New 'Avatar' star felt pressure to please original 'Last Airbender' fans

Gordon Cormier plays the titular hero in the live-action series, "Avatar: The Last Airbender," premiering Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Netflix
1 of 2 | Gordon Cormier plays the titular hero in the live-action series, "Avatar: The Last Airbender," premiering Wednesday. Photo courtesy of Netflix

NEW YORK, Feb. 22 (UPI) -- Gordon Cormier says he and the cast were anxious, but excited, to reimagine the beloved cartoon, Avatar: The Last Airbender, as a live-action series, and they hope fans of the original think what they have created is a worthy successor.

"I know that we put pressure on ourselves because we're such big fans," Gordon, 14, said in a recent virtual press conference. "We're feeling exactly what the fans are feeling. And yeah, it's pretty cool."


Gordon's co-star, Daniel Dae Kim, said he tried to see the new show as an opportunity to expand on what fans loved about the original series, which was packed with action, magic and mythology steeped in Asian and Indigenous American culture.

"The fact that we were able to do it in 2022 with newer technology, with a cast that was authentic and true to the spirit of the original, is a real chance to do something different, and I think we all welcomed that," said Kim, 55.


Cast member Kiawentiio, 17, added that everyone involved in the project felt a responsibility to honor what had come before.

"This cartoon, this story, this universe really does deserve a really well-done and well- thought-out live-action [version]," she said.

"That's what we all were trying to do," she added. "We were all such huge fans. So, I feel like that played a huge part in paying homage and doing it justice."

Albert Kim -- whose credits include Pantheon, Nikita, Leverage and Dirt -- is the show-runner for The Last Airbender.

Filmed two years ago and premiering Thursday on Netflix, the special effects-laden series is about four nations with people who have mystical powers related to the natural elements of water, earth, fire and air.

Aang (Gordon) -- a young Air Nomad and Avatar or master of the four elements -- is charged with restoring peace after his people are attacked by the Fire Nation.

Ian Ousley and Kiawentiio play Aang's friends Sokka and Katara, while Kim plays the Fire Lord Ozai and Dallas Liu portrays Crown Prince Zuko.

Gordon said he loved going through the show's boot camp during which he trained to fight and fly.

"It was incredible, personally, for me. I was really high energy, or I am a real high energy person," he added.


"I also really enjoyed the martial arts part of it," he added. "It would be so easy for me to go on and on and on, run forms back to back to back to back, and just the wire work was incredible. So, I had a really good experience with boot camp."

Kim said he appreciated the enthusiasm of his younger co-stars.

"They were running around, doing their scenes, prepping their work as actors and then, in-between setups, they were coming into the stage where they had the stunts set up and pads and all the stunt people were waiting there [to practice]," Kim said.

"So, there was very little downtime for everybody. Their work ethic was exemplary," he added. "That was really impressive for us OGs to see."

Kiawentiio said it meant a lot to her to play water-bender Katara, her favorite character from the animated series she watched as a child.

"As a little Native girl, that representation wasn't as prevalent," she added. "It was just something that was more rare. And to be able to have that role model where she's kicking ass and she's the coolest person and so powerful, that's just so important."

Kim said he also had great affection for his villainous character.


"I love Fire Lord Ozai. I think he's so much fun to play," he said.

"One of the reasons I got into this business was because I wanted the license to be characters that I'm not necessarily. And it's so freeing and liberating to not care about what others think or what the audiences think of you."

The actor described Ozai as "relentless and determined."

"His goal is the only thing that matters," Kim added. "That's reminiscent of some other politicians and leaders in our world. And I think that was an interesting exploration."

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