The Last Airbender: To Boycott or Not?

Posted: July 1, 2010 in Uncategorized

Today is the opening of the film “The Last Airbender”, a show based on Avatar, the animated series that I played the role of Prince Zuko, one if the lead characters. Now, with this event happening, I have been getting numerous emails and questions of how I feel on the casting of the film and ultimately does it warrant a boycott.

Now some come from fans that would have like to see me play the role I originated for the series, they want to see me play Zuko on the big screen, and I must admit, I would have loved to do the role. I was told many of the producers were pushing to make that happen but M. Night Shymalan, the director of the film had another vision. Also him casting his country man Dev Patel, doesn’t bother me, he’s a fine young actor and I’m sure he’ll do a great job. For other’s the question of boycott comes from the casting of the other character, mainly, Ang, Katara and Sokka. For those that may not know the series, when you break it down to the bottomline, many feel that “white” kids were cast as roles that were supposed to be “asian” kids from the series.

Now here is where the boycott question comes in, especially from the Asian American community and it’s weighed heavy on my mind in these last few months. And this film is not alone in this problem. Recently “Prince of Persia” had the same dilema with Jake Gyllenhaal playing the lead, and my fiance is Persian, so I was able to hear the point of view of that community.

Should Hollywood be able to cast “white” actors to play “ethnic” roles?

Believe me, as an actor, it’s no easy answer. My first gut feeling is, the best actor should be cast for the job no matter race… But maybe that’s just an ideal that is unreal when it comes to making a movie, and making a big budget movie at that. See, my whole career is based on playing roles that were not written race specific, matter fact, if I had to wait for Hollywood to come along with a script for a Filipino American, I would have no career at all.

The fact of the matter is, in Hollywood… it’s not fair. It’s not fair at all, the tables are tipped unfavorably for ethnic actors. The percentage of roles for ethnic actors to white actors is something to the effect of: in 100 roles, there may be 12 roles for black actors, maybe 7 for latin actors and only maybe 2 for asian actors. And with stats like this, its a little distressing that when actual roles for  Asians come in a big budget film, they don’t get cast. Now I understand if you have to cast a big star like a Jake Gyllenhaal to warrant a budget in the hundreds of millions, but I think its different when you are casting unknown actors and children at that, with a franchise with an almost guaranteed. I think it’s a missed opportunity for the voice and the face of the Asian community, when will a project like this and of tis magnitude come along again? I don’t know the young actors they cast, I hope they do a great job, I myself was a child actor and I know the stress and joy booking a big film like this could be. but the crime is not giving the opportunity some Asian kids. See, we wonder why there are no real Asian stars in America, part of the reason is because of things that happen like this. Stars don’t just happen out of thin air, Hollywood helps make them. This was an opportunity to give the chance to some Asian kids to become stars for the future generation and we missed it. See, if you can get some Asian actors in the machine of Hollywood and they exist as a viable commodity, it can spark more projects that can support the voice and face of the Asian community and level the playing ground  a little. But when we can’t even land roles that were so clearly created as Asian roles, its a bit disheartening. At least Dev Patel got cast, even though, I wanted to play the role, originally they had Jesse McCartney cast to play Prince Zuko.

So… to boycott or not? I still feel a loyalty to the whole project, I helped to make it popular and I hope the film does justice to a near perfect animated series. Boycott is a strong word, but I do know that I won’t go see it opening weekend. I’m sure I will see it sooner or later, but my money won’t be apart of the opening weekend tally. In this day and age, in America 2010… I just don’t think it is at all viable for white actors to play ethnic roles… at least until they let us play white roles.

  1. Daphne says:

    Thank you for letting us hear your views on this Dante. As a fan of the animated series and your role in it (which I think you did a perfect job as the voice of Zuko), I was extremely reluctant to watch the film after hearing about the casting. As a Filipino-Chinese, I was especially sad to see East Asian ethnicity not being represented. I do agree that in this day and age, there are plenty of talented ethnic actors. I feel a strange sense of relief that the movie has been getting bad reviews, but also sad at the same time, because I thought it would be a good way of getting new fans interested in the original source material.

  2. Bessie says:

    I was actually looking forward to seeing this movie because of how much I was in love with the animated series, your voice being part of it just added to it xD But now I’m hearing it being compared to the failure DragonballZ live action film. I’m not so sure if I even want to watch it anymore or just rewatch the animated series in entirety..

    • Amanda says:

      Is it wierd that I actually liked Dragonball: Evolution? I watched those cartoons when I was a kid ’cause my neighbor was obsessed. He hung out at our house after school & we all watched tv together… I think Justin Chatwin is cute & the movie was entertaining. :p

      • nemogbr says:

        Actual reasoning for them to cast Rathbone and that guy McCartney in the first instance.

        The fandoms need to put their foot down and not partake of every hollywood film adaptation that attempts to cater to the tween franchise.

  3. Paul Bens says:

    Great post Dante. I would have loved to see you (and Darion and Dion and the whole family) in there. That would have rocked.

  4. Marissa Lee says:

    Dante, thank you so much for having the courage to share your thoughts on the movie casting with us!

  5. oliverrrrr says:

    Thank you for your perspective!

  6. Wintersweet says:

    Very brave of you to say something, and your mixed feelings are totally understandable. I think you did a good job of stating some of the most important problems with the movie’s casting. So many people still don’t get it. It’s great to see someone so closely involved with the original speaking up.

