Of all the animated series that have shaped the childhoods of kids born in the ’90s and early 2000s, few have ever been as critically acclaimed and globally adored as Avatar: The Last Airbender.
The Nickelodeon show, which originally ran from February 2005 till July 2008, spawned three stellar seasons that captured the imagination of the world, an equally successful sequel series – and a notorious flop in the 2010 live-action film from M. Night Shyamalan.
In 2018, Netflix ordered a live-action series remake of the beloved show – one that will feature a cast of actors from Asian or Indigenous backgrounds. This notably includes Daniel Dae Kim as Firelord Ozai and Paul Sun-Hyung Lee as Uncle Iroh.
While the world awaits the release of Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender remake, NME breaks down everything you need to know about the upcoming show, including its release date, plot, cast and more. Warning: Spoilers for the original Avatar: The Last Airbender below.
- Paul Sun-Hyung Lee reveals episode count and runtime
- Netflix announces casting for Azula, Suki, Yukari, Avatar Kyoshi and Gran Gran
- Paul Sun-Hyung Lee praises main cast
- Production on season one begins
- Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, Lim Kay Siu and Ken Leung added to cast
- Daniel Dae Kim cast as Firelord Ozai
- Netflix announces casting for Aang, Sokka, Katara and Zuko
What is Avatar: The Last Airbender about?
Aang, the last survivor of the airbender tribe – and titular Avatar – is discovered frozen in a block of ice. Once he’s freed, he has to learn and master all four elements – Air, Water, Earth and Fire – in order to defeat Firelord Ozai and, with the help of young waterbender Katara and her brother Sokka, liberate the world from his authoritarian rule.
Following the conclusion of the original series, a sequel named Avatar: The Legend Of Korra aired between April 2012 and December 2014. The sequel followed waterbender Korra’s journey to become the Avatar following Aang’s death 70 years after the events of the original series.
Is there a release date for Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender remake?
A release date for Netflix’s live-action remake of Avatar: The Last Airbender has not been announced yet. The show was first ordered in 2018, with production initially scheduled for 2019. However, it was postponed until 2020, and was further delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic.
On November 17, it was revealed via a Deadline report that production for the series has begun in Vancouver, Canada.
On a March 19 episode of the Handsome Genius Club podcast, actor Paul Sun-Hyung Lee said: “I have no idea when it is going to be airing but my best guess would be at the earliest, at the end of this year”.
Who has Netflix cast in its Avatar series?
Netflix revealed the upcoming remake’s main cast on August 12. The lead role of Aang will be played by young Gordon Cormier (Lost In Space, The Stand).
Kiawentiio Tarbell (Anne with an E) will play Katara while her brother Sokka will be portrayed by Ian Ousley (13 Reasons Why, Young Sheldon). Prince Zuko will be played by Dallas Liu (Marvel’s Shang Chi and the Legend Of The Ten Rings).
On November 3, it was announced that the villainous Firelord Ozai – ruler of the Fire Nation – will be portrayed by Daniel Dae Kim (The Good Doctor, Hawaii Five-O, Raya And The Last Dragon).
Interestingly, this isn’t the Korean-American actor’s first encounter with the beloved series. Kim voiced the character of Hiroshi Sato in the Legend Of Korra series, as well as the character of General Fong in an episode of the original The Last Airbender series in 2006.
Kim confirmed the news by sharing a gif of Firelord Ozai on Twitter, saying “It’s gettin’ hot in here…”
— Daniel Dae Kim (@danieldaekim) November 3, 2021
On November 17, Netflix announced that it had found its cast members for characters Uncle Iroh, Gyatso and Commander Zhao. Leading the new cast additions is Paul Sun-Hyung Lee (Kim’s Convenience) as Uncle Iroh, a retired Fire Nation general and the wise and nurturing mentor to Zuko (Liu).
The cast of Netflix's AVATAR: THE LAST AIRBENDER continues to grow.
Meet the actors who will play Uncle Iroh, Gyatso and Commander Zhao. pic.twitter.com/w2vZhDeRPF
— Netflix Geeked (@NetflixGeeked) November 16, 2021
On Twitter, Lee said he hopes to “do honour and justice to this character while still making it my own”.
