Fan Casting Netflix's Avatar The Last Airbender
Updated: Dec 6, 2020
Netflix announced there intentions to produce a live action avatar series much like the original cartoons. We all know that M.Night's attempt at a live action film failed hard but even more strange was the choice of casting. Avatar is heavily influenced by cultures around the Pacific Oceans, specifically The Far East of Asia, Oceanian cultures and Native American culture from all over the Americas, there's also some South and West Asian influence here and there too. But yet the cast of M.Night's film were mostly white washed (except the villains) so this time around we are hoping Netflix will get it right and here's our take on who would be appropriate the series.
Aang the avatar, the last Airbender. The 12 year old ran away from home only to be encased in ice for 100 years after the fire nation had destroyed his home and began their war on the other four nations. For this role Fresh Off The Boat star Forest Wheeler would be our choice. Wheeler is best known for Emery Huang in Fresh off the Boat but he is also a Black belt in Karate and Extreme Martial Arts so he has the moves for Kang. He is also of Chinese American origin and can speak both Cantonese and Mandarin. He maybe a little be older than Aang at 16 but he does feel like a perfect fit for the Upcoming Avatar series.
Katara. The waterbender of the "Gaang". Despite being 14 years old she is quite headstrong but sweet hearted too. She would learn techniques such as Healing and Bloodbending but for most part carries the team well in the first series as the only other main bender until Toph and Zuko join in Season 2 and 3 respectively. We felt Moana star Auli'i Cravalho would be a perfect choice. Being 19 will make her a bit older than Katara but hey the age gap between her and Wheeler would be the same as their characters at least. Being of Native Hawaiian Origin (as well as Puerto Rican, Irish, Chinese and Portuguese) also fits as Katara and most of the Water Benders are clearly based off Oceanic and Native American cultures
Sokka. The non-bender. Older brother of Katara and generally the strategist of the team. He has his moments of also being the comic relief guy too, despite being the oldest and therefore most responsible (sometimes) one of the Gaang. Sokka has had a tough challenge at 16-18 being the oldest male left in the Water tribe whilst his father and the rest of the men went off the fight off the Fire Nation invaders. For this role we felt Kekoa Kekumano would fit this role well. He has some action training from portraying the teenage version of Aquaman (fitting as well). Being 22 isn't too far off the age for Sokka either and he is of Native Hawaiian origin too.
Toph was a tough choice (literally pun intended) when searching for an actress. Being 8 years old, blind and the snarkiest of the Gaang. It will be challenge for any young actress to portray her. The best we found is Chinese actress Crystal rao. She is 13 years old and had appeared as the younger Mulan in Disney's recent Live Action film. It's not a lot to go on but hopefully she can rise to the challenge if she's got the right skills for a Disney film.
Suki of the Kyoshi warriors was one of the first recurring allies of the Gaang. Whilst she initially butted heads with Sokka (especially for his sexism), she would go on to train him to be a better fighter and the two would develop an attraction to each other. For the role of Suki Chinese American Chelsea Zhang came to mind. Being 23 makes her similar in age to Kekoa (our Sokka choice) and her experience as Rose Wilson in the Titans series could prove useful for a Kyoshi Warrior.
Zuko, son of the firelord Ozai. Boy did he have a tough life and huge story arc. No wonder everyone loves him. Zuko was a late bloomer when it came to fire bending and also warm hearted (even as a child he tried to save Turtle from a Eagle only to feel bad for that the Eagle will starve). Lets say his abusing power mad father Ozai made Zuko's life a misery burning his face and banishing him with the mission to capture or kill the avatar to regain his honour (Thats Rough Buddy). For a complex character and one of Avatar's best fighters. We felt Japanese American Ryan Potter would fit the role. He has a martial art background in White Tiger Kung Fu some of which he uses in Supah Ninjas as Mike Fukanaga and in Titans as Beast boy. Being 25 maybe a stretch on the age side as Zuko is only 16 but Ryan could still pull this off.
The firebird's sociopathic daughter and sister of Zuko. Azula was a disturbed but talented fire bender. Even as a child she out shines her older Brother and continues to get the better of him despite being 14. But she has in power and intimidation hides a strong insecurity of wanting to be loved. Much like her brother she too is somewhat a victim of their father's abuse and mother's abandonment. We felt that this was tough choice but ultimately fell onto 16 year old Chinese American actress Peyton Elizabeth Lee as a potential actress. She is best known for her lead role in Andi Mack so with a bit of martial arts training she could be the Azula we need.
Mai is one of the two closest friends Azula had growing up. Though being moody, introverted and reserved. She tends to be the snarkiest and least emotional out of the three girls. That being said Zuko and May have had a strong attraction to each other, in fact Zuko likes it when Mia shows her emotions. Mia being a skilled knife thrower made up for her lack of bending abilities too. We felt that Lana Condor could be the right shout for her. She is fairly older at 23 but still younger than Ryan Potter who would be her on screen love interest. Condor is best known for roles like Jubilee in the Xmen films and Lara Jean Covey in To All The Boys I Loved Before.
Ty Lee is the sweet and all loving friend of Azula and Mai. Though she is naive and sensitive she is far from dangerous. Initially happy with her life as a circus performer Azula enlists her alongside May to hunt the Avatar and her brother Zuko and Uncle Iroh. Ty Lee proves her knowledge in pressure point martial arts were valuable to blocking another elemental benders from using their bending abilities. For this role we felt Chinese/Irish Candian Anna Cathcart could pull off the role. She portrayed Kitty Covey in To All The Boys I Loved Before alongside Lana Condor who portrayed her sister. This could reunite the two girls as best friends who are almost like sisters. We feel Anna can capture Ty Lee's demeanour perfectly.
Uncle Iroh the man who help shape Zuko to the righteous path. Despite being the older Brother of Ozai we don't get to see much of their dynamic together. Many of Iroh's interaction are with his nephew Zuko. Iroh is a seriously powerful and spiritual fire bender with a love for tea and a hidden genius behind his false idiocy. Iroh was actually Firelord once after the death of his son during the failed siege of Ba Sing Se. He changed his ways to become a benevolent character and one of the series best ever mentors from the white lotus. We found that a popular choice for the role of Iroh is Korean Canadian actor Paul Sun-Hyung Lee. He certainly matches the age range and physical appearance of Iroh, he is best known for Appa in Kim's Convinience and Randy Ko in Train 48.
Refugee from the Earth nation. Jet was the leader of the Freedom Fighters, katanas first crush and also an extremist when it came to dealing with the fire nation. Skilled in stealth, martial arts, sword fighting and trap setting. Jet unfortunately lost favour of team avatar after they couldn't allow him to go around attacking innocent fire nation citizens. Jet was one of the first character to die in the original series, being brainwashed by the Dai Ly and then killed helping Team Avatar in saving Appa. For the role of Jet we felt Asian American actor Aramis Knight would be great fit. Knight's experience in martial arts due to his role as M.K from Into The Badlands would come in handy for this role and considering his age of 20 years old. He is not too far off Jet who is 16 years old. Aramis has Pakistani and Indian ancestry on his dads side which would fit well as Jet appears to be more tan than many of the other Earth Nation characters.
The Previous incarnation of the Avatar. Fire nation Avatar Roku was known to be an all loving peaceful avatar who grew up with his best friend Sozin the Firelord and great grandfather of Zuko and Azula. Roku and Sozin's friendship turned into a bitter antagonism when Sozin decided to carry out the Fire Nation plan to take over the other nations by war, Roku forced Sozin to give up this quest and spared his former friend, An action that would bite him back when Sozin leaves him for dead during a volcanic eruption the Elderly Roku was helpless he suffocated from the smoke. For the role of Roku we can see Japanese actor Akira Koieyama fulfil the role. Standing tall and at a decent age. His experience in playing Goken in Street Fighter: Assassin's Fist will perfectly suit the role of Roku who tends to be the immediate mentor figure to Aang out of all the Avatar incarnations.
Kyoshi the Earthbending Avatar that preceded Roku. Unlike Roku who had a more peaceful and non lethal approach to war mongers. Kyoshi was not afraid to unleash her wrath when provoked. Its unsurprising that Suki and the Kyoshi warriors are named after her in honour of her awesomeness. For the role of Kyoshi, look no further than Chinese American actress Ming Na-Wen, best known for Agent Melinda May in Marvel's Agents of Shield, she can easily channel the tough love and seriously blunt personality type that Kyoshi is known for when it came to dealing with threats.