  7. Mark C. says:

    Thanks for posting this. It is sad to see stuff like this happening in the film world, that we can’t create a future for Asian actors to be stars (or any minority for that matter) if even in a project so clearly meant to be Asian the community is shafted once again. It would have been cool to see you on the big screen, and we loved you in the cartoon.
    The movie is getting awful reviews, the majority of fans are sorely disappointed, even the ones who were not part of the Racebending movement. I hope for the sake of the beautiful work that was created on Nickelodeon that we have a future for Avatar: The Last Airbender’s name despite the blemish that this movie has left in its wake of missed opportunities.
    Casting blind to color is not necessarily a bad thing, but acting and the performing industry is the one place where employers can decide whether to hire you based on your appearance for the role, and with that ability comes the responsibility to make the project all it can be. In a perfect world, casting could be regardless of race and still work – but in the real world here we have a majority of white actors. And beyond that, if the characters’ background and culture is such a significant part of the story – which it is in Airbender, because of the philosophies of the bending arts, their setting, the way each character is raised or fights or writes – then it is a disservice to that careful consideration and a slap in the face to the people and things whose history has built the framework for this world to take off from, and it not only reduces the significance of the characters’ lives and personalities but lays immense disrespect upon the real-live Asian people who saw our heritage so well taken care of in the original cartoon.
    Turning it into a backdrop, one that is ignored, altered, and pussyfooted around until it doesn’t even retain the basic essence of what it once meant, undoes all of that love and that is why the fans are rejecting this movie.

  8. Mike says:

    Thank you so much for making this post! I was curious what the people who were apart of this show had to say about the controversy. I wish you could have had the chance to be apart of the movie, but now that the reviews are out, you don’t want to be associated with this insulting adaptation of a wonderful show.

  9. Chelle says:

    That was wonderfully put and I’m one of the many who wanted you to be Zuko. I know how hard it is for anyone who isn’t white to get a role in Hollywood. I though the actors were good, its the storyline itself that sucked. I’m telling everyone not to see this movie. Spare themselves. Turns out I had no idea you know Joy Bisco but I know her and her fiance Phil! Anyways, take care Dante and I hope they instead of making Book Two, remaking Book One over again with you cast as Zuko!

  10. Katie says:

    Thank you so much for lending your voice to this issue, Dante! It really is a horrible shame. Maybe you weighing in will help people realize what a serious problem this is.

  11. michidoll says:

    I applaud you sir. I really do. Thank you.

  12. Skemono says:

    Thank you for weighing in on this with your opinion. It really means a lot coming from you.

  13. Brittany says:

    Thank you so much for your views on this! It’s always great to hear what people who were in involved with the animated series have to say about the movie. I am glad you recognize the problem that so many Avatar fans had with the movie.

    I almost wish you could have been Zuko in the movie, it would have been absolutely perfect casting, as well as satisfy the fanbase. But now that the movie came out, and it’s getting absolutely trashed, maybe it’s better you weren’t a part of it afterall. You might have dodged a bullet. 🙂 Anyway, I will continue to be a fan of yours no matter what. Thank you for your thoughts again!

  14. Kat says:

    Thank you so much for speaking out on this issue — it means a lot.

  15. Mia says:

    Truthfully, I would have loved to have seen you play Zuko in the movie. It would have been amazing.

  16. Socorro says:

    Your words are well spoken! I hope that this will show a generation of new hollywood people the way. What you said is totally true, and being an actor these days is super hard. I have considered it, but have fallen in love more with writing and visual effects. My mother discouraged my dreams of becoming an actress because of how many racial problems there are within the industry. As a young aspiring actress, it broke me, but I still wanted to become a part of the story somehow, and an artists spirit can only be put out by themselves.

    As a huge fan of yours and of the Avatar series, I was very much disappointed with what the film has represented. Saddened that these issues still exist, and that a work of art has been erased and drawn over again blindly. I’m very fortunate to have read your perspective. For the record, I think you would have made an awesome Prince Zuko!

  17. iDegrassia says:

    Wow. Truly amazing. I also think it is just sad to turn obviously Asian roles into something for white people. It really isn’t fair. I mean, Jesse McCartney? SERIOUSLY?

  18. Jackie says:

    Thank you for making this post, Dante. You really hit the nail on the head.

  19. Kels says:

    Thank you for making this post. As a fan of the series who didn’t care for the direction the film is taking, it’s really heartening to hear when those who worked on creating the series that I so loved feel the same way.

  20. Michelle says:

    Thank you so much for having the courage to voice your opinion on this. I am a fan of Avatar and was very much disappointed in the casting. (My friends and I would have really loved to see you as live action Zuko!) I agree that this was a missed opportunity and I am so disappointed in Hollywood.

  21. taiki says:

    Don’t you see a bigger problem that you’re being told what an Asian should and should not be?

    The lack of Asian actors is troubling, no doubt, but it seems like outside of Harold and Kumar, there aren’t too many roles for Asians outside of the martial artist mold. It’s kind of disturbing.

  22. Rachel K says:

    Thanks so much for your input, Dante. I have a lot of strong opinions about the casting of the movie, but as a white person, I feel like they might not be as valid (not that I don’t have a right to an opinion, but I don’t REALLY know what it’s like to be part of an underrepresented minority, even as a girl). It’s really great to hear from you; it sort of validates my anger, and shows that we’re not just a bunch of nitpicky fans who’ll get up in arms over tiny discrepancies.
    I have a lot of respect for you and the people involved with the show I enjoyed for so many years. I’m sorry that this happened to the series, and wish I could take it all back and do it over to get it right.

    • Amy says:

      Aw, honey–don’t worry, Asian-Americans sometimes wonder if they’re being too nitpicky/PC/sensitive, too. Or, at least, I do. These things take a lot of thought.

  23. f says:

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this, it means a lot to not only me but a whole bunch of other people, too.

  24. Lanoom says:

    While I agree with the sentiment, I believe that the movie should be boycotted because it flat-out is a horrible stinker. The series is wholly wonderful, but the movie…no, just no. You probably lucked out not being directly attached to this.

  25. Logan says:

    Flamie-yo my good man Flamie-yo!

    Good to hear someone from the original series voicing their opinion on the subject.

    i remember you in moonwalker and i’ve been a fan ever since.

    from one fili-am to another.


  26. Josh says:

    Ainako it’s the sad truth ’bout Asians getting into the entertainment industry otherwise, this was a great read. It’s cool to hear how you’re chill ’bout someone else playing your role, even though you wanted it.

    Best of luck in the future man. (and you were awesome in The Hook and Zuko of course and that lil appearance you made in Entourage haha. I can sure get me some new shoes from ya).

