The live action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender is still planned to go ahead despite current world conditions hamstringing the production of entertainment. No casting has yet been announced for the show, but the latest person to consider being a part of it is Star Wars‘ John Boyega.
His knowledge of the series was identified by a fan after he amusedly retweeted a video of Dev Patel, who played Zuko in the much-maligned The Last Airbender movie, trashing it to fans while signing autographs (“I’m sorry about this film. It was a little bit shit, wasn’t it?”), and replied with an expression of interest.
— John Boyega (@JohnBoyega) July 19, 2020
One of the things that made Avatar so different was its deliberate lack of white people. Most fantasy settings are heavily derived from medieval Europe, resulting in a lack of ethnic diversity regardless of what history actually tells us and is a conversation for another article, and which leads to certain corners of a fandom complaining whenever an attempt at representation is made. However, the four nations of Avatar are a melting pot of the cultures of various Asian countries and peoples, such as Japan, China, Korea, Tibet, Inuit, South Asia, Pacific Islander, Vietnam and Cambodia, and the new series has promised to honor this.
Boyega’s tweet acknowledges that there are similarly no black people seen in the show, limiting his potential involvement. Despite this, the sandbenders, tribes of desert-dwelling nomadic scavengers whose use earthbending to move loose sand instead of solid rock, are partially based on Saharan Africans. However, they’re not specifically coded as black, and to only feature such people to be responsible for Appa’s kidnapping, which leads to possibly the most emotionally crippling episode of the entire series, is unlikely to be met with a positive reaction.
It’s perfectly possible for black people to exist somewhere else, though, as the map of the world of Avatar seen in the opening sequence of every episode shows the islands and continents of the four nations in relatively close proximity to one another, meaning it’s entirely plausible that the whole planet has not been explored and that somewhere analogous to Africa lies isolated in a vast ocean. Alternatively, the Earth Kingdom is shown to have a great deal of diversity across its sprawling land mass, so it wouldn’t be too jarring for black people to have originated along its equatorial regions and over time spread out from there.
In any case, John Boyega’s versatility and natural charisma make him perfect for practically any role, and he would be a welcome addition to Avatar: The Last Airbender. If he were to be cast though, tell us, would you like to see him as a character from the animated series, or someone new whose presence expands the mythology? Sound off below.