Netflix’s live-action TV adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender is adding some star power to the mix this week, with Deadline reporting that Lost and Hawaii 5-0 star Daniel Dae Kim has signed on to star as Fire Lord Ozai, the primary antagonist of the series.
Kim joins a cast that already has its Aang, Katara, Sokka, and Zuko lined up, with young actors Gordon Cormier, Kiawentiio Tarbell, Ian Ousley, and Dallas Liu playing the young heroes/enemies who end up being heroes. One of the key principles of the Netflix adaptation has been to avoid some of the casting missteps that afflicted M. Night Shyamalan’s The Last Airbender, which cast white actors as several non-white characters from the original series. (New Zealand actor Cliff Curtis, who’s Māori, played the part of Ozai in Shyamalan’s film; go-to cartoon villain Mark Hamill voiced him in the original show.) This will be Kim’s second run at the franchise; he previously played a character in a single episode of the animated series.
Although he’s rarely glimpsed in the early seasons of the show, Ozai is the primary architect of Avatar’s central conflicts, pushing his Fire Nation armies—and his kids—into direct conflict with young hero Aang. In other words, we expect to see a whole bunch of scenes of Kim coldly staring at people before he finally gets to start eating some scenery and throwing fireballs around.
Netflix has made some slow steps forward on Avatar in 2021, even as it operates in the shadow of a 2020 announcement from original series creators Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko, who stated that they were stepping away from showrunning the new series over creative differences with Netflix. (“Whatever version ends up on-screen,” DiMartino wrote in an open letter at the time, “It will not be what Bryan and I had envisioned or intended to make.”)
Netflix has yet to set even a tentative air date for the series.