  27. Patrick says:

    My favorite part of your post is this, “I just don’t think it is at all viable for white actors to play ethnic roles… at least until they let us play white roles.”

    Dante, I’ve enjoyed your work with Avatar and on the stage and I look up to you as a fellow AA actor myself. I’m sure it’s painful to watch a world you were instrumental in creating to be twisted so horribly in the way this film has but we’re all grateful for your thoughts. I just worry that studios will take a blind eye for the true reasons behind the film’s failure and negate the work of many protesters who just simply wanted fairer representation.

  28. Logan says:

    To be honest, i think the role of zuko would have been better served being given to a new-on the scene asian american actor. Where Dante would have best served would be as a nod to the original series and fan base in the form of a cameo yet important supporting character. every role should have been given to promote the visibility anc carers of PoC actors. My choice? Dante as a young Roku or Sozin, probably more Sozin.

  29. tobit says:

    As a fellow filipino american actor in Los Angeles, i respect your opinion and greatly admire you for this piece.

  30. Thanks for the post Dante, you’re awesome! You explained exactly what I’ve been thinking all along… this was a huge missed opportunity and could have been a great breakthrough for Asian American actors. That’s why I won’t be seeing it either. Hopefully next time a fim like this comes along, things will go differently.

  31. Caterfree10 says:

    asjfgdkhjsf, I’m trying not to tear up at this, but I can’t help it. It’s so great to see you speak out on this issue. While it isn’t calling for a full out boycott, it’s still wonderful to hear your voice on this. One can only hope that more people who were involved in the original series speak out as well.

    So much love, man. I totally owe you a bear hug if I ever see you at a con. :3

  32. Werner says:

    There is no “vision” that can justify not casting you as Prince Zuko.

  33. S-3 says:

    Thanks for this, Donte.

    BS like this isn’t going to change until Hollywood starts suffering and is forced to go through total reform.
    This kind of racism and disrespect for other ethnicitities is thee kind of BS example of why I, S-3, feel the rest of the world does not see the U.S.’s greatness (like we had any to speak of), but why the world hates us and thinks of most of us as evil, in more extreme cases.

    I know this sounds extreme coming from a black person as myself, for example, but I feel until something in the form of rebellion or anarchy (because boycotting may NOT be enough at this point in reality, sadly, thanks to STUPID PEOPLE who would likely disagree with everything you said spot on) happens, these changes and reforms asked of Hollywood and our nation will NEVER come- and anarchy is the last thing it should have to come to for something as easy to listen to and fix as BS racism like this.

    It takes listening and cooperation- both aren’t there yet to right this injustice to people like you and viewers of such intelligent works,for examole,as yours, sir.

    BTW, I will boycott this like I do any crap I don’t approve of and not see it, because like most adaptations of cartoons/TV shows/ toy franchises that Hollywood only wants money off of, but has no true faith in whatsoever, it’s a middle finger to fans of such brilliant works and those who responisble for them in the first place. Buisness or NO Buisness…

  34. Colleen says:

    This is an age-old issue. Same thing came up with the casting of “Memoirs of a Geisha” and countless others where the main characters were non-white (esp. Asians…obviously because we seem “interchangeable”).

    I’m Japanese and was annoyed that Chinese actresses are often cast as Japanese. But how can we be upse?. If a character is FRENCH, do they always cast a Frenchman? Nope, they’ll cast an Italian just as easily. It’s all about money, public appeal, available talent, on and on.

    By the way, off topic.. I would like every American to read this article. It’s essential considering elections are coming up and the sorry state of our country:

    • S-3 says:

      I read that article, Colleen.


      Put The “Community”, The “People” in power.

    • Popura says:

      The accent– Chinese and Japanese people have different accents (if they have one at all that is) and Asian Americans are by far the most underrepresented people in the media so of course this pissed some people off when ‘Memoir of a Geisha’ came out. If you don’t know the difference in the accent you’d think that Japanese and Chinese people sound alike. Take for example ‘Elizabethtown’ with Orlando Bloom and Kirstin Dunst– their southern accent was not very convincing! And people immediately picked up on it. But when it was ‘Memior of a Geisha’ some people were saying what’s the big deal? WELL THE DEAL IS PEOPLE WHO CAN TELL THINKS IT’S LAME! and I’ve never seen an Italian guy play a French guy before– not yet anyway.

      Just saying.

  35. Annie says:

    I’m glad to read your perspective on this, interesting as a Filipina-American, sitting during the previews, my 13 year old son reacted with disappointment as he’s a fan of the series but also of your films Dante. It’s the first thing he said when he watched the preview in the theater “Where are WE in this movie? There’s no representation” mind you, a 13 year old boy. He wasn’t referring to us but as Asian Americans. It leaves a dull feeling and an absolute miss. Hollywood just sees one color. Very disappointed.

  36. Em says:

    I love the cartoon and your performance as Zuko was brilliant. The movie has been a big let-down.

    This is a fantastically well-written, intelligent blog. Way to explore and expose the problem.

  37. MT. says:

    Dante, you’ve had the best perspective on this to date. Very well said. I’m a big fan of yours ever since I watched Hook as a little kid and it was great hearing you as Zuko’s voice. I had no idea you wanted to play the actual Zuko in the film. If things had been different, that would have been amazing.

    Anyway, God bless and hope to see you become more successful and even more prominent and making us Asians proud in the scene. Take care.

  38. Allison says:

    I’m completely disgusted with the film. As an avid avatar fan, I could literally feel my soul crushing. Why he did not give you this role…a role that only YOU could pull off..I do not know. This film was meant to open the doors for the asain community..and in every way possible..he should have just directed, not written. Even if he took 2 minutes from each episode instead of cramming 22 into 5 would have been half as good. I can’t even begin to touch base on how his casting destroyed everything..who and why did they give his script the green light?!? Just so you know all of clarksville TN is is and was a complete massacre of something that could have been phenominal.

  39. TallyCola says:

    Thanks for saying so Dante. These past few months must have been difficult for you and the other people involved in the original.

