The actress starring alongside Rebel Wilson in Netflix's new comedy breaks down what sets it apart.
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Avantika
Credit: Emily Malan

Within the first 20 minutes of Senior Year, it's clear that Netflix's newest comedy (out tomorrow, May 13) has all the makings to be the next teen classic. As the film's two-hour runtime blesses viewers with everything from multiple (!) choreographed dance routines to an Alicia Silverstone cameo, Senior Year manages to perfectly bring the nostalgia of our favorite early aughts high school classics (think Clueless meets Mean Girls) into a present-day setting — with just a sprinkling of Australian accents. But while we may find comfort in the familiar tropes and butterfly-embellished fashions of our Y2K favorites in Netflix's latest, Avantika, the up-and-coming actress playing Janet, Rebel Wilson's whip-smart high school companion, assures us that Senior Year is far from just another teen movie.

"Growing up, I just loved chick flicks," Avantika tells InStyle. "All the classic 2000s nostalgic movies like Clueless, Legally Blonde ... Just movies like that, I really, really enjoyed. So, to finally be a part of one myself is actually insane, because who would've thought that [Y2K] would come back and we would kind of be doing a throwback?"

Senior Year centers around Wilson's Stephanie Conway, who struggles to navigate life as a 37-year-old high school senior after a failed cheerleading stunt left her in a 20-year coma. Still mentally stuck in the early 2000s, Conway's fashion sense isn't the only thing about her that's glaringly out-of-date against high school backdrops of today — and Avantika says this juxtaposition is exactly what sets the movie apart.

Avantika
Credit: Emily Malan

"I think when we watch [classic] chick flicks now, it doesn't seem all that different, because that movie just takes place in that era, and everything's kind of normalized for that," she says. "But to see both [eras] side by side … Now, we really see all the progression we've made in terms of welcoming LGBTQ communities into our school and just a lot of the subtler intricacies of the evolution of high school culture."

She added, "Senior Year has a really, really diverse cast and it's not just visually, but also personality-wise. A lot of the characters are very different from one another, and so I hope that people find themselves in [one of them]." The film also stars Zoë Chao, Veep and Ted Lasso's Sam Richardson, and This Is Us's Justin Hartley.

Growing up watching Rebel Wilson star in mega-hits like Pitch Perfect, Avantika admits she felt a bit intimidated stepping into her first comedy alongside the "improv god" herself, especially as the youngest actor on set. Luckily, her nerves were quickly calmed. Not only did Wilson take Avantika under her wing throughout filming — "Rebel protected me. She took me out to dinner all the time. She made me feel so safe, so loved," Avantika shares — but the entire cast created a comfortable, family environment.

"I feel like such a running, recurring theme amongst actors in Hollywood is that nobody went to prom and they get to live out prom in their movies," she says of her unconventional adolescence as a working actress. "I don't think my schooling experience was necessarily the best for me in terms of people, but to spend almost this fake schooling life and fake prom amongst people that I really, really love and adore was just so nice for me."

Avantika
Credit: Emily Malan

As Janet helps Stephanie learn the ins and outs of modern high school culture (who returns the favor by administering a hands-on lesson in Britney Spears music video history, because duh), Avantika says she was also able to learn a thing or two from Janet. Mainly, how to style a killer blazer. "Unfortunately, all of those blazers are so, so expensive. I cannot afford them," the actress jokes. "So, I for sure wish that I got [Janet's] prim-and-proper tailored blazers … She's a suit girl."

Avantika says that while Senior Year is wrapped in an amusing premise, she hopes viewers pick up on the underlying theme of belonging while they enjoy the new film. "Rebel's character, Stephanie, is literally, a mid-30s woman in high school and she made friends and she managed to make a space for herself," she says. "So, even if you don't feel like there's a seat for you at the table, pull a chair up, literally make one for yourself, and I think the whole point of the movie is that no matter how different and no matter how alone you're feeling, you will always find your people."

Photography by Emily Malan. Makeup by Robert Bryan. Dress by Maison Privee.