Disney channel’s first Indian American movie star
For decades under the DCOM banner, Disney Channel launched one-off films and new franchises that transcended what a made-for-TV movie could be. But it isn’t until now that one of their original films featured an Indian American lead, despite 5.4 million South Asian diaspora living in the US. In Spin, Avantika plays Rhea, a smart and determined teen who is figuring out how to juggle her duties at her family’s restaurant and her newfound passion for DJing. The native Californian had been circling the character of Rhea for four years after she first auditioned for the lead role via self-tape when she was just 12 years old.
“It was my first American audition ever,” Avantika tells Teen Vogue about the full circle moment of booking the film. The project was then put on the shelf to rejigger the story and find the right people behind the scenes, including director Manjari Makijany (Skater Girl), but it was the beginning of a new era for Avantika. “I still watch that tape back and think it was so awful. But that tape got me to LA.”
As a kid growing up in the Bay Area, she had been a dancer drawn to the more expressive elements of the craft, which led her to enroll in drama classes in the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco and Film Acting Bay Area. She then found acting success in India, where she had small roles in Telugu-language South Indian films.