‘Big Sky’ Star Janina Gavankar Opens Up About Landing Role on Show

by Taylor Cunningham

The opportunity to star in Big Sky fell in Janina Gavankar’s lap.

As she shared with Collider’s Ladies Night host Perri Nemiroff, showrunner Elwood Reid came to her with an offer. And the two had a chat in the very spot she was sitting for the podcast.

“He talked to me about [Ren Buller],” she told Nemiroff with a laugh. “And the funny thing, he was like ‘I know you’re gonna ask me like who she is. Like you’re gonna ask me about this character. But the truth is like, I don’t really know.'”

Apparently, Elwood Reid doesn’t fully create his characters before casting their actors. During his development process, Elwood seeks out people he wants to work with. Then, he “collaborates with them.” As a team, the showrunner and the actors decide on the character’s personalities.

And Gavankar loved the idea of thinking up the inner workings of Ren on Big Sky.

“Hmm, yeah, you’re speaking my language, sir,” she jokingly remembered saying to Elwood.

“So, uh, he told me that she came from a crime family. I suddenly saw the opportunity to work with actors that are friends of mine and uh have a group of Brown people that were just terrible people and that is something that we don’t get to often. And that was very exciting to me.”

True ‘Heartbreak’ Inspired Janina Gavankar’s Acting Career

When Big Sky’s Janina Gavankar was in high school, she had big dreams of becoming a musician, not an actress. But after starring in an iconic musical, she had a change of heart.

During a chat on Collider’s Ladies Night podcast, the actress shared that she landed the role of Maria in her school’s production of West Side Story.

The musical was just supposed to pass the time before Gavankar started working with a drum corps group called Phantom Regiment. But because the actress connected so deeply with her character, she had a life-changing revelation.

“I was in a rehearsal and I reached out to the guy playing Tony,” she remembered. “I didn’t even particularly like him, but I felt my heart break into a million pieces–real heartbreak. I was 16. What the hell did I know about heartbreak? But I felt somebody else. I felt her life, and I was so far from wanting to be an actor at that point. I was a very serious musician… and it rocked me.”

Janina Gavankar wasn’t completely convinced to give up her dream to be a drummer. But she knew that she needed to give acting some serious consideration. So instead of moving forward with the drum corps that year, Gavankar took a summer intensive drama course at Yale. And after that, she knew that acting was her true passion.