From the lead trio in the Harry Potter movies to the Stranger Things cast, young actors aging and accommodating stories for them as they grow up is a challenge that’s inevitable for projects centered around kids. Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender will also face this hurdle, as the series centers around the 112-year-old Avatar Aang, who looks and acts like he’s 12 because he’s been frozen in ice for 100 years. So, with that in mind, Albert Kim, the series' showrunner, opened up about how they’ll handle the cast growing up, and I think it’s super smart.
While Percy Jackson's producers aren’t worried about their cast getting older, because there are time jumps worked into the source material’s plot – like it was with Harry Potter, Last Airbender doesn’t have that luxury. In the animated Nickelodeon series, Aang and co.’s journey lasts about one year, and we see it play out over three seasons. Obviously, the Avatar: The Last Airbender cast is going to grow up a lot in the years between Seasons 1, 2 and 3, making the OG series timeline unrealistic. Speaking to this point, Albert Kim told EW what the plan is should ATLA get renewed:
All three seasons of the animated series essentially take place in the course of one calendar year. There was no way we could do that. So we had to design this first season, especially, to accommodate the possibility of some time elapsing between the first and the second season.
For context, as The Last Airbender nears its premiere on the 2024 TV schedule (February 22), the actor behind Aang, Gordon Cormier, is 14 years old. He was 11 when he was initially cast, and he has already grown up a lot – just watch Avatar: The Last Airbender’s trailer, and then watch the cast reacting to it, and you’ll notice.
So, to accommodate for the inevitable, Albert Kim and his team structured Season 1 to make a time jump possible. In the animated series, Sozin’s Comet is the timebomb that expedited Aang and Team Avatar’s journey to defeat the Fire Lord. Since these kids are growing up quickly and it takes a ton of time to produce a quality season of fantasy TV, Kim and his team couldn’t have a time restraint like that on the show’s story. He explained:
The comet was their ticking clock. We removed that particular ticking clock from our show for now because we couldn't know exactly how old our actors would be for the subsequent seasons. We definitely thought about that going into Season 1 so that we can accommodate for puberty, adolescence, time passing — all of those fun things that happen to real-life human beings that don't happen to animated characters.
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As a massive fan of the animated series, I see no issue with introducing Sozin’s Comet at a later date. Aang and his friends really aren’t directly affected by it until Season 3 of the OG show, therefore, it isn’t necessary to implement it at the moment. There will be plenty of opportunity to explain the comet and why the Avatar needs to defeat the Fire Lord before it arrives in later seasons.
By making this change, and not introducing Sozin’s Comet in Season 1, Team Avatar – both in front and behind the camera – has time to take this journey. The cast will age, and that won’t impact the show, and the creative team will have time to work on each season and not feel rushed.
Overall, this is a super smart change that I can really get behind, and it makes me even more excited to see Season 1 of Avatar: The Last Airbender, which you’ll be able to watch with a Netflix subscription on February 22.