  40. Jazz says:

    Thanks for your brave post, Dante. I’m a big fan of the show, and I’m definitely boycotting the movie. I’ve convinced a few people to refrain from seeing it, but sadly, the majority of fans I know don’t see any problem at all with the casting. All of those said fans are white. However, I’m hopeful about moving forward in non-Western storytelling. I’m a white aspiring writer, and while I write about white characters, I also write about characters of color who are the heroes.

  41. Emily says:

    You were a brilliant Zuko and this is a brilliant, articulate, thoughtfully-written and respectful article. I admire you more than even for writing it, and if they ever go on to make a movie of Book Two (hopefully with a new director and Brandon Soohoo – an awesome young actor/martial artist who would have IMO done a great job as Aang) I’ll be the first to step up and petition for you to be cast. <333

  42. eanrey says:

    to be honest, ive been looking forward to the film an avid fan of the animated series..and im also keeping myself updated with the film. but now, hearing your words and the words of the others who watched and didn’t watched, i feel a little more stronger not to see the movie. one commentary above said that some people see the TLA as a splitting failure of dragon ball. its upsetting. truly, ..i guess the preponderance of this matter is , DONT WATCH THE MOVIE. ITS DISHEARTENING. (i wanted to see it, but the reactions are too much)

  43. Marissa says:

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this matter. I loved the animated series and had such high hopes for the movie. I will probably not see this movie at all preferring to keep pristine the image I have of the characters and the story.

  44. Dozier says:

    Possibly because “Hollywood” is based in California, US. And The US was established primarily by white European settlers. You find the same kind of selections in Latin, Asian, etc. countries.

    • Mike says:

      Is this a joke? Los Angeles – where Hollywood is based – is 50% Latino, 10% Asian, and 9% African American. How’s that reflected in the media?

      Also, since when does America take its cues on social progress from Latin, Asian, etc. countries? And even if it did… foreigners make up 20-30% of the actors seen on Chinese television.

      There’s are valuable things that can be said in dissent of Dante’s piece, but this kneejerk reaction of “American = white” is not one of them.

  45. Grrravy says:

    Thanks for this, Dante. Being Filipino, I’ve always respected you and your career. This piece takes my respect for you to another level. You spoke the truth here and I am now reconsidering my support for ‘The Last Airbender’. I think I’m going to follow your lead and choose not to see it on opening weekend. Again, thank you.

  46. Tin says:

    Thank you so much for speaking out, Mr. Dante. My heart broke as I read this but it also helped strengthen my resolve to not see this movie. Much love to you.

  47. Lurial says:

    Thank you for speaking up about this. As an Asian American, it means so much to hear someone who worked on Avatar: The Last Airbender say something like this.

    Also – how could they NOT cast you as Zuko!? It would have been so perfect. 😦

  48. KT says:

    M Night Shyamalan did not cast the best actors for the jobs. By now everyone already knows how much the acting in The Last Airbender movie SUCKS (like most everything else in the movie.) All his “best actors for the jobs” talk is just BS.

    HOWEVER, we should be thankful that Shyamalan decided not to cast Asian to play Asian characters. This movie would have been a career killer for many Asian actors. Asians have really dodged the bullet on this one. Now it kills his.

    • JP says:

      While I also believe and hope that this movie will kill Shyashya’s career, I don’t think that it would’ve necessarily killed the careers of actors just by association. No matter how bad a movie is, good actors can still be credited as good actors. I haven’t seen the movie so I can’t really say much about this, but I hear that Dev Patel did a pretty good job. And if any other decent actors were in the movie, they would’ve been recognized as well.

      Besides. The problem is exposure here, isn’t it? Potential great Asian child actors, instead of having been featured in a big-budget and highly anticipated yet disappointing summer movie flop, will go UNNOTICED, and struggle for a career in Hollywood. But had they been casted, at least the viewers and other movie makers will be aware of their existence and know of these potential actors to call upon should they see an chance to do so. This is all about opportunities that were lost.

      Anyway to Dante: Thank you for this article. It would’ve been amazing to see you play Zuko. I am a big fan of yours! (have been since I watched Fakin’ da Funk like a decade ago lol… recently I wrote about that movie in a paper about linguistic interactions between Asian Americans and African Americans, lol random.)

  49. Voughn says:

    Thank you so much Dante.

    For me, your words very objective look at what happens in Hollywood, and I’m glad you had the courage to say what many actors out there, are too afraid to admit to.

  50. P says:

    You need to play Zuko if someone makes another movie!

  51. Ellie says:

    A great post. I really wish you had been Prince Zuko in the live-action adaption.

  52. Johanna says:

    I’m horrified this movie even happened, thank you so much for posting your point of view<3

  53. Don says:

    Thank you for the insider perspective on the limited opportunities that lay before any Asian actor.

    Shamalyan took great source material, ate it, and vomitted out an abomination.

    Wasted opportunity. Wasted potential of the source.

  54. ManekiNeko says:

    It’s a garbage film, Dante. It’s earned an 8% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and will be quickly forgotten by Americans, while the REAL Avatar will remain a watershed moment in animation for many years to come. It’s really better that you weren’t involved with this… you mention in your post that Hollywood can make careers, but it can also BREAK them with terrible movies, and this is one of the worst.

    I think the best way for Asians to have an impact in Hollywood is to infiltrate its power structure, rather than working from the ground up. However, a lot of the big studios from Japan, China, and Hong Kong (Fuji, Toho, Golden Harvest, etc.) tend to stay on their own turf rather than pushing for influence in the American market. Sony owns a handful of major studios but aside from the occasional Sony Classics release it doesn’t seem particularly interested in acclimating Americans to Asian cinema or Asian actors.

    What boggles my mind is the notion that an all-white cast (with Indians as the villains… smooth move, M. Night) would actually make this more palatable to an American audience. Seriously? The cartoon was all about martial arts and mysticism. There’s ALWAYS been an audience for that, and an Asian cast has hardly been a deterrent. If anything, it’s been a mark of authenticity.

