'Spin' 's Avantika Is 'Really Excited' to Follow in the Footsteps of Past Disney Channel Icons

Avantika, who plays an Indian American teen with a knack for deejaying in Spin, says she "looked up to Hilary Duff a lot"

Photo: Rodin Eckenroth/Wireimage

Avantika Vandanapu is ready to make her Disney Channel Original Movie debut.

The 16-year-old actress appears in the new DCOM film Spin, premiering Friday, which sees Avantika star as an Indian American teen named Rhea, who struggles to balance her newfound passion for deejaying while supporting her father with their family restaurant.

"I'm really excited to be following in the footsteps of so many inspirational figures in my life," Avantika, who currently stars on Disney Junior's Mira, Royal Detective, tells PEOPLE exclusively. "It's just a lot of excitement and happiness and feeling really, really lucky."

"Those are the kind of emotions that I'm associating. I'm not super nervous about it, because I feel like I did my work and I feel like I did my best job. And now, I'm just really excited to kind of see the response and be able to see this film manifest into whatever it is going to be," she says.

The DCOM genre has spawned many iconic and beloved flicks over the years, ranging from the High School Musical franchise to the Halloweentown film series. Among the stars who appeared on Disney Channel and went on to have successful careers in the entertainment industry include Hilary Duff, Brie Larson, America Ferrera, Shia LaBeouf, Demi Lovato, Selena Gomez, Brenda Song, Zac Efron and Raven-Symoné.

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John Medland/Disney

Watching the Disney Channel as a child, Avantika says she admired the paths of two stars in particular.

"Growing up, I looked up to Hilary Duff a lot. I loved Hilary Duff and I love Naomi Scott. I looked up to both of them a lot," she says. "I feel like I've grown up with them as my older siblings because I've kind of watched their journey through Disney and [I] watch their journey outside of it."

"To kind of see both of them evolve into such wonderful actresses and activists, it makes me really, really happy," she continues. "I feel really inspired to see people like that come up in the industry."

The arrival of Avantika's Spin is historic — it marks the first time an Indian American lead has helmed the starring role in a DCOM.

Avantika says "it truly is a dream come true" to be able to represent the South Asian community in this way. "Anybody who's done a Disney Channel Original Movie says it's a dream come true, but it really, really is," she says. "And I think this is such a big step for the South Asian community that I feel really, really blessed to be a part of representation on the screen."

"I hope that me being on screen and Rhea being on screen is going to pave the way for many more South Asian roles to come in the future," she adds, noting that this factor alone "puts a little bit of pressure" on her.

"I really want to make our community proud because this is one of those rare opportunities that we have gotten," she says, "and hopefully we'll get many more in the future to come."

John Medland/Disney

Working on this film has allowed Avantika to come to understand one of its "biggest messages" — learning how to juggle both passions and responsibilities. She, herself, has taken this lesson to heart.

"I think that is one of the biggest messages that I took away because I sometimes — actually, always — struggle with trying to keep up with everything on my plate," she says. "But from that movie and just from Rhea herself, it is truly inspiring to me to be able to see someone doing all of those things and much more."

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Next up, Avantika is set to star in Senior Year alongside Rebel Wilson. She's also working on optioning a book and producing it into a movie.

Down the road, she hopes to take on more roles that "challenge" her. "I have a really particular interest in doing immigrant stories," she says.

Spin premieres Friday at 8 p.m. ET on Disney Channel.

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