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Siren's Song

Memorable for her sexy small-screen turns, Joliet native and University of Illinois at Chicago alum Janina Gavankar opens up to Men’s Book about her many talents and passions—and her not-so-secret geeky side.

Actress-musician Janina Gavankar

Growing up, Janina Gavankar admits, “I was that annoying kid who put [her] energy into any and all things—from musical productions to drumline.” Few would consider her annoying now, though she’s just as busy. The Dutch-Indian beauty—best known as sultry shapeshifter Luna on True Blood—is arresting viewers as Detective Meredith Bose in the NBC series The Mysteries of Laura. At the same time, Gavankar also doubles as a singer, songwriter, percussionist and classically trained pianist (releasing new music “very soon”), and will next take the big screen in film noir The White Orchid.

Tell us about your character on The Mysteries of Laura.
Meredith is a very by the book. She takes herself very seriously. She takes her job very seriously. Listen, we all have uptight people in the office, right? We have to speak to them every day, and she is that person. Somehow we solve mysteries, though, so it works out.

On your website, you describe yourself as “Actor. Musician. Geek.” We get the first two, but…
Well, it’s pretty simple. I have a massive love for things that are classified as geeky, and the way in which I show love is quote-unquote geeky. First we have to define the word geek. To geek is to love.

What did your time in Chicago mean to you?
Yasen Peyankov, who runs the theater department at UIC, changed my life! He made me want to be a professional. I lived three lives: serious student, quasi pop star in training [in girl group Endera] and professional actor. Chicago gave me confidence within myself to walk around feeling like I had strong shoulders.

Miss it?
I don’t get back as much as I’d like because when I come to Illinois, I’m hanging out with my mom in Joliet. But Chicago was the perfect training ground for me. The theater scene is unrivaled. ... You can still go to a hole-in-the-wall production in Chicago and be blown away.

Any favorite haunts? Any restaurants or—
Oh, my God! Tempo Café, the Jamaican omelet! I used to eat those all the time. Now you’ve made me realize I have to eat one when I’m in Illinois! Good as hell.

Luna, Papi on The L Word... you’ve had some memorable roles already. Do you have a favorite?
Well, the one I’m most excited about—the one I’ve been slightly obsessed with—is Amita, the character I play in [the video game] Far Cry 4. She is one of the main characters, the first female leader in her country who’s trying to build a better life for her people. I’m a huge gamer, so this is a massive dream come true for me.