  55. LadyGaGo says:

    Well said! I hope everyone in Hollywood reads this, especially M. Night .. Also, you did well for Spielberg. It upsets me that your talent has been overlooked for too freaking long. :\ Hay nakow.

  56. […] Dante Basco, the voice actor of Zuko (played by Dev Patel in M. Night Shyamalan’s film adaptation) in Nickelodeon’s “Avatar: The Last Airbender” television series, has spoken out about his decision to boycott the film on his blog. […]

  57. db says:

    What an awful film! You’re so hindsight fortunate.

  58. Marissa Lee says:

    Don’t know if you were able to drive/motorcycle/bike by or not, but today in Hollywood in front of the Arclight over a hundred people came out in support of fair casting and for actors of color like you.

  59. Alicia says:

    Thank you. You are an inspiration to all of us.

  60. Arlene C. Harris says:

    Well said, sir. I am glad you spoke up and spoke out; it is heartening to know that the cast and crew of the series are coming forward now. As for your career you are immensely talented and I am sure you’ll go on to even bigger things. And also maybe “Legend of Korra” 😉 pleaseohplease

    Your three seasons as the voice of Zuko will live on in the hearts of the audience long after this movie ends up as the answer to that one question you hate to get in Trivial Pursuit, the card you keep trying to lose but somehow keeps showing back up in the deck.

  61. inknose says:

    What an eloquent and well written opinion 🙂 thank you for speaking your mind on this issue! I couldn’t agree more. It’s already bad enough when Hollywood casts white actors in ethnic roles just because they want to have the draw of a big celebrity (ie, Jake Gyllenhaal in Prince of Persia,) but at least it’s easy to see the financial rationale behind those sorts of decisions, unfortunate as they may be. But in a case like this… when white unknown actors are chosen over asian actors to play clearly asian roles… it’s just racism, no matter which way you look at it. (And it’s silly that people try to deny that the characters *are* supposed to be Asian, when all of the supporting/background characters were cast as such…)

    (Honestly, I don’t care how old you are or what you look like – your voice is the essence of Zuko! If I were in charge I’d have cast you 😛 but it looks like you lucked out in NOT getting cast, lol.)

  62. MRCAB says:

    Thanks Dante! It’s great to hear what you have to say about this.

  63. Damien says:

    Like everyone else has stated: thank you, Dante, for giving your perspective on this issue. As a fan (who happens to be African-American), it is nice to see how people who were a part of the original animated series truly feel about the casting/race issue of the movie, especially Asian Americans. If Mako were still alive, I’d have loved to hear his take on this, considering he’d been in the entertainment industry for quite a while and probably had his fair share of opinions regarding Hollywood and roles for Asian actors.

    It would have been nice if you were at least considered for the role of Zuko in the movie. Personally, I would have preferred an animated movie of Avatar: The Last Airbender be made (which, of course, you’d have to do the voice of Zuko) than this lame attempt at a live-action movie. Certain things just don’t translate well to live-action and I think Paramount/Nickelodeon Movies could have produced a blockbuster film if they didn’t try to change its format. I’m not going to boycott the movie though, just wait for it to premier on cable.

    Anyway, keep up the good work.

  64. nemogbr says:

    Thank you for your words.
    It might help tip the balance with the other fans who are even now defending the last racebender, as if any adaptation should be supported, so long as it has airbender in the title.

  65. KathTeaChin says:

    I loved you in Hook. As Jake Long. As the extremely epic Zuko. Should they remake this movie properly on time one day, it would be great to see you play Zuko.

  66. Cbeasley says:

    So okay, this movie has really saddened me which is funny because I saw it coming just like the dragon ball movie. When they cast M. Night as the director I knew this movie was going to be an epic fail. Sadly its another example of how Hollywood, just doesn’t care about anything. The source material, the cast, story, anything. It makes me wonder why we had these strikes in the industry when this is the outcome. I agree, here was a chance for lesser ethnicities to have a shot at the big time. I hate pulling the race card on this because its not the only issue with this film. Being black I see it all the time, type casting. It sucks but hollywood has been doing it for years. When this will no longer be a problem I don’t know but I will patiently wait for the day. Or as patiently as I can while my brain cells slowing fry because of the half formed Bull Hollywood likes to call block buster. But yeah, the main problems I have with this film is that they didn’t even try.

    How hard is it to write a story that already exists. Its not. I mean if any one on the staff was confused they could just go to your local walmart and buy the whole god damned series, or if they are cheap bastard like this movie suggests. They could just stream it online, whatever. I mean the show is done and complete, beginning to end. Really. The only blessing is, I am glad that none of you guys were on the show have anything to do with this atrocity. I really enjoyed watching the show. I have a thing about voice acting in general and it was because I heard your voice on the show that I actually got into. Even though zuko is not my favorite character. Toph for the win. But yea.

    It seems like everything I enjoy is getting ass-raped by hollywood, with no end in site. The prince of Persia was a huge disappointment and that stems from the fact that they tried to hard to make another Pirates of the Caribbean out of it. Which is just No. No more please. There was stuff going on in that film that could have just been left out. It was too long, really I don’t even know why or how but it just keep going. Lastly the slow motion on every freaking thing the Prince did was just irritating. His name repeating every five freaking seconds. God we get it. Its not original to give the prince a name when he originally doesn’t have one for the sake of narrative purposes.

    My overall complaint about these films, is that instead of employing the ideas, themes and characters that made these shows successful; and then reworking a story out of THAT which appeals to both fans of the genre originally plus bringing in new ones. They just pick out the first sentence on wikipedia, slap a little disney style show pilot on it and, stretch it out for two god awful hours, and then charge you 10 freaking bucks to see it. With the audacity to be offended if fans protest or their reviews are low.

    Thanks for your peace on this. I appreciate your opinions on this, its not often that I have been able to come across how the original cast feels about these kinds of Hollywood take overs. I was happy to find out that Goku was not Impressed. hah.

  67. herupriadi says:

    thanks ur tutorial 🙂

  68. Sally says:

    This was a brilliant post! I’m a fan of your past work and it would’ve been great to see you as Zuko. :[

    >>I just don’t think it is at all viable for white actors to play ethnic roles… at least until they let us play white roles.