Kuruk of the water Tribe. The Avatar that preceded Kyoshi. Not much was known about him aside from losing his wife to the face stealing Koh. Kuruk was known for neglecting the conflicts between the human world in favour of battling dark spirits such as Koh. He notably did not live long, having died at just 33. For the role of Kuruk, we felt Native American actor Blair Redford could pull off the role. He is best known for portraying X-Men character John Proudstar aka Thunderbird, through his experience in the role he could show of some of his action skills for Kuruk too.
Yangchen the Airbending Avatar before Aang as well as the predecessor of Kuruk. She was raised by the Air Nuns of the western temple so naturally it would make sense for her to be compassionate and all loving. However pacifism was something she would put aside for the greater good. Due to her devotion to her role as Avatar she was extremely successful in maintaining order and having no human wars during her lifetime or the generation after, however the rise of Dark Spirits was the unfortunate result of her actions. For the role of Yangchen we felt martial arts actress Michelle Lee could show for her. She had portrayed Mileena for the Mortal Combat Legacy web series so she can get another role to shine in again.
Gyatso was a Air Nomad monk that was essentially Aang's father figure and mentor. He unfortunately perished when the fire nation attacks 100 years ago, but is still remembered fondly by his student in the present day. For the role of Gyatso Chil Kong came to mind. While he mostly acts in minor short roles. He maybe best known for his role as Henry Yip in the Marvel Netflix series Ironfist.
The Wacky, the crazy, the most powerful Earthbender (Toph would disagree), King Bumi was an old friend of Aang during their childhood. Whilst Aang was left frozen for 100 years Bumi on the other hand grew to live past his 100s and even lived long enough to meet Aang again. He is also part of the White lotus and despite his appearance. He is far from a frail weak old man. As Bumi appears to be one of the few South Asian inspired characters in the series with a Sanskrit name and brown skin tone, it felt right for an Navid Negahban to take the role. Whilst Navid is almost half Bumi's age (being in his 50s rather than past 100), he can likely look older with the right hair and make up (just look at him as the Sultan in Aladdin). He has plenty of action roles from Al-Owal in Arrow to Shadowking in Legion, however its his performance in the latter role that would defo fit Bumi. While Shadowing is certainly eccentric he is more suave and classy, whilst Bumi is mad. Navid may not be Indian but his Iranian heritage is not too far off considering how closely tied Indo-Iranic culture is.
When it came to finding a water bending teacher for both Aang and Katara. Pakku was there to step up. Being from the Northern Water tribe he had sexist views on women's roles in particular declaring Katara should only be a healer and only after some character development does he agree to train her too. He also was the former lover of Katara and Sokka's grandmother (revealing that Katara and Sokka are partially Northern Water Tribe), he reconciles and with their Grandmother becoming their Step-Grandfather as well as being a member of the White Lotus. Naturally Native American actor Wes Studi felt like the right call. Being in his 70s certainly fit the age for a grandfather figure to Katara and Sokka. His Cherokee heritage would be fitting for a Northern Water tribe character who is heavily based off Native American culture and he at least has a some action experience albeit it was Sagat in the 1994 Street Fighter film which was not the best we reckon Wes Studi performed well with what we got on that film.
The first fire bending teacher of Aang. Jeong Jeong was initially hesitant to teach Aang fire bending until Roku's spirit demanded he reconsiders. Jeong Jeong was also the teacher of Zhao. A violently destructive fire bender who hunts the Avatar in the first series. Being ashamed off what the fire nations become, Jeong Jeong joins the White Lotus in fighting the fire nation. Though he never did get around to completing Aang's training. Aang managed fine with the help of Zuko. For the role of Jeong Jeong, we felt martial arts legend Jet Li should definitely be put up for consideration on the role. He has a very extensive career in films and martial arts role and would def be a fan favourite to appear in such a series.
Piandao the non-bender of the White Lotus, Despite being fire nation, he shares Iroh and Jeong Jeong's view against the Fire Nation's invasion of the world. He is a master swordsman, weapons smith and calligrapher who trained Zuko in swords fighting (as we see during his disguise as the Blue Spirit) and he later trains Sokka (a fellow non bender) in Swords fighting being incredibly proud of his student as well. Despite his lack of Bending abilities, he was still a powerful and reliable member of the White Lotus in the fight agains the Fire Nation. Considering that his tanned skin, tall lean height and relatively more active compared to the other White Lotus members, we felt British Asian actor Silas Carson would be appropriate. Carson is half Asian specifically Indian on his mother side, stands at a towering 6'3" and thanks to his role in Star Wars. He actually has some sword fighting experience. He would make a decent match for Piandao.
Hama is the only female member of the Mentors but unlike the majority of them, she is not a member of the White Lotus and feels more like a horror movie villain. She mentor Katara in the art of Bloodbending. The art of manipulating the water in your victims Blood. During her younger years, she was Southern Water Tribe member and was friends with Kanna (Katara and Sokka's Grandmother). However she to captured and tortured by the fire nation till one day she discovered she could blood bend during the full moon and used this ability to escape. However the effects of torture and blood bending use damaged her psyche and she would go on kidnap Fire Bending citizens who pass by her inn. Eventually Katara was able to defeat her but Hama was crazily satisfied with Katara having mastered Blood bending. Being from the Souther Water tribe we felt an actress of Oceanic origins should portray Hama. This is where Indigenous Australian actress Leah Purcell would shine. While she is not nearly as old as Hama (being in her 50s) she could still perform well judging by her roles in Fallen Angels, Box the Pony and The Drover's Wife. Many of her roles have been limited to her native Australia but it would a missed opportunity for Netflix to not look into casting an Oceanic female actress.
The last of the Mentor's in the Avatar series. Much like Hama, Pathik was not present in the final battle against the white lotus. Being a pacifistic guru and the spiritual mentor of the Avatar, he was Aang's mentor in entering the Avatar State. He is also the oldest human character even more so than Bumi. Considering he somewhat incorporates all the Hindu Guru Pacifist stereotype into a mentor character, it makes complete sense to have an Indian actor play him. So Indian born British actor Madhav Sharma feels like the best choice. His last couple of roles were Arshad Ahmed in Eastenders and Uqbah Sardar in Endeavour shows that even at the age of 80 he is still active as an actor and short appearance as Pathik feels right. He has also made appearances in Basil Brush and Doctor Who (during their 1970s airing not the modern day era), He has portrayed several characters in the British Police Drama The Bill, Mr Shah in East is East and several medical dramas like Doctors and Nurses, Casualty, Doctors and Holby City. It would be a true honour to have such a veteran British Asian TV star for the role of Pathik.
Hakoda the father of Sokka and Katara. Being away from his family to fight the fire nation with the remaining men of the Southern Water Tribe. He make a few appearances in the series and we can see how much Sokka and Katara look up to him. He also joins in the final battle agains the Fire Nation too, being the leader of the Water Tribe soldiers alongside Pakku. Looking for an Oceanic actor for the role. We felt New Zealander Cliff Curtis should be given a shot. Whilst he was the original actor for the Fire Lord in M.Night's poorly receive Avatar film. We felt that his Maori heritage would be more fitting for a different Avatar father. Bonus points, despite the water bender style being mostly based off Tai Chi, many of their weapons and non bending fighting style would be based off Indigenous Oceanic and American cultures and Cliff Curtis is practitioner of the Maori Martial Art of Mau Rakau. As the Souther Water Tribe is more based off Oceanian culture compared to the North Water Tribes being Native North American, this makes perfect sense.
Bato the right hand man of Hakoda and another soldier of Souther Water Tribe. Being Hakoda's best friend since childhood and toweringly tallest member of the Southern Water tribe. Unsurprisingly we felt we needed an Oceanic actor for this role one with a bit of star power, so of course Native Hawaiian Jason Momoa would be the perfect choice. From roles as Aquaman to Khal Drogo. We would be perfect for the warrior chief's right hand man and best friend and a fan favourite to appear in the show and considering that Bato is the tallest member of the Southern Water tribe, yeah a 6'4" Jason Momoa will perfectly capture the role.
