Since Netflix announced the show, fans have wondered how Avatar: The Last Airbender’s live-action cast looks compared to their animated counterparts.
Netflix’s live-action adaptation of
Avatar: The Last Airbender
brings diversity and representation to the cast, addressing the previous movie’s issue of whitewashing.
- The chosen actors for the main characters, such as Gordon Cormier as Aang and Kiawentiio as Katara, have the potential to bring the beloved animated characters to life and capture their essential traits.
- The cast includes experienced actors like Daniel Dae Kim and Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, who have demonstrated their ability to embody their respective characters, Fire Lord Ozai and General Iroh, with accuracy and skill.
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Since Netflix announced its adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender, fans have wondered how the show’s live-action cast will look compared to the original series’ iconic animated characters. Set to debut in February 2024, the live-action version of the franchise still centers on Aang (Gordon Cormier), the sole survivor of the Air Nomads and the world’s current Avatar. Tasked with mastering all four elements and bringing balance to the world, Aang vanished for 100 years, allowing the conquest-hungry Fire Nation to grow its armies in his absence.
When (a previously frozen) Aang is discovered by two Water Tribe siblings, Katara (Kiawentiio) and Sokka (Ian Ousley), the trio set out to help Aang fulfill his destiny and thwart Fire Lord Ozai (Daniel Dae Kim). Along the way, Aang is hunted by the Fire Nation’s banished Prince Zuko (Dallas Liu) and Zuko’s uncle, General Iroh (Paul Sun-Hyung Lee). Already, Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender fixed the movie’s biggest problem: it isn’t whitewashing its cast. While the renewed focus on representation is a great start for the Netflix series, it’s still a tall order for the cast to live up to their beloved animated counterparts.
Gordon Cormier As Aang
While there are certain Avatar moments that won’t look as good in live-action as they do in the animated series, the characters — and the impeccable costume design — don’t necessarily fall into that category. Cormier, who stars as Aang, rose to mainstream fame in the 2020 adaptation of Stephen King’s The Stand, proving he has the chops to take on the series’ more serious moments. Both youthful and passionate, Cormier has what it takes to bring Aang’s free-spirited nature to life, all while looking the part.
Kiawentiio As Katara
Born into a Mohawk family in Akwesasne, a First Nations reserve on the U.S.-Canada border, actor Kiawentiio has previously appeared in another Netflix adaptation: Anne with an E. After displaying her comedic chops in several episodes of Rutherford Falls, Kiawentiio will take on the role of Katara, the last waterbender of her tribe who becomes Aang’s biggest supporter and advocate. Boasting Katara’s iconic “hair loopies,” the actor certainly looks like the beloved character.
Ian Ousley As Sokka
With previous roles in Physical, Young Sheldon, and 13 Reasons Why under his belt, Ian Ousley has proven he has what it takes to capture Sokka’s jokester persona as well as the teen’s tenacity and leadership. After the other men from his tribe left to fight the Fire Nation, Sokka became the quasi-leader, tasked with protecting the children and older folks who stayed behind. The heart (and key comedic player) of team Avatar, Sokka is definitely one of the most challenging characters to get right.
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Dallas Liu As Prince Zuko
In Book 1, the banished Prince Zuko is short-tempered, brazen, and mission-driven — often to a fault. Eager to regain his honor and appease his father, he’s given a near-impossible task: capture the Avatar. Dallas Liu was thrilled to nab the role of Zuko and, based on videos of the actor’s martial arts prowess, he certainly seems perfect for the part. Previously, Liu has been in action-centric films like Tekken and Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, but he also showed off a softer, more comedic side in Pen15, which bodes well for Book 3 Zuko.
Paul Sun-Hyung Lee As General Iroh
Previously, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee made a name for himself as the patriarch in the stage version of Kim’s Convenience, though fans of big-name series might know him best as Star Wars‘ Captain Carson Teva. Early stills have captured a live-action Iroh with (mostly) show-accurate facial hair, and there’s no denying that Lee has the warm expression — and both serious and comedic chops — to portray the full range of Iroh’s character.
Daniel Dae Kim As Fire Lord Ozai
Daniel Dae Kim has a history with the existing Avatar franchise: not only did he lend his voice to The Last Airbender’s General Fong, but he also played The Legend of Korra‘s Hiroshi Sato. Now, he’s set to play the tyrannical Fire Nation rule, Fire Lord Ozai. In the trailer for Netflix’s ATLA, Kim shows off Ozai’s fierce-yet-stoic demeanor and searing looks. Plus, his costuming and hair are accurate to the animated series.
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Ken Leung As Commander Zhao
In Book 1 of the animated ATLA, Commander Zhao serves as the key antagonist, thwarting not just Aang, but the Water Tribes’ warriors and even the banished Prince Zuko. Obsessed with being the Fire Nation’s MVP, the cold-hearted Zhao will do whatever it takes to secure victory. Ken Leung, who’s tasked with bringing Zhao to life, looks like a spot-on live-action version of the character.
Maria Zhang As Suki
Although Maria Zhang has appeared in several independent short films, Avatar: The Last Airbender marks a breakthrough role for the actor. Not to mention, she’s playing one of the series’ most beloved characters: Suki, the leader of the all-women Kyoshi Warriors. Able to capture Suki’s no-nonsense look as well as her softness, Zhang looks like the spitting image of the character in early stills.
