Representation was a top priority in finding the show’s Aang, Katara, Sokka, and Zuko.
Netflix revealed on Thursday the four names who will take on the roles of Aang, Katara, Sokka, and Zuko in its upcoming live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender, which is yet to get a premiere date.
Gordon Cormier (The Stand) will fill the big shoes of the air-bending Avatar, Aang. Kiawentiio Tarbell (Beans), who simply goes by Kiawentiio will play the water-bending Katara, while Ian Ousley (13 Reasons Why) will play her brother, Sokka. Lastly, Dallas Liu (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings) will portray the Fire Nation’s Crown Prince and the Avatar’s pursuer, Zuko.
The last we’ve heard of the hotly-discussed series was when the show’s original creators, Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, left the project last year, citing creative conflicts with Netflix. “I realized I couldn’t control the creative direction of the series, but I could control how I responded,” read a blog post by DiMartino, who admitted that the series still has the potential to be good. However, he also reminded its future viewers that “whatever version ends up on-screen, it will not be what Bryan and I had envisioned or intended to make.”
Netflix has now turned to Albert Kim (Nikita, Leverage, Sleepy Hollow) as the series’ showrunner, writer, and executive producer. Reacting to the recent casting, Kim posted a blog on Thursday to explain the process of developing the second live-action edition of the original animated series, including a focus on representation, and the pressure to be “authentic” that came with its popularity.
“A live-action version would establish a new benchmark in representation and bring in a whole new generation of fans,” Kim wrote. “This was a chance to showcase Asian and Indigenous characters as living, breathing people. Not just in a cartoon, but in a world that truly exists, very similar to the one we live in.
“I also knew what I didn’t want to do. I didn’t want to change things for the sake of change. I didn’t want to modernize the story, or twist it to fit current trends. Aang is not going to be a gritty antihero. Katara is not going to get curtain bangs,” he added. “I was briefly tempted to give Sokka a TikTok account though. Think of the possibilities.”
“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.”
The live-action series is executive-produced by Dan Lin, Lindsey Liberatore, and Michael Goi, and is directed by Goi, Roseanne Liang, and Jabbar Raisani.