Haru a young Earthbender whose mining village was being occupied by the Fire Nation. He works with team avatar to free his father and many Earthbenders against the fire nation. Being a fairly tall handsome and friendly lad. We felt that Chinese Australian Remy Hii should be the one for this role. Best known for his role in Spiderman: Far From Home it'll be nice to give him a more lovable role in this series,
Princess Yue of the Northern Water Tribe, she was Sokka's first girlfriend but unfortunately was arranged to be married to Hahn. Though she does choose Sokka in the end. She sacrifices herself to become the Moon Spirit to stop Commander Zhao's evil plan. Being from the Northern Water Tribe it makes sense to have someone of Native American origin and Blu Hunt who is best known for her role as Mirage in X-Men film New Mutants would be our first choice.
Commander Zhao. The main antagonist of the first season. A fire bender who not only exists to capture the Avatar but also to rival the likes of Zuko. Being a former student of Jeong Jeong he was a force to reckoned with but eventually had his downfall when he failed to defeat the Northern Water Tribe and the Water spirit takes him away to the spirit realm where his soul remains trapped forever. For this character we felt Taiwanese Canadian actor Fernando Chien would have been appropriate for the role. He certainly has the martial arts ability for Commander Zhao and many may recognise him for his role as Chen Wu in Ironfist season 2.
Firelord Ozai the despicable father of Zuko and Azula. As well as the younger Brother of Iroh. Ozai is main villain for most of the Avatar series 1-3 despite only being mentioned a few times in Season 1. He would be Aang toughest challenge yet and huge source of mental damage towards his own children Zuko and Azula. Much like his family he is a deadly warrior and master martial artist. For the role of this villain, we are curious to see how Okiniwan actor Shogen could pull it off. Many would know him for his heroic role as the Younger Goken in Street Fighter where he could show off his Judo and Karate skills. Hopefully if he were to play Ozai this tall long haired model and actor can show off his ability as an evil villain. He is quite tall at 6' and is in his 40s despite not looking like he's aged much past his late 20s. But Ozia does tend to look a great deal younger than his Brother Iroh.
Mother of Zuko and Azula. Wife of Ozai. Not much was really known about Ursa except that she was close to Zuko and had abandoned her family for unknown reasons. The Avatar comics expands on this. She was the granddaughter of Avatar Roku and was arranged into a marriage with Ozai under the impression that the child from the Royal Family and a descendant of the Avatar will produce a powerful firebending offspring. However Ursa was in love with someone else and despised Ozai to a point where he forced her to leave her children and he would not kill them in return. For this role we looked at British Chinese actress Elaine Tan. She is best known for roles as Anne Wu in Hand of God, Nagata in Doctor Who episode Sleep No More, Angeline Borgen in Acquitted and Coach Evans in Get Even.
Combustionman a mute and mysterious Firebending Assassin hired by Zuko to kill the Avatar. He notably has a unique form of Firebending called Combustion Bending in which he uses his Third Eye Bindi to channel his Combustion Bending as a laser beam of explosive death. He is noted to be also fairly tall and muscular so naturally we felt 6'3" Indian American actor and bodybuilder Gerrard Lobo could be a decent fit. While he won't get the chance to talk he certainly fits the look if he shaved his hair and adds the third eye bindi to his forehead.
Kanna, the Grandmother (or Gran Gran) of Sokka and Katara. She also becomes the wife of Paku later on. She allegedly left the Northern Water Tribe to live in the South after her and Paku fell out at a younger age but they reunite once they are older. For this role we looked at Lori Pelenise Tuisano best known for playing Sefina Hobbs in Hobbs and Shaw the mother of Dwayne Johnson's character Luke Hobb Whilst she may not be past her 50s, we'd have to hope she can pull it off if she is playing Gran Gran. Maybe Kanna just has a fountain of youth at her disposal.
