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Avatar: The Last Airbender PaleyFest group
Photo: Brian To/PaleyFest

Television

‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’: Kid dentures, prison buff Iroh and more during PaleyFest

PaleyFest features the cast and creatives from Avatar: The Last Airbender.

The animated fantasy action series Avatar: The Last Airbender has a passionate fanbase that can be very protective of the franchise. After a failed movie adaptation over a decade ago, some approached the most recent live-action television show with skepticism. However, this version was better received. At PaleyFest 2024, the cast and creatives came together to discuss the first season and their expectations for the future. 

Showrunner Albert Kim, executive producer and director Jabbar Raisani, and actors Gordon Cormier, Kiawentiio, Ian Ousley, Dallas Liu, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, Arden Cho, and Elizabeth You all took to the stage.

During the panel portion of the evening’s events, the audience heard some behind the scenes stories during filming. For example, Kim did not realize how young his lead actor was until he received a call from the production office about an accident on set. There was no fight or stunt accident, but Cormier did lose one of his baby teeth. A week later he lost another. Kim hired a denturist on staff to create dentures for the star. Imagine, a twelve-year-old with dentures.

Lee was the oldest cast member on stage, and he reflected on how when he was growing up, he never saw himself in the shows he watched on television. He felt blessed to be part of Avatar: The Last Airbender with such a diverse cast. He was especially excited to work with Daniel Dae Kim, who plays Fire Lord Ozai, and Ken Leung, who plays Commander Zhao. Lee loved Leung’s character on Lost so much, that he named his son Miles.

PaleyFest Avatar The Last Airbender stage
Photo: Brian To/PaleyFest

Near the end of the discussion, the actors were asked what they were excited to explore about their characters in seasons two and three. 

Kiawentiio touched upon how Katara has gained a new confidence over the course of the first season earlier in the night. She would like to see more of that confidence, and just more of the main trio. Ousley spoke how Sokka experienced his first catastrophic emotional situation with a love interest in the season one finale. Now there is a lot that he’s going to have to work through emotionally.

One of the most engaging pairs in Avatar: The Last Airbender is the uncle and nephew duo of Prince Zuko and Iroh. Liu is anxious for fans to see more their relationship.

“You get to really see how close Uncle Iroh and Zuko really are compared to the animated series. Carrying that over to the future seasons of our show, if you’ve watched the original, you know how big some of those moments are in the ending and at the beginning of season three,” Liu said.  “I’m really stoked for Uncle Iroh and Zuko’s moments in those seasons because I think they’ll hit that much harder because of what we built in season one.”

Lee felt that his TV nephew stole his original answer. He then jokingly responded with Prison Buff Iroh to be aided with the use of CGI. 

PaleyFest Paul Sun-Hyung Lee
Photo: Courtney McAllister/PaleyFest

Yu is looking forward to playing a bigger role in Avatar: The Last Airbender. “Towards the end of season one, I think Azulah gains her freedom from the Fire Nation when she’s able to reign terror on the rest of the world.” With that new sense of freedom, Yu is hoping to finally be able to interact more with the other characters.  

For Gordon, his thoughts came back to his character’s flying bison. He shared, “In episode one we get to see Aang’s relationship  with Appah a little bit, and if we did get to dive into that more in season two and three, that would be so amazing. That would be awesomeness.”

The final words of the night came from Kim. He will be stepping away as showrunner of Avatar: The Last Airbender and Raisani and Christine Boylan will be filling in moving forward. But fans don’t need to worry about the change in creative leadership. 

“Both of them were so involved in the first season. They were so vital in making the season what it was so I have utter confidence in what they are going to do,” Kim told the audience. “I know that Christine, who is here today with a bunch of our writers who are all here, they are hard at work on the scripts for season two. I’m looking forward to seeing what they do as much as anyone. I’m very very confident and happy of the hands the show is in and where it’s going to go.”

Check out the rest of the programming schedule of PaleyFest 2024.

Catch up on Avatar: The Last Airbender on Netflix.

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