Janina Gavankar Takes Us Inside the World of Star Wars: Battlefront II

Star Wars fans are about to be introduced to a whole new character in the galaxy. In Star Wars: Battlefront II, we will not only see the series expand beyond from the previous game, but we’ll also be able to play an entirely new story that’s part of the Star Wars canon in the single player campaign. Players will be seeing through the eyes of Imperial commander Iden Versio, who is voiced by actress Janina Gavankar. So what can we expect from this antihero? Janina gives us the scoop on her character.

How did you first get the role of Iden Versio?

It was basically an non-camera audition, so you send in a tape but in the video game world, they don’t have to tell you what you’re auditioning for. Because I’m a pretty hardcore gamer, I actually knew what the game was ahead of time. I figured it out by following the context clues. With the very few context clues that were given, I knew that this was Star Wars: Battlefront II and was suddenly so excited because I realized that there was actually a story this time. As a gamer, I was excited just for the opportunity to have a Star Wars story for the next Battlefront. It’s like a suddenly had insider information.

Were you a fan of Star Wars?

I was. I watched it pretty late though. I was introduced to Star Wars in high school but I remember the moment I first experienced the crawl and John Williams’ theme. For many people like me, it was such a visceral moment you don’t forget. It’s so iconic.

Did you have a chance to play the first Battlefront game?

I played the first Battlefront. I don’t play multiplayer that often so I haven’t logged a ton of hours for the first Battlefront but I felt the same way everybody else did in that there was so much potential here. It hadn’t been fully realized and I thought we’ve done that with Battlefront II.

What should fans expect in this new installment?

This is three times bigger of a game going across all eras. There are actually three parts of the story, two of them have been released already and the third part is going to be a free DLC that comes in the middle of December so you’ll get the rest of Iden’s story very soon.

What can people learn about Iden once people get their hands on the game?

There’s a book that gives the backstory to Iden and it’s sort of the dawn of Inferno Squad so you can read the book or you can listen to the book because I’ve had the opportunity to voice the audiobook. You can do all that and then you’ll learn even more of these characters that you meet in Battlefront II. The story spans from Return of the Jedi to The Force Awakens. That’s the time period that you’ll experience with Iden. You’ll get to see what it’s like to be inside the Empire without an Emperor. That’s the craziest thing; it’s a real analysis about an empire without an emperor and to see what it does to families, and to see what it’s like to be loyal to the empire during such a tumultuous time.

So where exactly do we start from in the Star Wars timeline?

Well, you start in the Battle of Endor and the Second Death Star has just exploded. You have to stay focused and get off the ground and into your ship so you can stay alive and keep your squad alive.

How much motion capture did you get to do for Iden?

A ton. They scanned my face on Thanksgiving of last year and we shot for about five or six months. All of the performance capture with all the dots on your face and your body. And then, I did a ton of in-game voice over dialogue as well. I just did my last voiceover day recently, which was two weeks ago. That’s a great thing, you want us to be filling in gaps as much as possible up until the game has to ship.

Will Iden be interacting with any of the characters from the films?

You are going to. That is something I can’t talk about because in the trailer, you see Maz, Leia, Luke, Kylo, etc. So you are going to experience a lot of your most beloved Star Wars characters in the single player campaign.

Were you involved in the development of Iden? Did you collaborate with the writers for the character?

The thing that was the most unexpected from this whole thing is how collaborative it has been. I really didn’t think I would have much input at all. The moment I was cast, I reached out to Mitch Dyer, who’s one of the two writers on the game and we started talking about the character. Then I had a 1-2 hour Skype session with Mark Thompson, who is our creative director of the narrative. We were with a Lucasfilms story group member everyday we were shooting. They had an integral part in making sure that we give you a real authentic Star Wars story. The crazy thing is, we got to change things in the moment, sometimes we improvise moments, sometimes we change the script entirely on the day, but we had a Lucasfilms member with us making sure that every word that was said would fit seamlessly into the galaxy.

How important was it for you to play such a strong female character in this game as the franchise has now brought up characters like Rey to the forefront?

Iden has been the most important character I’ve ever had the chance to play. Her story is unique, her perspective is unique, and her existence is complicated. She’s not some perfect little thing; she has to make really big decisions constantly so this is the most wonderful and important thing that has ever happened to me.

Has your experience working on video games helped you when you first took on this role for Star Wars: Battlefront II?

Yes, I’m really glad that my first experience was not Battlefront II because being in something associated with Star Wars is so much pressure. At least I didn’t feel like a total noob in the space of performance capture because I’ve done it before. Also, my perspective as a gamer has probably been the best thing because I don’t need to take any time to have anything explained to me when it comes to gameplay, story integration, transitioning from cinematic to gameplay, how a perspective will be seen, and what it feels like to be the player as a protagonist. I’ve played so many games that I know what it feels like. I know what this medium feels like to experience and I love it so much. I’m sort of obsessed with the people in the industry as well because they are so intelligent and so passionate. So I think that having been logged the amount of hours that I have as a gamer is the thing that helped me the most in this experience.

Other than Iden, who is your favorite in the Star Wars universe?

I would say Anakin. I was hanging out with George Lucas’ son Jet and I was talking about Star Wars in general and he said that the name Anakin is based on Ananke, the Greek goddess of inevitability, which totally blew my mind and makes sense because that’s what he felt. He feels this slow moving, dark sense of inevitability and that is what makes Anakin one of the most iconic characters in film history.

Do you hope to see Iden expand outside the games?

Yes of course. Any and everywhere that the world would like to see Iden, I would be happy with. I want her to live on forever. There’s a big complicated life to investigate further.

What are you looking forward to once the game comes out as a fan of the franchise and as a gamer?

I look forward to walking around Star destroyers from an Imperial perspective. I want people to know what it’s like to live and breath the Empire. I want people to see just what it takes to be an Imperial commander and you have to be unwavering in those moments. I’m excited for people to meet her.

Look out for Star Wars: Battlefront II coming out Nov. 17 on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Microsoft Windows.

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