Mother of Sokka and Katara as well as the wife of Hokoda. Katara thought very highly of her and has fond memories of her beloved mother. Something that gets expressed a lot from Katara who is distressed over having to lose her mother at such a young age. If we could get an onscreen actress for Kya. We felt New Zealand actress Shushila Takao would be a good fit especially as Kya is form the Southern Water Tribe, actress of Oceanian origin would be perfect. To be specific Takao is of Maori, Indian and French origin. She hasn't had much since her last role in Filthy Rich as Ariana but there is always a chance for her to return on screen for Avatar.
Arnook the Chief of the Northern Water Tribe and the father of Princess Yue. We don't get much insight on him outside of preparing the Northern Water Tribe for battle against the Fire Nation when they invade. Despite being a non-bender, he command authority and respect from his subordinates. He also tried to arrange Yue's marriage to the warrior Hahn. For the role of this chief, we felt Native American actor Jay Tavare would be perfect for this role. Many may remember him as Vega in the 1994 Street fighter film alongside fellow Native American Actor Wes Studi who portrayed Sagat in the same film. It'd be nice to reunite the two of them since Arnook and Paku are allies and friends in the series.
Hahn a skilled warrior form the Northern Water Tribe and supposedly the most handsome man in the tribe. He was arranged to marry Yue and tasked with defeating Admiral Zhao (which he fails miserably). He also butts heads with Sokka but for most part is a fairly minor character. We felt Taylor Lauer could go for this role due to his martial arts background and status as a ladies man back in his twilight days as Native American Werewolf Jacob Black..... Whilst Hahn is a very minor role. Taylor seems to have taken a hiatus with acting but there is always a chance for him to return, even if it means he makes a quick cameo to ease back into the acting industry.
When hunting for the Avatar, Zuko and Iroh enlist the help of mercenary called June. A woman as deadly as she is beautiful. Armed with a whip and her pet Nyla (a Shirshu). She was not one you'd want hunting you. Zuko ends up enlisting her help more than once such as when he decided he needed her help to find uncle Iroh and later his own mother Ursa in the comics. We felt Japanese American actress Karen Fukuhara would be the best choice for the role. She is best known for her portrayal of Katana in the DCEU's Suicide Squad film and Kimiko in The Boys. So her as a whip wielding mercenary would also be a decent fit for the role.
Lets be honest here. This one may not happen... maybe it will. The Boulder is a boisterous and loud Earthbending Wrestler who is clearly based of Dwayne the Rock Johnson. While he is somewhat a parody of the Rock. The Rock is no stranger to comedic action roles. While it may cost a lot to bring in The Rock to play the Boulder it would be the perfect fan service for Avatar fans of the Boulder. Plus Dwayne Johnson's Samoan heritage would not be alien to the Avatar world as a whole as the majority of the characters are either Oceanic or Far East Asian in appearance.
Long Feng, the leader of the Day Li in Ba Sing Se. A secret organisation that tries to brainwash and control it's citizens. Making them and the city's monarch believe there is no on going war with the fire nation. He is one of the few earth bending villains in the original series and not a particularly likeable character. We felt that Chin Han best known for his role in Marco Polo can fit Long Feng. He has the martial arts experience from his Marco Polo role and will be Shang Tsung in the upcoming Mortal Combat Reboot so I'd see him as a strong contender.
The great sage of the fire temple and a loyal follower of the Avatar. Shyu remained loyal to Roku even when the fire nation began to invade the other nations. Shyu did not agree with them or the fire lord and did all he can to help Aang and co as he was still loyal to his duties to the Avatar line rather than the crown. We would like to see veteran actor Cary Hiroyuki Tagawa portray Shyu. He also has his fair share of martial arts role from Shang Tsung in the original mortal kombat films to Heihachi Michima from the Tekken films.
Not much to say about the 52nd King of Ba Sing Se. Kuei is a naive but well meaning King of the city. He is also kind hearted and loves his pet bear but was kept sheltered from the reality of the Fire Nations war against the world by Long Feng and the Dai Li. He does eventually wise up and help team Avatar however. Australian born UK based Chinese-Irish actor and Singer Christopher Chung is best known for his minor role as Archie Wong in Waterloo Road. Im sure he can channel something more if given the chance as the King of Ba Sing Se. He is currently doing theatre but lets pull him back to our screens for a shot at the Avatar franchise.