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Former Joliet resident Janina Gavankar joins cast of 'Sleepy Hollow'

Gavankar discusses new projects and reminisces about her Joliet childhood

On Jan. 6, Janina Gavankar will join the cast of the FOX supernatural drama "Sleepy Hollow" as an agent for the Department of Homeland Security.
On Jan. 6, Janina Gavankar will join the cast of the FOX supernatural drama "Sleepy Hollow" as an agent for the Department of Homeland Security.

JOLIET – Former Joliet resident Janina Gavankar will join the supernatural drama “Sleepy Hollow” when it returns to FOX on Jan. 6.

Gavankar recently took some time to answer questions from Herald-News Features Editor Denise M. Baran-Unland via email about her character, her years in Joliet and her current projects.

Baran-Unland: Well, first of all, congratulations on your new role in “Sleepy Hollow.” What led to you joining the show?

Gavankar: Thank you so much! The producers called me, and offered me the role. We sat for an hour and discussed Diana, the character, and show mythology, and where they were planning to go, this year. Needless to say, it was an easy “yes” for me.

Baran-Unland: Please share some details about the role you’ll portray.

Gavankar: Diana Thomas is as agent for the Department of Homeland Security. She’s also a mother to a daughter who has been having some issues. She’s on a big case when she is faced with something highly out of the ordinary. Suddenly a strange guy shows up, and introduces himself as Ichabod Crane, and she realizes she’s going to need him to crack this case.

Baran-Unland: You’re gifted in acting, music and technology. How did your time in Joliet develop those gifts?

Gavankar: My parents [Peter Gavankar (deceased) and Mohra Gavankar of Joliet] were more than supportive in my interests. My mother drove me to every piano, marimba, vocal, acting and dancing lesson I had, through the years, while living there. All of those teachers, including my teachers at Troy Craughwell, Shorewood [Junior High], and Joliet West gave me the capabilities I have, and use, everyday.  

Baran-Unland: Tell us about the drum corps video and why that was a huge dream of yours.

Gavankar: While at Joliet West, Kevin Carol, our band director, and Fred King, our drum instructor (who became like an older brother to me) were inspiring. I was almost [a] percussion performance major, in college. So, in many ways it feels like an alternate universe that still exists, somewhere, that I never stepped into.

Fred had a green championship ring from winning Drum Corps International with the Cavaliers. He was a superhero to me. I became obsessed with drum corps, and auditioned for the front ensemble of Phantom Regiment. I got in, but also was accepted to a summer intensive to study drama at Yale during the same summer. Heart-wrenching. I chose Yale, and though it all worked out, drum corps feels like an unrequited love.

Making my last music video helped exercise some of those demons. ... Working with the Jersey [Surf], a world-class drum [corps], and stepping into their line was incredibly emotional for me.

Baran-Unland: What’s your favorite music genre and why?

Gavankar: Oooo hard one. I think I actually identify with the late romantic period of classical music. It’s what was playing in the house, constantly, and what I opt into playing on Spotify. Of course I also love popular music, but if I’m [on] a desert island, I’m taking Rachmaninoff.

Baran-Unland: You’re back in Joliet for the weekend. Where do you head for dinner?

Gavankar: My mother and I often head to Smile of Siam, in Shorewood.

Baran-Unland: Favorite all-time food?

Gavankar: Chocolate. Milk, with hazelnuts.

Baran-Unland: What’s a Joliet memory that sticks with you?

Gavankar: Rehearsing for “West Side Story” in high school. It’s where I had an out of body emotional experience and was forever changed. That moment made me want to be an actor.

Baran-Unland: Name one goal you’d like to attain.

Gavankar: SO MANY [sic] goals! I’d like to continue to work for a very long time, which [as] a woman in this industry, is incredibly difficult. Also, my writing partner and I have quite a few projects we would like to have [green] lit. It’s a new area for me, but I’m ready.

Baran-Unland: This one’s your space. What else would you like Herald-News readers to know about you?

Gavankar: I just launched a new endeavor on [Jan. 1, 2017]. It’s a lifestyle brand, and site called – as in “alternatives found, every day.”

There are a number of actresses throwing their hat in the ring to supply the public with high-end beauty products and advanced recipes. “BUT WHO IS REPRESENTING THE SET WHO DOESN’T WANT TO PAY $3000 FOR A PAIR OF VEGAN HOUSE SHOES?” [sic]

This is for me, and my people.

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