Janina Gavankar's calling card is simple: Actor. Musician. Geek.

From CNET Magazine: For the actress known for "True Blood," "The League" and "The Mysteries of Laura," being a nerd is preferred.

Joan E. Solsman Former Senior Reporter
Joan E. Solsman was CNET's senior media reporter, covering the intersection of entertainment and technology. She's reported from locations spanning from Disneyland to Serbian refugee camps, and she previously wrote for Dow Jones Newswires and The Wall Street Journal. She bikes to get almost everywhere and has been doored only once.
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Joan E. Solsman
4 min read

Janina Gavankar Jeong Park and Janina Gavankar

Every nerd had something trigger her geekiness. For Janina Gavankar, it was a glockenspiel, the musical instrument for those who find the xylophone a little too hip.

Gavankar may be best known for her acting and sex appeal in roles such as shapeshifter Luna Garza on HBO's "True Blood" and detective Meredith Bose on NBC's "The Mysteries of Laura." But when she's just being herself, decked out in Dr. Martens boots and a backpack toting a souped-up MacBook Pro, it's easy to see glimmers of the fourth grade "band geek" who started her march down the nerd path.

"To geek is to love, in a passionate, unabashed way," Gavankar, 34, says. "So I show my love and hate in these ways as well."

That passion gives her legit techie cred, too. She was one of Twitter's earliest members in 2006, a tale that involves a jet flight to Necker Island, billionaire Richard Branson's private retreat. Gavankar's Twitter ID number -- a rough approximation of when a particular user signed up -- is 12,925. If the number alone doesn't impress you, consider that, by the end of last year, 288 million people were logging into Twitter every month -- putting Gavankar in the earliest 0.004 percent of tweeters. @Janina now has more than 130,000 followers.

Gavankar discussed her not-so-hidden dorky side with CNET.

How does your inner geek come out when you're on the job?
I'm a studious actor. There are different kinds of actors -- of course I'm the nerdy kind. So I like to throw myself into the research as much as possible. Often, it's not helpful. [Laughs] Depending on the show, they are not going to follow the rules of reality. It's fiction.

Do any of your characters appeal to your techie side?
They wrote a little bit of the geekiness into this [Det. Bose] character on NBC. Suddenly, I read one of the scripts, and she was a gamer. And somebody got murdered at a tech company, so [my character] Meredith is like, "Please let me go. Please send me, please send me."

But I don't think they realize that comes with a price. Every time I get a script and the wording is wrong, I will send notes: copious notes at that. And this is network TV -- people can't just change things. But this line is not how "we" say things. By "we," it means every geek who walked this planet.

Get it right, or I'm going to come for you.

Voicing the character of Amita in the video game Far Cry 4 must have brought you true techie joy.
I'm a very serious gamer. It's the only hobby that's mine -- well, now with Far Cry 4 that's a little "worky" too. Games are interactive stories, and I need a plot. I "100 percent" games [slang for completing a game's tasks]. That's when I'm on a bender: five days in the same crappy clothes, sleeping maybe four hours a night, falling asleep with the controller in my hand. A lot of GrubHub. I went on a bender for Far Cry, traveling with my Xbox, playing in hotels, trailers, writers' rooms.

You were among the earliest people to join Twitter, which involved Richard Branson flying you to his private island. What's the story?
Branson decided he wanted to know about the current state at the time [2006] of new media, which is laughable now because who the hell says "new media?" It's just media. So a group of badasses were invited to Branson's island. One of them was my ex-boyfriend, who is the CEO and founder of DeviantArt and a bona fide genius. We get on a [Gulfstream] G5 jet, which is ridiculous. And everybody was trying to be very cool.

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I am not a faker. I'm not going to be blasé about something that's just a complete, freak moment of your life. I looked over at Dave Alberga [former CEO of Active Network]. We didn't know each other yet, but we exchanged this look that was like, "No one is saying how bizarre of an experience this already is, and we're only five minutes in."

So we get to the island. We're surrounded by disruptive minds way before people were over-using the word disruptive. [Silicon Valley investor] Chris Sacca was the head of special initiatives at Google. He was talking about a startup called Twitter. It was not even incorporated yet. There was no app yet; there was no iPhone yet. No one was saying the word "app" yet. He explained [Twitter] to me, and I immediately understood that it was going to kill mailing lists; it would kill the lag time between message and receiver. So I signed up on Branson's computer right there.

The latest music video for your cover of "Don't Look Down" uses a drone as both cameraman and onscreen presence. Why did you use an airborne robot?
I have a friend, Christian Sanz, who's the CEO and founder of Skycatch. Skycatch is making fully autonomous flying robots that are automating construction. It's drones helping drones. We shouldn't have had it as close to our faces as we did, but I wanted to kiss that little guy on his head. Everybody is like, "Great, I don't really know how we're going to do that." It can cut your nose off!

And you can code?
I'm really bad at it. It's in a press release somewhere, so it's this beautiful myth that I should not refute. I should keep this beautiful myth of me being a coding goddess alive, but I'm not. I can read it. I can take somebody else's source code and tweak it. "Open caret A space href equals quote ..."

Who can't do that at this point? OK, maybe a lot of people.

Watch this: Putting tech-obsessed actress Janina Gavankar to the test

This story appears in the summer edition of CNET Magazine. For other magazine stories, go here.