…Then, everything changed when Netflix announced the casting for their upcoming Avatar: The Last Airbender (ATLA) live-action series.
In some exciting news sure to delight ATLA fans from every nation, Netflix has shared the actors who are set to play Aang, Katara, Sokka, and Zuko. It also offered information about the series’ creative team.
When it comes to the actors, Gordon Cormier will play Avatar Aang. Kiawentiio will take on the sometimes-stern, though always kind, Katara. Ian Ousley will appear as the goofy yet heroic Sokka. And Dallas Liu will star as the exiled prince, Zuko. We think the Gaang and Zuko seem perfect.
On the creative side, Albert Kim will serve as showrunner. He also acts as executive producer and writer. Joining him are directors Michael Goi, Roseanne Liang, and Jabbar Raisani. The show’s executive producers include Dan Lin, Lindsey Liberatore, Michael Goi, and co-executive producer Roseanne Liang.
In a release, Netflix also shared a little bit more about the characters:
- GORDON CORMIER (he/him) is AANG (12), a fearless and fun-loving twelve-year-old who just happens to be the Avatar, master of all four elements and the keeper of balance and peace in the world. An airbending prodigy, Aang is a reluctant hero, struggling to deal with the burden of his duties while still holding on to his adventurous and playful nature.
- KIAWENTIIO (she/her) is KATARA (14), a determined and hopeful waterbender, the last in her small village. Though only fourteen, she’s already endured great personal tragedy, which has held her back from rising to her true potential, though it’s never dimmed her warm and caring spirit.
- IAN OUSLEY (he/him) is SOKKA (16), Katara’s sardonic and resourceful 16-year-old brother. Outwardly confident, even brash, he takes his responsibility as the leader of his tribe seriously, despite his inner doubts over his warrior skills… doubts that he masks with his wit and deadpan sense of humor.
- DALLAS LIU (he/him) is ZUKO (17), a skilled firebender and the intense and guarded Crown Prince of the Fire Nation. Currently roaming the world in exile, he’s on an obsessive quest to capture the Avatar because he believes that is the only way to reclaim his life and live up to the demands of his cruel and controlling father, the Fire Lord.
Additionally, Netflix announced in early November that Daniel Dae Kim joins the Avatar: The Last Airbender cast as Fire Lord Ozai. An excellent choice, we can all agree. We know we shouldn’t cheer for the antagonist, but… We can’t really help it.
Daniel Dae Kim has joined the cast of Avatar: The Last Airbender!— Netflix (@netflix) November 3, 2021
He will play Fire Lord Ozai; Prince Zuko’s father, the ruthlessly-driven leader of the Fire Nation! pic.twitter.com/R3mhadahjv
The platform also recently released some more exciting news about the Avatar: The Last Airbender cast. Of special note, Uncle Iroh’s casting.
The cast of Netflix's AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER continues to grow.— Netflix Geeked (@NetflixGeeked) November 16, 2021
Meet the actors who will play Uncle Iroh, Gyatso and Commander Zhao. pic.twitter.com/w2vZhDeRPF
Netflix further shared:
Paul Sun-Hyung Lee (he/him; Kim’s Convenience, The Mandalorian) will play Uncle Iroh, a retired Fire Nation general and the wise and nurturing mentor to his hot-headed nephew, Prince Zuko.
Lim Kay Siu (he/him; Anna and The King, Nightwatch) will play Gyatso, a kind and caring Air Nomad monk who is the guardian, father figure and best friend to Aang.
Ken Leung (he/him; Star Wars: The Force Awakens, Industry) will play Commander Zhao, a scheming and ambitious Fire Nation military officer who’s eager to leverage an unexpected encounter with a desperate Prince Zuko to advance his personal goals.
Uncle Iroh, of course, serves as an important figure in the story. Not to mention, a tremendous fan favorite. His character provides the heart of the series. So we feel extra excited to see him crossover into live-action. Gyatso presents another interesting figure. We definitely feel curious to see how much of Aang’s backstory translates into this upcoming series. Especially wen it comes to the Air Nomad’s dark fate. Commander Zhao was more of a minor antagonist in the cartoon. But it remains to be seen how his role will change in the live-action. In any case, these are exciting additions to the Avatar: The Last Airbender cast.
With this casting announcement, Netflix also shared that the show’s production has begun. The show will make use of cutting-edge technology as it films. The same technology used in The Mandalorian. According to Netflix, this show “will set a new standard for immersive storytelling.” We can’t wait to experience what that will look like. We know it will turn out amazing.
All in all, it sounds like the new live-action series is staying true to the soul of the original show. But, at the same time, strives to bring new perspectives to the material as the franchise evolves. Past live-action ATLA outings have been less than successful, and we feel relieved to see Netflix share a casting roster that reflects and respects the Asian cultures portrayed in the show. Though beloved, even the original cartoon was written by two white men.
In a statement shared by Netflix, showrunner and writer Albert Kim reflects:
It also wasn’t lost on me that this was a world that drew from Asian cultures and legend, which is a rarity to this day and something I appreciated as an Asian-American father. That my daughter was able to see characters who looked like her on screen was more than just entertaining. It was a gift.”
He goes on to say:
We’ll be expanding and growing the world, and there will be surprises for existing fans and those new to the tale. But throughout this process, our byword has been “authenticity.” To the story. To the characters. To the cultural influences. Authenticity is what keeps us going, both in front of the camera and behind it, which is why we’ve assembled a team unlike any seen before—a group of talented and passionate artists who are working around the clock to bring this rich and incredibly beautiful world to life.
All this news has us excited. Hopefully, the more we hear about this series, the more that feeling grows. Especially now that production has officially begun. We’d still love to hear about Toph’s casting soon. Although we may possibly have to wait for a season two for our favorite earth bender to appear. It does make sense not to rush the story. But we really love Toph. Only time will tell. In the meanwhile, we guess you can find us rewatching the original cartoon.
Originally published August 12, 2021.