‘Big Sky’ Star Janina Gavankar Reveals What Inspired Her to Be an Actor

by Allison Hambrick

Big Sky actress Janina Gavankar opened up about the inspiration that put her on the path to acting for a career. One of her earliest roles led the actress to reconsider what she wanted out of life.

“I was Maria in West Side Story–every brown girl’s dream,” said the Big Sky actress in an interview with Collider. “And I was in a rehearsal and I reached out to the guy playing Tony. 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.”

For Gavankar, West Side Story was a wake up call. She didn’t immediately jump into acting, but the actress was open with herself and her mother about her experience. As a result, Gavankar made the informed decision to at least try acting more.

“I did that musical,” the Big Sky star continued. “I had that moment, then I sort of told my mom ‘I really think I might want to try this.’ That summer, between junior and senior year of high school, I auditioned for a drum corps called Phantom Regiment, but I also got into a summer semester at Yale. It was an intensive with their undergrad drama department, so I took that opportunity because I was like ‘I can march next year’ and then I never marched.”

Though she didn’t realize it, that moment defined Gavankar’s life. She got her “but kicked at Yale” and came back like “yeah, that feels right.”

Big Sky’s Gavankar Talks Perspective in Career

As for the secret to a long career, Gavankar may not have all the answers, but the Big Sky actress has one thing: perspective. When discussing how to push past negativity, both from within and from costars, she doesn’t mince words.

“There are so many options,” said Gavankar. “The first thing you have to remember is that everything is temporary, so even the longest-lasting production is going to be a decade of your life and then you’re done. If you’re making it to a decade, you’re making so much money… Shut up and go cry in your mansion! So that’s one: have a little perspective.”

“Number two, if it’s somebody that’s like not really down to play… You know, you still have to do your job. My favorite theater teacher is this Bulgarian actor named Jason Paenkov. He’s like part of the Steppenwolf company. I got to watch him in shows when I was in theater school. One of the things he said in class was ‘Some days you feel it, sometimes you don’t–still gotta do your job.”

The one type of negativity the actress won’t take? People being mean to the crew.

“It takes a hundred people to get through the day,” the Big Sky actress said. “We’re in an era where you can’t get away with it forever, and I want to be a part of that change.