Avatar: The Last Airbender's auditions were so secretive, one actor's test scene was set in a bank

Ken Leung as Zhao in Avatar: The Last Airbender
(Image credit: Netflix)

Netflix went to serious lengths to keep the auditions for the live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender show a secret – including writing fake scenes set in a bank.

"It’s funny, because the audition was set in an investment bank… I was like this corporate poncho, and it was the meeting [with Zuko], the first scene," Zhao actor Ken Leung tells GamesRadar+ of his bizarre audition.

It only gets weirder from there, with Leung revealing more details about the hush-hush audition – a tactic likely used to keep news of The Last Airbender’s live-action adaptation under wraps until Netflix was ready to reveal it.

"Zuko was this teenager asking for access to his trust at the bank. I don’t even remember what our names were. Zhao’s speech to his troops was this bank executive speech to the bank employees. I had zero wherewithal, I thought it was a whole different project," Leung says.

After Leung booked the gig as the Fire Nation’s Zhao, he then went ahead and did the research – no, not a day trip to Wall Street. Instead, the actor – best known for his roles in Lost and Industry – sat down to watch the original Nickelodeon cartoon series for "information". Hey, it’s not quite Aang actor Gordon Cormier’s 26 times watching the show, but it’ll do.

"When I got it, I watched the [animated series] for the first time, really for information and to see how it would play on me, if it did at all," Leung says. 

Avatar: The Last Airbender is streaming on Netflix from February 22. For more, check out the best anime on Netflix and Sokka actor Ian Ousley responding to the backlash behind his character's changes in the live-action series.

Bradley Russell

I'm the Senior Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, focusing on news, features, and interviews with some of the biggest names in film and TV. On-site, you'll find me marveling at Marvel and providing analysis and room temperature takes on the newest films, Star Wars and, of course, anime. Outside of GR, I love getting lost in a good 100-hour JRPG, Warzone, and kicking back on the (virtual) field with Football Manager. My work has also been featured in OPM, FourFourTwo, and Game Revolution.