True Blood's Janina Gavankar: Exclusive Video Premiere
True Blood's Janina Gavankar: Exclusive Video Premiere

Singer-Actress Talks 'Waiting for Godot,' Her 'Strange' Version of a Frank Ocean Song & Her Upcoming EP

As anyone who encountered Janina Gavankar's rework of Kanye West's "Love Lockdown" a couple years ago knows, the actress is as much a shapeshifter as her "True Blood" character Luna Garza. Her new video, "Waiting for Godot," accompanies her genre-jumping track (part choral, part dubstep, part Björk) masterfully, adding a storyline as haunting and complex as the song.

"I always say this: Nobody is just one thing. I wanted to play with the duality within myself and watch the two sides deal with the same problem," she tells Billboard of the concept she created.

Gavankar, who has also appeared on "The League" and "The L Word," produced the video herself. In the director's chair was close friend Caitlin Pashalek, who also helmed the trippy "Love Lockdown" video. "She and I will have a lifetime of making strange things together, I'm sure," Gavankar says. "One stake we set in the ground from the get-go with this was this it wasn't going to be a 'regular music video.' I don't give a shit about following any sort of norms. I don't really care if people think I'm hot. I really set out to make something beautiful that had a strong narrative."

The video was shot in a single day. "We moved really quick," she says. "It was a very ambitious shoot, to say the least. We shot it like it was a scene." Gavankar, who grew up studying classical music and eventually percussion, calls it "a very personal song." The title references a Samuel Beckett play about waiting fruitlessly for a friend. Here, love is the friend.

While Gavankar is ostensibly hard at work finishing an EP for Randy Jackson's label Dream Merchant 21, she "can't imagine doing it without also attaching a visual to every single song." Which could sound like a lofty goal to set for oneself, for one's debut release. "But I really feel like it's what I'm supposed to do. It's the way that I think, it's the way that I create. It's all kind of one and the same. I don't know how to do anything small-scale, much to the dismay of some of the people around me," she says.

She's unsure what the rest of her EP's recordings will sound like, but she does have one new project in the bag: A version of Frank Ocean's "nostalgia, ULTRA" mixtape jam "Swim Good." Gavankar says her "flip" of the tune is "very strange, all a cappella, and no moment is like the moment that came before it."

And do her co-stars know she's musically inclined? "Sometimes. I don't walk around with a big billboard on my head saying, 'Look at me, it's The Janina Show! By the way, also I can tap dance!' I know for a fact that when I was up for 'True Blood' they saw 'Love Lockdown.' I know these things help me explain myself and the level of work that I'm interested in achieving. It's a way of expressing my artistic voice without having to shout it and say 'I promise! I'm really artistic! Just trust me!' I have a creative mind and I will bring something extra to the table when you hire me."