    An incredibly concise summary of this issue!

  69. Kevin says:

    Excellent read. I think you hit the nail right on the head, and hopefully Hollywood takes notice.

  70. Gabe says:

    This film is such a wasted opportunity. I would have liked to see you in this but honestly you were spared. I bought tickets to Karate kid and went to see it. At least it had Chinese actors and good martial arts.

  71. Lyly says:

    You forgot that Jackie Chan is a huge star! (well for me at least, he acted in a lot of movies that are known world wide and everybody loves him) But I agree it sucks that “white” actors were taken for asian roles. I will watch it though, I love Dev Patel and I love the animated series so…

    • AAm says:

      What a lot of people forget is that Jackie Chan is an amazing actor, but from Hong Kong. That being said, the argument here is that Jackie Chan is Asian and is not a representation of [b]Asian Americans[/b]. For all the Asian American children growing up, who couldn’t relate to a man whose accent when replicated warranted teasing from childhood bullies, I also want to ask why Jackie Chan is the only example people can come up with when debating this issue regarding the casting for Airbender? Seriously, if the only example opponents of this issue can come up with is Jackie Chan (Hey look, you guys have Jackie Chan, stop complaining), there is definitely a problem.

    • Kim says:

      If you are a fan of the show, then for the love of god do not see this film!!! Watch that video, see all of the excited fans dressed up as their favorite characters, and then see their reactions afterward.

      You will think twice, trust me.

  72. lealy says:

    thanks. i respect this post.
    but disappointed with the movie, not just cause of all this boycott-stuff. been reading some reviews of it in twitter, and its not good. and the director aint really that genius. been looking forward for this movie since last year, but it burned me to pieces JUST by reading reviews such as this.

    unlike the animation which is truly hard-core.

  73. Josette says:

    I am so happy you wrote this article, and I hope that it reaches the right places in Hollywood.

    I was extremely disappointed in the casting choices. How great would it have been to see a fellow Asian face on the big screen, playing the role of an Asian character whom I adored?! But Hollywood dropped the ball.

    I hope Hollywood will grow to understand that a white person who looks Asian does not equal an actual Asian person.

    Avatar: The Last Airbender was popular because of the obvious Asian influences and mystical storyline. How could they not want to try to stay as true to the series as possible?

    I’m sure in a few years M. Night will release a statement saying he regrets his casting decisions for the movie just as the director of Breakfast at Tiffany’s regretted casting (white) Mickey Rooney as the main character’s Japanese neighbor.

    At any rate, I’m boycotting the movie. If the movie has no room for Asians, then the movie theater has no room for my Asian butt–ahem.

  74. Nick Fury says:

    Yeah, thank GOD they got the race right for Nick Fury in both Iron Man movies, in the upcoming Thor, and in the upcoming Avengers movie. Oh wait…. Nick Fury was originally *white*. There was a case of one of my fellow black men being cast in a role playing a character that has always been a white man.

    Believe it or not, this type of thing does happen, and it’s not as bad as it was in past years.

    I think it’s a crime to boycott this specific director, since he DOES tend to cast with more racial diversity than 99% of all the other big Hollywood types.

    Not to mention that if you actually read his statement, it seems like he genuinely did try to include a good amount of racial diversity in the film.

    If you’re looking for racist monsters in Hollywood, trust me, you can find them aplenty, but this is rather the wrong place to be looking.

    • Lurial says:

      Nick Fury :
      Yeah, thank GOD they got the race right for Nick Fury in both Iron Man movies, in the upcoming Thor, and in the upcoming Avengers movie. Oh wait…. Nick Fury was originally *white*. There was a case of one of my fellow black men being cast in a role playing a character that has always been a white man.

      Yeah, too bad you’re completely wrong:

      Marvel completely changed Nick Fury in 2001. In Ultimate Marvel Universe, General Nick Fury is African American, with his look and personality tailored after actor Samuel L. Jackson. This was done with the actor’s explicit permission.

      Thus, the folks making the Iron Man movie had to choose between the OLD Nick Fury from the past who was white – and the NEW Nick Fury who was black and based off of Samuel L. Jackson. Naturally, they went with the newer one because who better to play the part of a comic book character that looks like Samuel L. Jackson then the actor himself?

      Besides, I’ve seen the movie and M. Night’s idea of ‘diversity’ is complete crock. You have three main leads who are white while the ‘diversity’ is all in the background extras and the villains. The ‘African’ village M. Night ranted about so much in his interview pops up for about 5 seconds. The extras playing the Southern Water Tribe are so painfully, obviously Inuit that they make Sokka, Katara, and Gran-gran stand out like sore thumbs. The Earthbending village that can’t seem to find the will to fight for themselves, even though they’re in an internment camp COMPLETELY surrounded by earth (and not a metal ship out at sea like in the show) until our three heroes come along and remind them “Hey guys, you’re surrounded by earth.” – they’re all Asian. Seems like M. Night only likes his diversity when its in the form of set-pieces.

  75. manlalayag says:

    nice to see main voice characters express their honest opinion…
    i really love this series but then hollywood had to ruin it for me…

  76. Jéssica says:

    Thank you! I really like it!
    I think I would be a great Katara, I’m brazilian and kinda native american, but i dont have blue eyes. Contact lenses are okay 🙂

  77. I am a Filipino-American Actor and all I can say is I’m proud to see one of my peers stand-up with class dignity and intelligence. My only hope is one day to be able to work with you.

  78. Mirei says:

    Thank you, Dante. This was fantastic. I hope Mike and Bryan get to read this, as well as Shyamalan. I just want to congratulate you for posting this, as well as for your work as Zuko on Avatar.

  79. ERIC says:

    DANTE BASCO! RUFIO IN THE HOUSE!!!!! you should’ve definitely played prince zuko. it just makes sense! it’s okay though, m night has failed miserably again. the film is at 9% on rottentomatoes. i mean… how many times does this guy need to fail… LADY IN THE WATER WAS HORRIBLE. THE VILLAGE WAS HORRIBLE. THE HAPPENING WAS HORRIBLE.

