Passion drives all of us at EA. It is the fuel that pushes us every day as we aim to create extraordinary experiences for everyone to enjoy. And we love to see that same passion from our fans.
This passion was on full display at EA PLAY from Janina Gavankar, the actress who plays the part of Commander Iden Versio in Star Wars™ Battlefront™ II. This was the part she had to have, and we are so lucky to have her as part of the team.
Here is the inside story of how Janina became Iden Versio, as told by one of the writers on Star Wars Battlefront II, Motive Studios’ Mitch Dyer.
Janina Gavankar simply had to have the role of Commander Iden Versio in Star Wars Battlefront II.
“I knew that it had to be Battlefront,” she says about her initial audition. “And it became life or death for me.”
For more than a week, Janina waited. “Every second that went by was the longest second in history…I live in a world of ‘no’s and I wasn’t taking ‘no’ on this.”
Janina stole the show on stage at EA PLAY.
She got tired of wondering and waiting quickly.
“So I wrote you an email,” she reminds me, “and you knew who you were dealing with.” I remember it vividly. She gushed about the project, the Star Wars franchise, and games as a medium for storytelling. The letter was full of jokes and wink-wink code phrases to maintain the secrecy of Star Wars Battlefront II – unannounced at the time. But above all else it was genuine, sweet, and convincing.
Janina live from EA Play 2017 in Hollywood
“In a medium filled with male protagonists, I want to push forward the presence of strong, complex, female characters, and from the very little I've been allowed to hear about this character, it sounds like this project is doing just that,” Janina’s email read. “I can guarantee that you will not find a more deeply enthusiastic person for your team.”
She was right when signing off with, “I can guarantee that you will not find a more deeply enthusiastic person for your team.” What Janina Gavankar didn’t know at the time was that she already had the job. In collaboration with Lucasfilm’s Story team, Lead Writer Walt Williams and I had already begun rewriting the character of Iden Versio around her.
Months later, in the aftermath of EA PLAY 2017, where Janina Gavankar stole the show with a commanding hosting presence, her giddy enthusiasm is at an all-time high. To prepare for the Star Wars Battlefront II segment, she visited Electronic Arts’ headquarters in Redwood Shores, California.
I am beyond honored that I get to do it at all in my life. I’m going to take every photo anybody ever wants to take with me.
“I got to go to EA, I climbed on top of the sign, I had a power hour with everyone involved with the script,” Janina says. “I was so pleasantly surprised by how open they were to me having opinions, very strong opinions.” If she was going to present at EA PLAY, she was going to do it her way. “Not everyone lets you do you and EA has surprised me by allowing me to be my most honest self.”
Despite her passion, Janina was terrified. “I’ve watched these press conferences for years and years and years as a gamer, and I’m hyper critical of them,” she confesses. “I didn’t want to screw it up. Now people are finally understanding how much this project means to me. People can see it literally pouring out of my eyes.”
Part of that was shock – Janina hadn’t seen much of the playable Assault on Theed multiplayer, or the behind-closed-doors campaign demo shown at EA PLAY.
“I had no idea it was going to be as gorgeous as it was. I sat down with these Game Changers and was just walking around, looking at Theed, going, ‘Wow! It’s beautiful!.”
After the presentations, Janina took to the EA PLAY floor, wandering outside in her stunning custom-made Galactic Commander dress, snapping photos with eager new fans. “You get to do this once,” she says. “I am beyond honored that I get to do it at all in my life. I’m going to take every photo anybody ever wants to take with me.”
Janina is starring as the game’s single-player campaign’s hero, and she’s also narrating the Star Wars: Inferno Squad audiobook. Janina Gavankar is thrilled to finally share Star Wars Battlefront II with the world. She’s been living in it for a while.
“Iden’s identity and self-worth comes from being a good soldier, even within her own family,” she says. “The level at which she executes and follows orders is her qualifier for self-worth and love in her family.”
The character wasn’t always this way. It took finding Janina to find Iden’s voice. From there, Motive Studios collaborated with Lucasfilm on a deep history for Iden, which author Christie Golden explores wonderfully in the novel, Star Wars: Inferno Squad (also narrated by Janina). She absolutely glows when talking about the book.
Her favorite thing about it? “The time spent with each other,” she says. “It’s the dawn of Inferno Squad. You get to see the first mission we go on. And you can hear everyone’s voices. By the time you pick up the controller, you know Inferno Squad.”
Star Wars Battlefront II releases on November 17, 2017.
Learn more about Iden Versio’s story and single player in Star Wars Battlefront II and follow along on Twitter to stay up to date on all the new related to the game.