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‘Avatar: The Last Airbender’ Trio Bonded by Taking Naps on Appa Between Shoots: ‘We Couldn’t Stop Kicking One Another’

In the world of “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” a sky bison makes for the best nap spot, the young cast soon learned.

Gordon Cormier, who plays the show’s main character Aang, shared that he and fellow co-stars Kiawentiio and Ian Ousley, who play siblings Katara and Sokka, bonded on set by napping on Appa, Aang’s giant flying bison, for hours at a time between shoots.

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The trio would end up “kicking one another” to try and secure more space on the furry fake creature, leading to skirmishes and laughs shared afterward.

“They told us that we have to wait up there [on Appa] for 15 minutes and that we could come down, but it’d be kind of useless. So we stay up there; 30 minutes go by, and nothing is happening. We eventually started napping and forming this crazy puzzle shape to stay in the saddle, and we started kicking and shoving one another,” Cormier said. “We were all getting really mad at each other. It was a great memory because now I can look back at it and think about how pissed off we were because we were all trying to sleep. It took like an hour but was a good bonding experience.”

Cormier shared the story at the premiere of Netflix’s new series, an adaptation of the original animated Nickelodeon show of the same name, at The Egyptian Theatre Hollywood in Hollywood.

In addition to Kiawentiio and Ousley, stars Dallas Liu, Ken Leung, Paul Sun-Hyung Lee and Daniel Dae Kim, who play Zuko, Commander Zhao, Iroh and Fire Lord Ozai, respectively, joined showrunner Albert Kim and others at the red carpet.

Ousley’s Sokka is a warrior of the Southern Water Tribe, a nation where some people can manipulate, or “bend,” water telekinetically, and the older brother to Kiawentiio’s Katara, a water bender herself.

When asked to reveal what “older brother pranks” he’d play on his television younger sister, Ousley confessed he’d often distract Kiawentiio during her most “serious” scenes by making faces at her in an attempt to break character.

“I would try to make her laugh when the camera wasn’t on me. So sometimes she’d be in serious scenes, and I’d try and do something goofy to make her laugh because we’d been filming for like 12 hours,” Ousley said. “She’d get so mad and tell me, ‘Dude, I’m literally supposed to be crying here.'”

For her part, Kiawentiio described Ousley as her “adopted older brother” and recalled that a favorite tradition of the trio would be to grab Bubble “Boba” tea after a long day of shooting: “In the two or three years since we’ve met each other, we’ve gotten super close, and they really are like my family.”

The series follows Aang (Cormier), the young Avatar, as he learns to master the four elements (water, earth, fire and air) to restore balance to a world threatened by the Fire Nation. Alongside his newfound friends Sokka (Ousley) and Katara (Kiawentiio), Aang embarks on a quest to save the world and fight back against the onslaught of Fire Lord Ozai (Daniel Dae Kim).

Fans of the original “Avatar” series have expressed concerns about the new show’s faithfulness to the Nickelodeon series. Original creators Bryan Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino, who had spent two years developing the live-action adaptation for Netflix, previously exited over creative differences, leaving Kim as the sole showrunner.

At the premiere, Kim tried to ease fans’ fears by assuring them that he, too, was a fan of the original show.

“My message to fans is that, like them, I am first and foremost a fan,” Kim said. “So I understand all their concerns, I understand all the expectations they have, and it’s not something we take lightly. So, I hope that they’ll give us a chance and that they can appreciate everything that we’ve done.”

The original “Avatar” show ran for three seasons, but Kim didn’t specify how many seasons he plans for the Netflix adaptation to span. He said he’d love to work on the show for as long as “fans want them to.” The showrunner also noted the original show’s sequel series, “The Legend of Korra,” and multiple comic books as inspiration points for the series.

“We’re all obviously aware of ‘Korra’ and all the other follow-up works like comic books and novelizations, and we drew upon a lot of that in the building this season,” Kim said. “I think fans will recognize some of that when they watch what we’ve done.”

Netflix’s “Avatar: The Last Airbender” will premiere on Feb. 22.

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