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Janina Gavankar On Being The Lead In ‘Star Wars Battlefront II’

UPROXX / EA

Star Wars: Battlefront II comes out on November 17, and, by sheer virtue of it being a Star Wars video game, is eagerly anticipated by fans. But the stakes are a little bit higher for this one, as the story of Battlefront II will bridge the gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens. It’s going to be a for-real, in-canon storyline that tells fans what happened in those intervening years … or at least one of the stories, anyway.

The game will follow Iden Versio, the commander of an Imperial special forces unit, which ends up being on the surface of Endor when the second Death Star explodes. The player will control Versio, who is played by Janina Gavankar of The League and True Blood fame.

At the D23 Disney fan expo in Anaheim, I had a chance to sit down with Gavankar, and Steve Blank from the LucasFilm Story Group, to talk about the game, her portrayal, and living up to the Star Wars legacy.

UPROXX: So this game bridges the gap between Jedi and The Force Awakens. I’m interested to know, how did this development come about that it was going to be Battlefront II that was going to tell that story?

Steve Blank: So, the beauty of it was we knew coming out of the first Battlefront, we knew for the second Battlefront we wanted to make it a bigger experience with more content, both on the multiplayer side, and we wanted to add in that single-player campaign. So, Motive Studios was the studio that came to us that we knew were going to do that single-player, and they actually came to us with the pitch where they said, “Hey, we’re really interested in the Imperial perspective. We’re fans of the Dark Side. And we are fascinated by that gap between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens, and we want to be able to see what’s possible of what we can tell, what can we help fill in there, how do we show that perspective in that timeline.” And so, that pitch came to us as LucasFilm and we were like, “Yep, we’re into it. That sounds awesome! Let’s figure that out and hash that out and find the right story.” So, it started from outside and then came with the pitch, and we were just really excited for it.

And how early in the process did Janina get involved?

Blank: When did that casting actually happen?

Janina Gavankar: October.

Blank: October. So, we had been working on it for a while at that point. We had already had a script …

Gavankar: What does “a while” mean? It takes many a year to make a video game.

Blank: Oh God. I honestly don’t remember.

Gavankar: I still feel like, compared to the team that’s been killing themselves for years to make this game, I just showed up. Ya know, that’s really … that’s what it’s like.

Was the character modeled on you at all? Did you do mo-cap or anything?

Gavankar: It’s full-performance capture. And that is my big dumb face, and all of its impurities, imperfections. So, how much you guys have zhuzhed her … How do you spell ‘zhuzh’ in text?

I would spell it either Z-H-U-Z-H or I would spell it like J-U-Z-H.

Gavankar: Zhuzh. Yeah, alright. I don’t know how much you zhuzhed Iden after you met me and started working with me, you’re going to have to answer that. I have no idea.

Blank: Yeah, I mean, that’s Iden as a character, was somebody that we always knew what the core of that personality was going to be, but I think in the case of the difference of a character on page versus realization through an actor you always want the actor to bring their energy to the table that’s why you hire them and so, when we found Janina we were like, “She is that right mixture of someone who is able to embody that Imperial spirit, but she’s also got a great energy and she’s able to inhabit that”, so we certainly did, once we saw her and had her in that character, there were moments where either when we were in [performance capture], if there was a line ad-lib or if there was a slight change, like we did all that and we worked together in that sort of collaborative process …

Gavankar: Yeah, and that has been the most surprisingly … that is the most surprising thing about this entire experience. It is so highly collaborative. It is one of the most, if not the most collaborative creative experience that I’ve ever had in my career.

Example: There’s a really big scene where a very big thing happens and it was written as all scripts are and we learned our lines. On the day, we worked on it many times and then we completely threw away the script, improvising the entire scene, using none of the words of the script. Mitch Dyer, who is one of our writers sat there, chose what he liked the most with Mark Thompson, our director, our games director, what is he narrative director?

Blank: I think he’s game director.

