The Famous Actor Voicing Tenzin in ‘The Legend of Korra’

The Legend of Korra is a follow-up series to Avatar: The Last Airbender, co-created by the same brilliant and worldly minds, Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino. The show, now available on Netflix, follows headstrong, relentless, and combat-ready Korra as she works to master spirituality, air bending, change, and balance while carrying the weight of the world on her shoulders. 

The Legend of Korra
‘The Legend of Korra’ | Tiffany Rose/Getty Images for Nickelodeon

Like Aang, Korra has help when it comes to conflicts and internal dilemmas. Friends and family surround the Avatar, and she receives a great deal of guidance and wisdom from Master Tenzin. So, who is Tenzin, what is his value to the series, and who voices the sagacious main character in the Nickelodeon original? 

Who is Tenzin in ‘The Legend of Korra?’

Tenzin is the oldest-living Airbending master, and he is the son of Avatar Aang and waterbender Katata. He lives on Air Temple Island with his wife and children, and he works to teach his kids the ways of the Air Nomad. For, without him, the airbending legacy and way of life would be lost. 

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Tenzin takes Korra in to teach her airbending in the first season. She becomes one with his family, despite Tenzin’s initial reluctance to house such a rebellious teenager. Though Korra already has a strong grasp on fire, water, and earth, she struggles with airbending — likely because the element directly contradicts her fierce and fiery disposition. 

Tenzin is a wise man who not only aims to teach Korra airbending, but focuses on teaching her how to view the world, how to see situations from multiple perspectives, and what it takes to make decisions as an Avatar. He is smart, compassionate, and present. The man is like a wise old owl who also knows how to take down the baddies. 

J.K. Simmons voices Tenzin 

J.K. Simmons voices Tenzin in The Legend of Korra. His deep and instructive voice is ideal for the character who is so selfless and warmhearted, yet also quite fearless and determined. Simmons brings a commanding nature to the character while straying from a villainous sound often inherent to deep-toned voices. 

Simmons recently played a behind-bars criminal in the Apple TV+ series Defending Jacob, and he is known for starring in a handful of major blockbusters and television productions. 

Simmons played J. Jonah Jameson in the Tobey Maguire-led Spider-Man franchise, won an Academy Award for his supporting role in Whiplash, and he has starred in Juno, The Closer, Up in the Air, Thank You for Smoking, and more. 

In short, Simmons presumably desired a role in a series with far-reaching cultural impacts and societal reflection. As someone who likely has the liberty to pick and choose his roles, Simmons presumably saw the maturity and depth of thought inherent to the show (and his character, in particular).