Live-Action ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ to Cast a No-Name Actor as Aang?

With Nickelodeon’s animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender landing on Netflix, hype surrounding the upcoming live-action reboot is only growing. Though the film is set to begin production this year, the current state of the world may delay the show’s initiation. However, when casting finally surfaces, everyone will be yearning to see the boy behind Aang. 

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Netflix | Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

Yet, given recent historical trends concerning young cast members, as well as statements from those behind the production, an already established actor may not be cast. Though you may be able to think of a few worthy individuals — whether from TV or film — those behind the production have a few stipulations, and a few ideas surrounding the film’s casting. 

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The executive producers refuse to ‘white-wash’ ‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ 

When asked about casting for the live-action version of Avatar: The Last Airbender, executive producers Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko shared the following statement, according to What’s On Netflix

We’re thrilled for the opportunity to helm this live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender. We can’t wait to realize Aang’s world as cinematically as we always imagined it to be, and with a culturally appropriate, non-whitewashed cast.

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While several young Asian actors may fit the role, the age constraint adds another level of difficulty to the casting. Not to mention, further statements hinted at a “search” for quite the youngster — alluding to one of those major hunts to uncover the perfect unknown for the part and throw him into the spotlight.

Daniel Richtman explained: “looking for a mostly Asian cast and a 12-14 Asian kid to play Aang…” The words “Asian Kid” do not exactly imply growing child star, but moreso align with a no-name talent.  Forrest Wheeler from Fresh Off the Boat feels like a perfect pick, given his high-energy disposition and contagious upbeat personality. However, he’s already aged out of the role, for he’s 16.

Will Aang be surrounded by A-list actors? 

Oftentimes, bid-budget films and shows will cast a no-name actor as the lead but surround that actor with famous performers to build hype. For example, 2016’s The Jungle Book starred then-newcomer Neel Sethi as Mowgli, but Ben Kingsley, Scarlett Johansson, Christopher Walken, Lupita Nyong’o, and Bill Murray all voiced the surrounding animals. 

And, who could forget 2007’s Hairspray, which featured then-newbie Nikki Blonsky as Tracy Turnblad, yet John Travolta as Edna, Michelle Pfieffer Velma Von Tussle, Zac Efron as Link Larkin, and more? 

If those behind Avatar: The Last Airbender want to find the perfect actor — who is at the right age to grow with a successful multi-season franchise — they should cast a newbie who perfectly matches the animated character.

To get hesitant viewers on board, a few a-listers may come in handy. If Katara, Sokka, and Zuka are all relatively well-known actors, the show will still offer up some star-appeal without settling on an actor who may be a little too old, or simply not right for Aang, simply because he has a recognizable face or boasts a certain degree of celebrity status.