Live-action ‘The Last Airbender’ series adds elements of its own

February 22, 2024 - 10:12 AM
Netflix's "Avatar: The Last Airbender" (Netflix/Released)

 Paul Sun-Hyung Lee feels like being cast in Netflix’s “Avatar: The Last Airbender” is both a dream come true and a great responsibility.

The American adventure-fantasy series, which arrives on the streaming service on Thursday, is a live-action adaptation of the highly acclaimed animated television series of the same name created by Michael DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko in 2005.

While he loves the original series, Sun-Hyung Lee feels it is important to bring something different to the fan-favorite character he portrays, Uncle Iroh.

“You want to do your job and fulfill that responsibility of staying true to that character, but at the same time, not mimic a character,” he said in an interview.

“I’m not brought on to be a mimic, I’m brought on as an artist,” added the actor, who has also starred in Canadian sitcom “Kim’s Convenience” and “Star Wars” spin-off “The Mandalorian.”

Like the original series, the live-action is set in a world inspired by Asian and Indigenous American cultures, in which some people have the power to manipulate water, earth, fire or air.

The Avatar is a being who protects the world by using all the elements, but when the Fire Nation wages war on the other nations, is nowhere to be found. The current Avatar – an airbender named Aang – is located by two Water Tribe kids that help him master all the elements.

Dallas Liu, who plays Prince Zuko of the Fire nation, believes the live-action series is a chance to explore fresh aspects of the story.

“Obviously it felt like there were big shoes to fill. But I also understand that we were trying to give this show its own identity,” Liu said, adding that he sought to bring new complexity to his character.

Gordon Cormier, who plays Aang, felt instantly comfortable with the adaptation’s vision for his character.

“I didn’t even really have to become him. I kind of just was born that way,” said the 14-year-old.

He feels that he and Aang have the same hyper energy – although he only started watching the animated series once he won the role.

The remake was originally expected to involve DiMartino and Konietzko, but they left due to creative differences. The world they created has also spawned a movie, comic books and video games.

In 2021, the production company Avatar Studios was launched by Nickelodeon with the co-creators serving as co-chief creative officers for a slate of animated films.

— Reporting by Danielle Broadway and Rollo Ross, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien