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Ken Leung reveals he thought he was auditioning for James Cameron's 'Avatar'

By Melanie Uson Published Feb 25, 2024 5:16 pm

Ken Leung revealed that he wasn’t familiar with the original animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender, so he initially thought he was auditioning for James Cameron’s Avatar movie. 

Leung, who plays Fire Nation's Commander/Admiral Zhao in the live-action adaptation series shared with media outlet Deadline a backstory on how he landed a role in the series. 

"I didn't know the original at all," Leung began. "Maybe it's an age thing but I didn't know about it,” he continued. 

Aside from not knowing the animated series, Leung noted that the auditions for the series were kind of confidential and that the actors themselves were almost clueless about the project.  

“First of all, the audition, you couldn't tell it was for Avatar, so it was kind of disguised as a different project,” he revealed. 

“And when I first heard it was for Avatar I thought I was gonna be blue,” he added, referencing James Cameron’s Avatar film franchise. 

Despite the encounter, Leung said he is grateful that he came into the audition clueless about the original since it helped him go through a “pure process” of acting. 

"Looking back, I kind of love that I came in blank," he said. 

"Because when you have ideas you can kind of I don’t know, corrupt a pure process. You come in blank, things will come into it that will inform your playing of it in a way that it might not if you came in with preconceived ideas or plans,” he explained. “So I was grateful for that." 

Prior to his role in the live-action series, Leung was also part of the films and TV series Rush Hour, Missing, and Industry. 

Avatar: The Last Airbender is a live-action reimagining of the award-winning and beloved Nickelodeon animated series from 2005 to 2008. Albert Kim serves as showrunner, executive producer, and writer. 

The series depicts how the four nations—Water Tribe, Earth Kingdom, Fire Nation, and Air Nomads—once lived in harmony, with the Avatar keeping peace. Everything changed when the Fire Nation attacked and wiped out the Air Nomads, the first step taken by the Firebenders toward conquering the world. With the current incarnation of the Avatar yet to emerge, the world has lost hope.