  80. […] Cheung: from dante basco. The Last Airbender: To Boycott or Not? « My take on life… Today is the opening of the film “The Last Airbender”, a show based on […]

  81. Dale Kamp says:

    This and the FacePainting article on yellowface echo my thoughts exactly. I’m white/Chinese/Filipino myself, but growing up being the butt of asian jokes and some racism got me relating to the racial minority strife that many non-minorities don’t understand.

    Dante I still remember you as a kid in Hook, and I too agree that you would have made a perfect Prince Zuko. I’m friends with one of your relatives here in Vegas who described to me a bit of what it was like getting into Hollywood for you.

    I wish you the best in your career and thank you for speaking out.

    I will send a link to this post on my blog perhaps in the near future.


  82. Casper says:

    The problem is that Asian men are dorky and nobody cares about their stories. My advice would be to stop being dorky. However, your women are hot (which I know first hand).

  83. Alex Weitzman says:

    Very well said, Mr. Basco.

    Given that, however, this film may be something of a dodged bullet for Asian-American actors in Hollywood. Since the film is so widely derided at this point for its incomprehensible storytelling, uninvolving action, and the amateurish last-minute 3D conversion, it seems like it’s on track to be an unmitigated disaster. And if the filmmakers had indeed been faithful to the ethnicities of the main characters in the casting, it’s possible Hollywood would have used them as a scapegoat for the film’s failure: “Asians can’t open movies.”

    It seems like Asian actors are lucky to not be involved in this turkey.

  84. […] Basco, who voiced Prince Zuko in the cartoon, has decided to throw his opinion out there as well.  On his blog, he says that while he would have loved to play Zuko on the big […]

  85. b0san says:

    Very nice and very interesting, i hope this inspiration for me..

  86. just ira says:

    Dante, thank you so much for posting this.

    I was beyond disappointed in the casting choices; the blatant racism surrounding everything about this movie — from the casting on down to the way the original series’ honest efforts to honour and borrow from Asian and indigenous cultures was turned into cheap, unresearched fetishism — was infuriating.

    Unfortunately (leaving aside the many reviews already up on the internet, and focusing on the race and adaptation issues, not movie quality), I don’t think any adaptation of the series that so deeply and blatantly disrespects the show’s obvious and well-researched influences and homages can be a good or faithful adaptation. It might make a good story, but any Avatar/Airbender story that leaves that out is dismissing a tremendous part of the original’s spirit and appeal — and disrespects the cultures and people represented, referenced, and alluded to in the show. The white-washing, tokenism, and “whatever, all people of colour are interchangeable” attitude was a slap in the face to many fans who had been so thrilled to see themselves represented in a TV series.

    Anyway. I know none of this is particularly unusual for Hollywood (nor news to you), from the systemic promotion of white actors and creators above others (see: Airbender casting calls for “Caucasian or any other ethnicity”) to the blithe ignorance about other cultures when they are requested or required (see: Airbenders extras casting, asking people to wear traditional ethnic garment — “if you’re Korean, wear a kimono”; particularly hilarious as the series even featured people wearing hanbok, and by “hilarious” I mean “tragic and infuriating”). What’s so frustrating about this case is what a tremendous missed opportunity it is, as you say — especially when so much of the research and work was already done by the series creators. It would not have been so hard to be respectful. It would have been a coup of social responsibility to use the opportunity presented by Airbender to increase visibility and opportunities for Asian and indigenous actors.

    “What a shame” does not begin to cover it.

    Anyway. Sorry for the ramble. Dante, thank you so much for voicing your thoughts; your perspective on this as an actor, as a member of the Hollywood community, and as someone so deeply (and wonderfully) involved with the original show is so valuable and so important for others to hear.

    And thank you as well for the incredible good times and entertainment you have provided. I enjoyed you immensely in Hook, But I’m a Cheerleader, and Take the Lead (and I’m sure I’d enjoy your other work if I’d seen it, but I love what I’ve seen!), and I have no words for the amount of personality and sympathy and talent you brought to Zuko’s character. My experience of Avatar: The Last Airbender was vastly enriched by your work on it, as well as the hard work of all the other voice actors, animators, writers, directors, and everyone involved in the show. Thank you all for bringing such an amazing show into the world. I wish you the best of luck in your future career and look forward to seeing any future works from you.

    You would have made a fabulous Zuko in the live-action movie =)

    (I also recently learned you did some voices in Final Fantasy XIII? I wonder if you are a fan, or if that was just work? Either way, thanks for your contribution to a franchise I much enjoy — if only it was a little more diverse!)

  87. They have messed up on a lot of the move & did not get the people right in the movie I’m very disappointed in the people that they have showed and how much they have missed out like on the kyoshi warriors they don’t even put in when they meet them so it just messes up everything and the lady playing it is way to old Because when she falls in love with Saka and the chilled is very young to and Katara is way to young it makes me very mad. . .

  88. AJ says:

    Go Dante!! =D

    It really breaks my heart how badly the actors/actresses was cast for the live action movie.

    But reading your opinion really inspires me to study hard in college and hopefully when I am out I can make my own cartoon series and hopefully I can have you play the voice of one of the character.

  89. Louis Perez says:

    Greetings from Florida. BTW you were great in Take the Lead. You did well. I wish you were in more films. I think you would’ve done well in this film. Having said that, I was thinking recently, when I saw The Wolfman, Benicio Del Toro is Puerto Rican playing a half british half gypsy. Thats about the only role Ive ever seen a latin play a guy whose supposed to be white or mostly white. I assumed in the beginning, that Aang was chinese until I read up and saw the ethnicity of the characters is never made clear. However, me being a huge fan of collecting kung fu films old school and new, I would’ve liked to see an Asian play the main role. On the upside, the kid does know Taekwando even though that is a Korean martial art. A casual moviegoer probably wouldnt care about that. The antagonist in the new Karate Kid (2010) may have done well in this movie, at least he knows wushu which is a Chinese martial art. The bottom line is, its fantasy and even though the themes are Asian, it is what it is. Well, I hope the movie is entertaining.

