In our Q&A series Last Call, we get down to the bottom of every last thing with some of our favorite celebs — from the last time they were starstruck to the last song they listened to. This week, Avantika takes our call.
Avantika didn’t get the traditional American high school experience, but she did get to dabble in parts of it while filming her new Netflix film, “Senior Year,” in Atlanta last summer. “I never went to prom,” she tells POPSUGAR. “So it was just so, so amazing and so, so fun to be able to live that out in this movie.”
“Senior Year” stars Rebel Wilson as Stephanie Conway, a former high school cheer captain who suffers a head injury and ends up in a coma for 20 years. When she wakes up, everyone else in her life has moved on. She heads back to high school to try to close out that chapter of her life and move on, but Gen Z high school is very different from the 2000s world she’s used to.
One of the biggest differences is the cheerleader squad, which is populated by Avantika’s Janet and her friends. Stephanie’s squad was all super thin, straight, white girls, and the new squad is much more diverse and politically active. “I honestly didn’t think I was going to book this part because it’s the role of a cheerleader and I don’t think I give off very cheerleader energy,” Avantika says. “But they wanted someone who was funny. . . . I was very surprised when I booked it, but I was just so excited and so happy.”
Avantika thinks she and Janet are quite alike. “I’m also slightly introverted and I’m ambitious and I really just love being driven,” she explains. “She loves to hear people out, hear their ideas out. And while she, at face value, seems uptight, she’s very much not so.” Janet and her friends accept Stephanie — whose delayed adolescence can make her a bit of a jerk — with open arms.
Avantika admits she was a little intimidated coming on to the set of a Netflix adult comedy when her last movie was Disney’s “Spin,” but everyone welcomed her. She says, “Working with Rebel was a dream. I don’t think anybody expects anything less than that. But she’s just so, so incredible.”
The most challenging part of the movie was that the cheerleading squad performs multiple dance numbers, but Avantika has a background in ballet. She relished the chance to explore working in hip-hop and the choreographer kept things light so everyone could explore and stay loose. “It was more like dancing that you could spend time actually having fun with, rather than spending time on like, ‘Oh my God. Is my technique right? Is my foot sickled? Are my hand’s good?,” she says.
According to Avantika, the most difficult day was filming a fantasy sequence where the group dances to Britney Spears’s “(You Drive Me) Crazy,” recreating the famous music video. “We could not have air conditioning on that set and it was mid-summer in Atlanta. It was hot and humid and it was difficult,” she said. But that didn’t stop it from being an amazing time. “I cannot stress to you how much I loved shooting ‘Crazy,'” she says. “Shooting ‘Crazy’ and remaking such an iconic song was so, so much fun.”
Looking to the future, Avantika is working on producing an adaptation of a New York Times bestseller that she’ll be starring in, but she can’t reveal just what the project is yet. “Such a great book for the Asian community,” she hints. “I’m really excited.”
Keep reading to see what else Avantika has to say about “Senior Year,” her favorite album, and so much more in our Last Call interview.
“Senior Year” premieres on Netflix on May 13.
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