Spotlight: Avantika Vandanapu Serves Uniqueness in Her Breakout Roles

When Avantika Vandanapu booked her first starring role, in the 2021 Disney Channel original “Spin,” she didn’t understand that she landed it. No, really. “[The casting directors] called me back in and were like, ‘Avantika, we heard you could speak Hindi,’” she said in an interview with Character Media. “I grew up speaking Telugu. I flubbed a bit on my resume and said, ‘I can fluently speak Hindi,’ and I can’t—they tell me in Hindi that I’ve been cast, and I don’t understand.”

Thankfully, Vandanapu was able to cobble together some comprehension using context clues, and from there the things became more celebratory. “After that, there were obviously tears and happiness and laughter and everything amazing,” she says.

A native of San Francisco, the 17-year-old has been pursuing creative endeavors since her youth, debuting in Telugu cinema’s “Anirudh” at the mere age of 5. In “Spin” she plays Rhea, a high-spirited Indian American teen who rediscovers her love for DJ-ing and music production. The film also highlights Rhea’s heritage, as she creates mixes influenced by her South Asian culture

Vandanapu’s talents don’t stop at coming-of-age Disney films. In Netflix’s more adult 2022 dramedy “Senior Year,” she takes on the part of Janet Singh, a textbook Zoomer—environmentally conscious, socially left and burdened with the understanding that social media follower count equals popularity in high school. “They have this very specific persona; they’re like an amalgamation of a lot of these characters you see when you’re going around in high school,” Vandanapu said of Janet and her on-screen counterparts Yaz (Joshua Colley) and Stephanie (Rebel Wilson). 

When undertaking these somewhat eccentric performances, Vandanapu keeps calm knowing who will be watching her. “There’s a lot of tension [because] I hope I do my community proud, but I’ve been a part of the South Asian community and I know everyone who’s going to be watching me—there wasn’t a lot of pressure,” she said.  “You’re not as stressed because you know these people and know what they think.” 

To check out more anecdotes from Vandanapu, and get a glimpse at her reaction to getting the part of Rhea, check out the video above!