Gavankar: Game director. Yeah. There’s so many directors. If you want a director, we have seventeen. So, Mitch and Mark watched very closely, decided what they felt was the perfect improvised rewrite, rewrote it on the spot, gave it back to us, and then we shot it.

Blank: It allowed the characters to find their emotion in the scene, right? And that’s what we working towards. We all wanted that right moment because of how powerful and impactful that sequence is.

Gavankar: Right. What are we actually saying? What do we mean? How much do we mean it? All these things we ask every day. It’s just part of the work. By the way, you don’t get extra credit points for doing the work, it’s just that some people don’t do it.

Let’s be clear. It’s not like, “Oh my gosh, we worked really hard.” You’re supposed to work hard, okay!? But some people don’t. And I’ve worked on things where people don’t. And they’re not good.

You said this is a full-performance capture, why don’t you tell us about that process and what it was like and what went into it?

Gavankar: It is … all the dots on your face and your body, that you’ve seen before. On our first days, before we went into shooting it, we worked with military consultants to learn how to move together as an actual unit. And as soon as we really learned how to do that, that’s when it felt right and that first day, I woke up the next morning and my whole, my shoulders, my back, everything hurt. It’s all these tiny little muscles you didn’t know you weren’t using. But, when you’re like a slouchy person like I am that plays video games the whole day, you probably aren’t using your back muscles to stand straight like an Imperial Commander, so you know, these are things you have to work on.

Physically, we learned how to embody this elite special ops team together and then we wanted to performance capture, which is pretty traditional at this point, so we work in a volume, we’re surrounded by a thousand cameras. How many cameras really? Like five hundred …

All of the cameras and also three camera operators who are shooting the whole entire thing from different angles on rolling tripods. So, it is an on camera performance, there are cameras everywhere, but what’s even better is you get to be highly physical and that is akin to the theater experience and what you would do on stage. It’s this perfect little sweet spot. If you quote-unquote “come from the theater” you will have a really fulfilling experience doing performance capture.

What was it like to see the final version of the character that they captured?

Gavankar: A new photo just came out two days ago. I flipped my shit! It was the sneer and like the eyebrow raise and I don’t even know what she’s looking at in the sky, but she is, that is an Imperial lady. She’s a focused, well trained soldier. The first time I saw anything was the celebration trailer. And even when I show that to people that know me very well now, they still gasp audibly. Even if they watch it on my iPhone, because trust me, I’m showing everybody the trailer as much as possible, even when they don’t ask, it’s like in their face immediately.

“Hey, have you seen this? Let me just show you.” They still gasp. The technology is so advanced now that Uncanny Valley has been hopped over.

What’s the emotion like, knowing you’re basically the lead in a Star Wars film, like an important Star Wars film?

Gavankar: First of all, everybody asks me this and I still don’t have the words. I’ve been asked a hundred times and I still don’t have the words for how big of a deal this is to me.

Were you a big Star Wars fan forever?

Gavankar: I was a … yeah. I had a strict upbringing. I studied Classical music and that was it. Like, I practiced a lot. I wasn’t allowed to play video games. I wasn’t allowed to watch television. Ironic. So, when I got to high school, my first best friend he was like, “What do you mean you haven’t seen Star Wars?” Like, he almost dumped me as a friend, so he sat my ass down. Yeah, good friend, he was a very good friend. He sat my ass down and made me watch the original. I was like, “Oh, I get it!” It might’ve been one of the first Sci-Fi things I’d ever seen. Is that true? It might’ve been. I don’t know. But, yeah, I mean, I’m not an idiot, Star Wars is the best!

So, without, I don’t want you to spoil the end of the game or anything obviously … Should fans start lobbying to get your character into, like, Episode IX?

Gavankar: For the love of everything that is good in the world, yes!



This post first appeared on Meet The Cast Of The ‘Game Of Thrones’ Porn Pa, please read the originial post: here

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Janina Gavankar On Being The Lead In ‘Star Wars Battlefront II’

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