Elizabeth Yu As Princess Azula
Elizabeth Yu has appeared in just two other recently released Hollywood films so far: the comedy feature Somewhere in Queens and the upcoming drama May December. One of the most challenging ATLA characters to nail, Azula is a firebending prodigy — and something of an enigma early on. Although she’s cruel and unrelenting, Azula has also been shaped by her father, Ozai’s, sadistic nature. While Yu doesn’t quite capture Azula’s intimidating aura in the one released still, the actor certainly seems to have the range to portray Zuko’s antagonistic sister.
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Lim Kay Siu As Gyatso
A Singaporean character actor, Lim Kay Siu has appeared in many films throughout his character, though Western audiences might be most familiar with his villainous role in Night Watch. That said, it’ll be fun to see Siu play the chipper, somewhat-mischievous Gyatso, an Air Nomad who becomes something of a mentor and father figure to a young Aang. With the right mustache, the versatile Lim Kay Siu will have no trouble portraying a live-action Gyatso.
Amber Midthunder As Princess Yue
Best known for her starring turn in Prey, Amber Midthunder is set to play Princess Yue, a member of the Northern Water Tribe royal family and Sokka’s short-lived love interest. Without much to go on in terms of first looks at Netflix’s Yue, it’s all about Midthunder’s chops — and she certainly has what it takes to bring the brave princess to life. Now, the costuming and makeup departments just need to get her signature white locks right.
Yvonne Chapman As Avatar Kyoshi
A fan-favorite past Avatar, Kyoshi is an imposing, no-nonsense warrior who’s willing to make the sorts of hard choices that Aang balks at. Seen mainly in flashbacks, Avatar Kyoshi also appears to Aang in spirit form to give him advice. Best known for playing the villain in The CW’s Kung Fu, Yvonne Chapman has the action series experience and demeanor to perfectly portray the legendary earthbender.
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C. S. Lee As Avatar Roku
Another of Aang’s past lives, Avatar Roku is the incarnation that failed to stop Ozai’s father, Fire Lord Sozin. As such, he has a great deal of advice and insight for Aang, and often appears to him in spirit form. An actor and comedian who’s most well-known for his role in Dexter, C.S. Lee has the range needed to play Aang’s mentor, though viewers have yet to get a glimpse of the character’s live-action look.
Danny Pudi As The Mechanist
One of the comedic greats in the ensembles of shows like Community and Mythic Quest, Danny Pudi can definitely capture the unhinged-yet-brilliant energy of The Mechanist, an inventor who’s settled in one of the abandoned Air Nomad temples. While Netflix has yet to give viewers a glimpse at Pudi’s character, he’ll definitely be able to capture The Mechanist’s full range of expressions.
Utkarsh Ambudkar As King Bumi
From The Mindy Project to Free Guy, Utkarsh Ambudkar has appeared in a number of comedic projects. Although he has yet to portray a character with King Bumi’s brand of zany energy, it’s not a huge leap for the actor. Given that Bumi is a super muscular, limber 112-year-old earthbender, it’s no surprise the series cast a much younger actor to portray the character. Again, it’s up to the costume and makeup teams to really help Ambudkar sell the live-action Bumi.
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James Sie As The Cabbage Merchant
One of Avatar: The Last Airbender‘s best running gags is that of the Cabbage Merchant, who’s constantly seeing his cruciferous wares destroyed by random events. A prolific voice actor, James Sie is the voice of the titular martial artist in Jackie Chan Adventures — but he’s also the voice of the animated ATLA‘s cabbage merchant. With Sie making the jump to live-action, fans have no reason to worry about the comedic character.
Rainbow Dickerson As Kya
Although Katara and Sokka’s mom, Kya, has a relatively small role in the animated series, the Netflix show seems eager to honor her. When the Fire Nation invaded, Kya lied to the soldiers, claiming she was the tribe’s last waterbender — a move that saved Katara’s life and strengthened the siblings’ resolve to defeat the Fire Nation. Despite having a few previous TV roles, Rainbow Dickerson also has a solid theater track record, which is enough to convince viewers that she has the chops to play Kya’s small-yet-emotional role.
Joel Montgrand As Hakoda
Cree First Nations actor Joel Montgrand is set to play Sokka and Katara’s father, Hakoda. A Water Tribe leader and warrior, Hakoda leaves his family behind to fight the Fire Nation and, by extension, ensure their safety. Montgrand has appeared in plenty of TV series, from iZombie to True Detective, proving he has the range to capture Hakoda’s serious and good-humored sides.
Arden Cho As June
Arden Cho has appeared in plenty of hit TV series, from Teen Wolf and Chicago Med to Pretty Little Liars. Needless to say, she has a genre-spanning range — something that’ll be crucial in portraying bounty hunter June, who has a flair for the dramatic and a no-nonsense attitude. While the series hasn’t released any stills of Cho as June yet, the actor has proven that she can replicate June’s iconic scowl.
Momona Tamada As Ty Lee
Best known for portraying Claudia Kishi in the three-season Netflix adaptation of The Baby-Sitters Club, Momona Tamada has also appeared in Amazon Prime Video’s The Boys, portraying a younger version of the super-powered Kimiko. These two roles alone prove Tamada has both action chops and the ability to portray an outgoing personality — the two key ingredients to a perfect live-action Ty Lee performance.