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'Avatar: The Last Airbender' Fil-Canadian star Gordon Cormier on returning to the Philippines, channeling Aang

By John Patrick Magno Ranara Published Feb 22, 2024 2:42 pm

Filipino-Canadian actor Gordon Cormier, who portrays Aang for Netflix's live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender remake, couldn't be happier to return to his roots after so long.

The rising star had a chance to talk about his much-coveted role in the beloved series with his co-star Dallas Liu during a press conference that PhilSTAR L!fe attended on Feb. 21.

After being welcomed on stage by his fellow Filipinos, Cormier gushed about his excitement about getting a chance to visit the Philippines again.

“It has been amazing. I'm back in my homeland, so nice to be back home. I haven't been here in a while because of COVID, so it's really nice,” Cormier said.

“I got to see my family. It's incredible,” he added.

Liu, who plays the firebender Prince Zuko in the series, similarly echoed his co-star’s elation in coming to the Philippines for the first time.

“It's been really exciting. This is my first time in Manila and everyone has been very welcoming and it's so hot. Oh my gosh. It's so humid. I stepped out of the air conditioning for one second and I feel like I'm in the Fire Nation,” he joked.

Channeling their characters

The show's main protagonist Aang is a beloved character for Cormier, who watched the series about 35 times to perfect his role as the airbending hero. For the most part, embodying the Air Nomad had been a breeze for the up-and-coming actor.

“The happy side of Aang was quite easy for me, but I feel like it was a little bit more difficult for me to tap into Aang’s emotional side, such as when he gets sad because of really, really sad stuff,” Cormier said.

For Liu, getting to don their characters’ costumes played a big part in helping them play their part.

“I think it has to do with a lot of preparation, though. There's so many character analysis videos, you can really tap into the lore of the Avatar universe and really how fantastical the world is,” he said.

“I think once everyone's in hair and makeup, we've got all of our beautiful costumes from our wardrobe team, it really brings the world to life, and it's less work for us and we just get to do our part in breathing the same breath that the animated characters had,” he added.

In case the original cartoon wasn’t a part of your childhood, the premise revolves around four nations—Water Tribe, Earth Kingdom, Fire Nation, and Air Nomads—and how they once lived in harmony with the Avatar keeping the peace between them, until the Fire Nation wiped out the Air Nomads. 

It's up to the last Air Nomad–a young boy named Aang–to become the next Avatar and restore peace to the world. But he’s not in it alone as he has his friends Katara (Kiawentiio) and Sokka (Ian Ousley) from the Water Tribe with him.

According to Cormier, his camaraderie with his co-stars was also crucial in recreating their characters’ friendship for the new adaptation.

“You can see our relationships grow throughout this series, because Aang doesn't know these characters yet, but you can tell the second we meet, we do actually know that we're family, and that's kind of happened in real life too, so you can see it develop,” Cormier said.

Likewise, Liu also fostered a strong friendship with Paul Sun-Hyung Lee, who plays Zuko’s uncle and mentor Iroh.

Paul and I had sort of clicked right off the bat. We had our very first rehearsal in the lobby of a hotel. I think we both had a mutual understanding of how he was going to portray Uncle Iroh and how I was going to portray Prince Zuko,” Liu recounted.

“Naturally throughout time, the more you're around someone, the more comfortable you'll get in a scene and I think that really shows at the very start all the way throughout. You see how much Zuko relies on Uncle Iroh even though he might not quite literally say it,” he added.

Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender is set to premiere on Feb. 22.