Avantika on How She Hopes Disney Channel's 'Spin' Inspires a New Generation (Exclusive)

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Disney Channel's Spin marks the network's first original movie centered on an Indian American family. For Avantika, the young star at the center of it all, the moment is a special one -- and one she'll remember as her star rises. 

"I'm honestly so happy and so excited, and truly I think this is once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and I'm so glad that I got to do it," the actress told ET during a recent interview over Zoom. "I grew up watching Disney Channel original movies and to finally be in one is a dream come true. I feel so much gratitude towards having this opportunity and having this platform now, and being able to do projects in the future because of this."

Spin follows Rhea (Avantika), an Indian American teen who learns she has a passion for creating DJ mixes that blend the textures of her Indian heritage and the world around her. Her life revolves around her eclectic group of friends, her afterschool coding club, her family’s Indian restaurant and her multigenerational family, which has only grown closer since her mother's passing. Everything changes when she falls for aspiring DJ Max (Michael Bishop) and a long lost fervor for music is reignited. Rhea discovers that she has a natural gift for creating beats and producing music but must find the courage to follow her true inner talent.

Directed by Manjari Makijany, the DCOM shatters barriers with an international Indian-led ensemble that includes Bollywood star Abhay Deol as Rhea's father, U.K. comedian/actor Meera Syal as Rhea's grandmother and Aryan Simhadri as Rhea's younger brother.

"I really identified with the fact that a lot of the conflicts that I faced in my own life were not really related to being Indian. I already established that I embraced my culture and I loved being Indian. And I see a lot of myself in Rhea in the sense that she is also very comfortable with the fact that she's Indian and she's exploring conflicts aside from that," Avantika said. "We're very similar in the sense that we both struggled with navigating through multiple things at once and even though my navigating things weren't coding and waitressing at a restaurant, I was navigating through dance and through badminton but I was also dealing with so much on my plate and I was a big dreamer like Rhea. I think we both had very similar growth and evolution in the sense of how we've overcome all of that."

Spin, the actress says, is meant to "inspire others to have the confidence that they should take all the time they need to find their passion." While Rhea goes through various hiccups as she figures out her path, she comes out the other side stronger, happier and creatively fulfilled. "You just need to find the right balance and as long as you're able to do that, you're going to overcome it and you're going to bud and you're going to grow to be a stronger person," she added.

Avantika said there were many "pinch-me moments" while working with the seasoned ensemble, calling every single cast member "so special and so talented." 

"This is my first big film and so I was really nervous walking on set," she admitted. "I think seeing everybody being so warm and loving and accepting and encouraging gave me so much confidence, and I don't think that is the case on every single set. So I feel very blessed to have those kind of people around me and have them be my support system throughout the journey of filming."

Though her career is just getting started, Avantika hopes Spin is "a stepping stone" for her as she looks to tell stories about the Indian community and culture, especially "projects that highlight and bring to light marginalized community voices and bring to light the issues that we have -- aside from identity, which is something that is oftentimes the only thing that is shown in movies about people of color."

"In terms of specific things that I want to do, I would love to -- in the future sometime -- do a story about immigrants specifically because I grew up in a community where everyone was an immigrant. Their stories are so interesting and they're such a big part of America that I would love to either produce a movie about immigrants or play an immigrant myself, not just a second-generation Indian American," she said. "And I would also like to do a biopic someday about an Indian American person. I think playing a real-life person is so challenging and it seems like so much fun to me."

If there's one thing the movie portrayed about Indian culture that is rarely seen in TV and film that excited Avantika, it's one of the elaborate dance sequences that features Rhea's grandmother Asha.

"It's such a big part of Indian communities that we're dancing all the time and that a big part of our families are jamming out together and dancing to music and singing," she said. "I think people see that a lot when you think of Bollywood movies -- you think of dancing and singing -- but I also think that people don't think that that's how we are in real life and we very much so are. We burst into song all the time, maybe not to the extent that Bollywood movies show but we're a very colorful culture and I was excited to see her dancing [in] that sequence. It highlights a part of Indian American families in American movies in a way that's never been seen before."

As for what she hopes audiences take away from watching Spin, it's that it's perfectly acceptable to operate on your own timeline when it comes to discovering your passion -- and that it's totally fine to take the unexpected route.

"I hope audiences take away that you need to take all the time you need to find your passion and the sky is the limit. If you think you're navigating through too much and you think you're too big of a dreamer, it's OK. You're exploring and you're experimenting. As long as you learn the balance and as long as you are navigating your way properly, you'll be fine and you'll overcome it. And don't ever limit yourself to just doing one thing, you can do everything," Avantika said. "I hope that people see Rhea is able to successfully do coding and be a good friend and be a good daughter and also be a DJ, and I hope that gives them the confidence to do whatever they want."

Spin premieres Friday, Aug. 13 at 8 p.m. ET/PT on Disney Channel.

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