Netflix’s Avatar cast explain why their live-action characters are so much more than a "carbon copy" of the Nickelodeon series

Avatar: The Last Airbender
(Image credit: Netflix)

By now, you might be settling in for a binge session of Avatar: The Last Airbender on Netflix. While the cast certainly capture the spirit of their Nickelodeon counterparts, actors Paul Sun-Hyung Lee and Daniel Dae Kim have explained why they’re so much more than a "carbon copy" of the iconic characters from the animated series.

"Whenever you’re doing something like that – an adaptation [where] you bring an animated character to life – it’s kind of a folly to do a carbon copy of it because it’s completely different," Lee, who plays the Fire Nation’s deposed ruler Iroh, tells GamesRadar+.

"But we did use the animated series as a foundation, as a backbone. We had a beautiful blueprint in terms of the essential makeup of these characters. The rest, it’s a collaborative process."

On Iroh in particular, Lee ensured he focused on the dynamic between the Firebender and his nephew, Zuko.

"If that relationship isn't there, the fans cry foul and it is something that I really wanted to focus in on and sort of bring these characters to life in that way. So they don't seem like caricatures, but actual characters who have feelings and emotions, who are flawed, but who love each other. And that's something that I really, really wanted to do – make them seem real and not cardboard."

Kim adds: "To Paul’s point, doing a carbon copy is, I think, much less interesting. Because when you have human performers, they’re gonna want to bring something to it that’s specific to them as performers.

"It’s kind of the same reason why people do Shakespeare over and over again, you know? There’s no one definitive version. We each have something that we’re exploring, as creatives, that hopefully enhances the characters."

Avatar: The Last Airbender is now streaming on Netflix. 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.