Disney Channel has recently released “Spin”, Disney’s first coming of age teen movie starring a South Asian protagonist. Avantika plays 15-year old Rhea, who lives with her multigenerational family, and works at her father’s restaurant.
How did you get your role on “Spin”?
I went through the typical audition process, and Disney told me in the room that I booked it!
When you booked the movie, how did you feel when you found out you were going to work with Abhay Deol?
I was so excited. I originally had read with several actors who were auditioning to play my dad, Arvind, and I hadn’t heard back after that day for two months and then Manjari (the director) called me and says, “Oh my gosh, do you know who is playing your dad? … Abhay Deol.” As a South Asian, I grew up watching Abhay Deol in Bollywood movies and looking up to him so much as being this actor who took really interesting moves in terms of his career … it was so incredible and literally just the cherry on the cake to be able to act with him.
Both of your characters are so close in the movie. How was it working so closely with him, and shooting 1-1 scenes in the film?
It was so amazing. He truly is such a giving actor, and so amazingly present and in the moment, and I think I learned a lot from him. I feel really lucky that I was able to have those kinds of moments and do those kinds of scenes with him.
Do you have one memory from filming that has stuck with you?
I just really remember having a lot of fun. There was a scene where Rhea and Max (played by Michael Bishop ) are having a disagreement, and I think the day we shot that scene … Manjari said, “Hey you’re not allowed to speak with each other the entire day, and I want you guys to have a minimum of six feet distance between you.” [This was] so hard for us, because we’re always [like] having fun and playing around. So, I remember when we came back to the hotel that day, we were just talking about what a difference it did actually make, and I just remember being on set and Manjari making all these interesting choices and pushing us to make interesting choices as well.
An interesting point in the film for me was how culturally aware Rhea was. Your character interchanged wearing Indian and Western clothes throughout the film, even to school. Was this something that you collaborated on with the stylist, or was this decision a surprise to you?
When I was doing the fittings for the movie, I did notice that there was a lot of interest in mixing the Indian jewelry with Western clothing, or Indian kurtas and wearing them on jeans. I had really loved the idea of it, so I’m very thankful that the stylist, costume designer Trisha, and Manjari … let me contribute my opinions as well as to which combinations are a bit more realistic, and which ones would seem more extravagant.
You are a dancer, and that plays into your character’s love for music in the film. How did your background in dance help you when you were filming, if at all it did?
So my dance background also requires me to deal with music a lot, so I have always [kind of] been accustomed to blending with rhythm and beat so that kind of helped me get into the character … because Rhea is a musician and she deals with beats and timing with her DJing. My knowledge of that was great for giving me a background for the movie … and I really think that all of my experiences have helped me get into the character as well. She is navigating through coding and DJing and waitressing, and being a good friend and a good daughter. She’s feeling a little overwhelmed by all of these aspects to her life, and that’s a struggle that I’m very familiar with as well.
Before SPIN, you mainly worked in the Telugu Film industry in India. How did you get into acting, and was there a reason you chose to work in India instead of in Hollywood?
I grew up learning ballet and Indian Classical dance primarily, and when I had travelled to Mumbai to compete in a dance competition (Dance India Dance Lil Masters) that was kind of my first taste for the film industry … because I met a lot of cinematographers and dancers who worked on movies there … I’m also very fluent in my native tongue, which is Telugu, so it just felt right to kind of venture there first. And at the same time, I was submitting auditions to both Hollywood and the Indian film industry … so my first offer came from the Indian film industry, so it was just natural to travel there and do that project first.
I have a couple rapid fire questions to ask you! Firstly, how many dance styles are you trained in, and what’s your favorite one?
I’m trained in Ballet, Kuchipudi, Kathak, and I have learned Hip-Hop and Contemporary as well. My favorite dance form has got to be either Kathak or Contemporary.
Finally, what’s your favorite Abhay Deol movie?
Probably Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara! I just love that movie and I rewatch it all [of] the time.
In addition to starring in “Spin”, Avantika is making her Tamil debut in the film “Bhoomika”, which also stars Aishwarya Rajesh and Pavel Navageethan.