“This is the third show that I’ve joined as a series regular in the fourth season,” she says, ticking off recent gigs during a visit to TVLine’s offices. “The L Word, True Blood, Sleepy Hollow. Bizarre. It’s like, ‘Oh, we’ve got to fill a spot, who are we going to call? Call Janina.’ Its very strange.”
And while fitting into an established series has gotten easier with practice, Gavankar says she is well aware that Sleepy is a somewhat special case: She’s becoming part of the Fox supernatural drama in the wake of Nicole Beharie’s controversial exit, an event that earned the show serious criticism from some viewers.
“I’m not an idiot,” a candid Gavankar says. “I’m totally nervous that people are going to hate me. But someone had to take the job, and I was so honored that [Sleepy] called me in the first place. I wasn’t going to say no.”
Gavankar’s character, Diana Thomas, is a former Marine-turned-Homeland Security agent. Spooky circumstance causes her to run into Ichabod Crane in Washington, D.C., in the Season 4 premiere (Jan. 6, 9/8c); though she’s initially skeptical of his claims of supernatural chaos, they soon find themselves working together to fight evil.
And if that scenario has you lamenting the absence of Ms. Grace Abigail Mills, Gavankar says, she gets it.
“The characters on the show miss Abbie. They are grieving for her loss, as the fans are. By the way, I’ve seen every episode — I am, too. She’s incredible. She’s part of the fabric of the show.”
Showrunner Clifton Campbell says he’s looking forward to viewers seeing Gavankar play the new character, “someone who is a fully formed, strong, independent woman who’s got a career that is very important to her,” he tells TVLine. “When she at first finds out that maybe her mission is a little bigger than she expected, she naturally girds for what that means — not only to her, but the rest of her family and the people she works with — and immediately finds a side of her, a calling that she wasn’t prepared for.”
He adds: “But once it happens, she is more than willing to throw down and join the fight.”
Gavankar says her partner in that battle, Tom Mison, is “a dreamy Englishman. He’s incredibly talented and he, this many years later, is still finding ways to elevate the material.” And while Crane is highly cerebral, Diana is more practical — often to comedic effect.
“My character’s a former Marine, and while he’s pontificating about the history of the annals of time, I’m sort of like, ‘So… can we shoot it?'” She laughs. “That’s really fun, because the Odd Couple aspect of the show is what gives it life.” — With reporting by Michael Ausiello