether it was Amita in Ubisoft’s Far Cry 4, or Tatai in Horizon Zero Dawn: The Frozen Wilds.
However it was her role as Iden Versio in Star Wars: Battlefront 2 where I really got excited for her. IT’S STAR WARS. IT WAS A BIG DEAL. Not just for her, but for me as well. I was excited for story of how it took place after the events of Return of The Jedi. As well as learning about the Emperor’s elite trooper squad known as Inferno Squad. I got extremely hyped for the moment, I needed to capture it I only knew how; by drawing it.
At first I wanted to capture that moment when she first appeared on stage at E3 in that Inferno Squad custom dress, with that fierce look. I wanted her next to the Inferno Squad helmet, but I kept changing the layout. Although I wanted to have it complete at the time of release of Battlefront 2, I had other priorities that came up and put this illustration on the back-burner.
Fast forward to Star Wars Celebration 2019, as I’m preparing my schedule and finding out information about the elusive Portfolio Review. I thought to myself if Janina was going to be there, I figured I would purchase an autograph session and a photo op for her. It would also be a great way to give her my fan art to her in person, as well as the final piece to my illustration portfolio. Knowing that Janina was a “Kinda Funny Best Friend”, I figured I would wear my Greg Miller “Cooking With Greggy” t-shirt( I didn’t have any Star Wars tshirts before this time). As my friend Jordan and I waited in line, we found out that Janina was live-streaming the photo op event on her Twitch channel. When it was our turn, Janina complimented Jordan’s Inferno Squad t-shirt. She then noticed my Kinda Funny shirt and we shared a high-five, it was a funny moment.
When it came time for my autograph session, I picked out which print I wanted autographed by Janina. I went to show my art print I had done for her. Janina gasped and proceeded to yell “SHUT UP! YOU DID THIS??” then she took my artwork and pointed it to her phone. I didn’t know at the time but she was also live-streaming to Twitch her autograph session. She continued to gush and geek out over it as I explained I was showing this to Lucasfilm Art team for the Portfolio review. She wished me best of luck.
It was an amazing feeling to show someone in person something you worked on. Especially surreal when it’s a celebrity of some sorts. Janina is a great person full of uncontrollable geeky enthusiasm. If you want to see some of her recent work, I encourage you watch the film “Blindspotting”. She is someone I would love to collaborate with on creative project in the future.