If you’re an Avatar: The Last Airbender fan frustrated over the lack of news for the upcoming Netflix live-action series, there’s some great news waiting for you. Yesterday, after years of little or no news about the show, Netflix released names of cast and crew for the adaptation.
As reported by ComicBook.com, reports about the Avatar: The Last Airbender cast were released before Netflix’s official confirmation. Playing Aang, the titular airbending prodigy, will be Gordon Cormier. If you’ve seen the CBS All Access series The Stand, then you remember Cormier as the young Joe, aka Leo Rockway: the young, quiet boy taken under the wing of Nadine Cross. Kiawentiio — star of the 2020 drama Beans — plays the waterbender Katara while Ian Ousley will play her brother Sokka. Meanwhile, Dallas Liu will play Zuko, the obsessed exiled prince of the Fire Nation.
Behind the camera for Avatar: The Last Airbender, Netflix has recruited Albert Kim as showrunner, and he’s joined by executive producers Dan Lin, Lindsey Liberatore, and Michael Goi. Kim will write the adaptation, while Goi, Jabbar Raisani, and Roseanne Liang will direct.
In a blog posted on Netflix yesterday, Kim jokingly wrote that it put the responsibility for the upcoming series on his daughter. He explained that while his daughter was still a little young to “track the narrative” of the original animated Avatar: The Last Airbender series that aired on Nickelodeon, she was entranced by it anyway and he began watching it with her so he could explain the story elements she didn’t grasp. Along the way, he became just as hooked on the story as his daughter was. He added that it wasn’t lost on him at the time that because Avatar’s story drew from Asian influences, that it was one of his daughter’s few chances to experience “characters who looked like her on screen.”
Apparently, that influence stayed with Kim when he was asked to helm the upcoming live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender Netflix adaptation. Kim says while at first, he imagined he could add little to what was already portrayed in the animated series, he eventually considered a number of wonderful things he could bring to the franchise, including the chance to “showcase Asian and Indigenous characters as living, breathing people.”
Absent from the list of The Last Airbender cast and crew for the adaptation are Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, the creators of the original animated series that first aired in 2005. While the pair were originally said to be a part of the live-action series when it was first announced in 2018, as Polygon reported, they parted ways with the project last August. Neither DiMartino nor Konietzko were specific about exactly what creative differences arose, only insisting that the ideas being put forth for the new series were at cross-purposes “with the spirit and integrity of Avatar.”
While it’s far too soon to tell, it’s tempting to wonder DiMartino and Konietzko’s departure from the project has something to do with a rumor heralded by insider Daniel Richtman this past March. Richtman said that the live-action adaptation Netflix was developing would be a “darker, mature and sexier” reflection of the beloved animated series.
Regardless of what direction the new series goes in, we can only hope Netflix strives to make it better than the live-action film directed by M. Night Shyamalan. From 2010, The Last Airbender currently enjoys a cringe-worthy 5% approval score on Rotten Tomatoes.