Big shoes to fill by the late GREAT Mako. I hope to do honour and justice to this character while still making it my own. Grateful for this opportunity and excited to start. #letsgo #AvatarTheLastAirbender #iroh https://t.co/ql50VdquOF
— Paul Sun-Hyung Lee (@bitterasiandude) November 16, 2021
Lim Kay Siu (Anna and The King) will play Gyatso, an Air Nomad monk who is the guardian to Aang (Cormier). Lastly, Ken Leung (Vanilla Sky, Red Dragon) will portray Commander Zhao, a cunning Fire Nation officer looking to progress his career through any means necessary.
On December 16, Netflix announced the casting for five more characters: Azula, Zuko’s sister, will be played by Elizabeth Yu; Kyoshi Warrior leader Suki by Maria Zhang; Suki’s mother Yukari by Tamlyn Tomita; Avatar Kyoshi by Yvonne Chapman; and Gran Gran, Katara and Sokka’s grandmother, by Casey Camp-Horinek.
On November 22, Uncle Iroh actor Paul Sun-Hyung Lee took to social media to praise the show’s main roster of young actors, calling Gordon Cormier (Aang) a “revelation”, Kiawentiio Tarbell (Katara) a “crafted actress”. He also predicted that Ian Ousley (Sokka) will “steal every scene he’s in”, while Dallas Liu (Prince Zuko) “blew me away”.
Watch the clip below.
Netflix’s upcoming remake will feature a cast consisting of actors from Asian or Indigenous backgrounds, in contrast to M. Night Shyamalan’s panned live-action film in 2010 that featured predominantly white actors in the lead roles (with the notable exception of Dev Patel as Prince Zuko) and faced criticisms of whitewashing.
Albert Kim, showrunner and executive producer for the Netflix series, said: “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.”
The show’s original creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko added in a joint statement: “We can’t wait to realize Aang’s world as cinematically as we always imagined it to be, and with a culturally appropriate, non-whitewashed cast.”
Who is directing and producing Netflix’s Avatar remake?
Michael Goi (American Horror Story), Roseanne Liang (Shadow In The Cloud) and Jabbar Raisani (Lost In Space) will serve as the show’s directors, Variety has reported. Goi and Liang will also executive produce the series.
Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko – the original creators of the Avatar franchise – were initially attached to Netflix’s live-action remake in 2018. In August 2020, they announced their departure from the project, citing that “things did not go as we had hoped”.
DiMartino said in an open letter that they had tried to “adapt” to Netflix’s vision for the show, but ultimately knew it was time to “cut their losses and move on”.
“Look, things happen. Productions are challenging. Unforeseen events arise. Plans have to change,” he said. “And when those things have happened at other points during my career, I try to be like an Air Nomad and adapt. I do my best to go with the flow, no matter what obstacle is put in my way. But even an Air Nomad knows when it’s time to cut their losses and move on.”
How many episodes will there be?
On a March 19 episode of the Handsome Genius Club podcast, Uncle Iroh actor Paul Sun-Hyung Lee that the show will consist of “eight episodes. one hour each”. He went on to say that the show also has an extremely high budget of over $100million, making it one of the most expensive series ever, along with shows such as HBO’s Game Of Thrones and The Last Of Us and Amazon’s Lord Of The Rings.
Is there a trailer for Netflix’s Avatar remake?
Details on Netflix’s Avatar are still scarce, and as such a trailer, stills and an episode count are not yet available. Watch this space for updates.
Will the Avatar remake follow the same story as the original series?
The original creators of Avatar – who left the project in 2020, citing differences in the remake’s vision – have hinted that the remake may stray from the plot of the original.
“Netflix’s live-action adaptation of Avatar has the potential to be good. It might turn out to be a show many of you end up enjoying. But what I can be certain about is that whatever version ends up on-screen, it will not be what Bryan [Konietzko] and I had envisioned or intended to make,” co-creator Michael Dante DiMartino wrote in an open letter to fans following their departure from the project.
Where can I watch the Avatar: The Last Airbender remake?
Upon its release, the live-action remake will be available exclusively on Netflix.