  90. Ashley says:

    I’m 20. My little sister (9) and I watched this show religiously. I heard the movie was to be made, and we were so sure you would be in this movie. I was very sad to learn you weren’t, even sadder to learn who would be, and I will not go to see this movie. Not on opening weekend, not on, not ever.

    I dig everything you said, as sad as it is.

    You will always be Zuko to me and my family. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  91. Jun says:

    I totally agree Eric. You should of played Zuko Dante!!!!!!!!! Not only do you own dancing, voiceacting and amazing good looks. Your acting is freaking perfect. I loved you in Take the Lead. I only rewatch it to relate my favourite character, Zuko, to Ramos in Take the Lead.

    Thanks for posting this. I’ll send this out to the folks @
    Maybe you can like, kick Dev Patel out of the role or something…you know, with Firebending and all. 0.o Agni, I love you! (please stalk me – jokes)

    – Jun :0 =D

  92. […] The Last Airbender: To Boycott or Not? Today is the opening of the film “The Last Airbender”, a show based on Avatar, the animated series that I […] […]

  93. Rebeca Maria says:

    I agree wholeheartedly with you, Dante. I am a Spanish teenager who has this rather crazy ambition of succeeding in this little strange world that is the television and cinema industry. The only works they would offer me are those of the typical Spanish stereotypes: Exotic, flamenco dancer and with an accent that bizarrely enough sounds more like someone from Mexico rather than from Spain or any of its 17 states. It saddens me to observe this and even though they are tempting offers, I always ask my agency to reject them as I am honestly tired and sick of them. You know how tiring it is to observe how you can’t develop your talent playing the same four roles that are destined to those who came from a social and cultural background as me.

    Concerning the “Last Airbender”, here’s my honest review:

    Since the movie was announced back in 2007, I had always been skeptic towards it. When M. Night was announced as the director and writer, the skepticism continued. It was great that he was a fan boy and I felt that he could give the rest of us fans what we were looking for, but M. Night? Seriously, he had never really done a movie like this before (and not to mention his other movies aren’t the greatest to begin with.) Then the cast was announced and the set photos began to emerge. It all became clear that he was taking the story in a very different and dark atmosphere. Lost was the fun, light hearted nature of the series. Gone were the goofiness of Sokka, the incurable prankster persona of Aang, the jovial wisdom of Iroh, the confused soul of Zuko. Everything had become one-dimensional and very serious. I didn’t like the direction M Night had taken this. But when the first teaser came out, and I bought into it. This could work, I thought. He is trying to appeal to a wider audience and if that means forgetting the roots of this children’s cartoon and transforming it into an all out epic trilogy about warfare in a fantasy world with magic, so be it. This is no longer my beloved Avatar, but it could still be visually striking and entertaining. With each successive trailer, I gradually lost all expectations and prepared myself for a heartless reproduction of a timeless masterpiece. But it looked DAMN good, that’s what kept my hope alive. The bending looked spot on, the fights were nicely choreographed, the battles felt grand, and the first time I saw Appa, I was speechless. I honestly felt I could endure this movie just for the visuals. I was wrong.

    Fastforward to midnight June 30th, the months of anticipation came to a close. I have worked my socks off in a somewhat accurate Fire Nation army uniform and I had to wait in the line for 6 hours in order of entering the theater (I have to admit it was fun as I met really nice people; A few Aang’s, two Zuko’s, three Iroh’s, lot’s of Katara’s and Sokka’s, a Mai, two guys dressed as Zhao, three Azula’s, Toph’s and even an Ozai cosplayer!). Even though I had checked the low Rotten Tomatoes rating for the movie, I decided to give it a try as sometimes I tend to disagree greatly with critics when concerning movies.

    Not even ten minutes in, I handed down my verdict: this movie is absolute garbage. First impression was the outdated photography, did they hire the guy that made the Conan movies in the 80s? The movie looked like a high school project that abused an overblown budget. Costumes were second rate, set pieces are generic, locales are bland, and computer graphics are no were near current standards to name a few faults. It seemed that the actors were delivering the sentences as monotonous descriptions of what was happening currently on the screen, as I couldn’t feel nothing natural on them. And that subsequently ended leading this movie to another fault: there was no structure in the story. I bit my lip and drank from my flask, just wait for the action, that will be the savior of this movie, I tried to convince myself. Needless to say, when I saw a rock slowly float across the screen masquerading as a sorry excuse for earthbending, I immediately got up out of my seat and left. I had never walked out of any movie before (not even The Golden Compass) but I could no longer stomach this “movie”.

  94. Lena says:

    Thank you so much for voicing your opinion on this. This is incredibly brave of you to come out and say, and I think you’ve done a great job with it ♥

  95. Gan Xingba says:

    Not only do I agree with you wholeheartedly, Dante, but you’ve got guts for coming out and saying this. Some people might point out that the film turned out to be a bust, but when you wrote this you probably had no idea. I can’t pretend to know anything about the inner workings of Hollywood, but I’d bet that posting your opinion on this was a roll of the dice on some level, so you’ve got my respect for stating your honest opinion publicly like this. Even if you are a Lakers fan.

    Keep staying true to yourself, man.

  96. Jim says:


    Casting you in the role of Zuko would have been too inspiring, and heaven knows this summer season of movies has been anything but. You gave Zuko character, humor and heart. I was very impressed. I think you also could have steered M. Night in a lighter, easier direction. The movie managed to be both oppressive and boring–like waiting at the DMV for two hours. In that sense, I’m glad you weren’t in the movie. I hope to see you more on the big screen in the future!

  97. ravenguerrero says:

    I would boycott it just for the sheer suckiness of it. I’m sorry I watched it. It was horrible. I saw “Clash of the Titans” about a month ago and decided I’ve seen the worst movie of my life. But little did I know that this monstrosity would top it so soon.

    I will absolutely NOT make the same mistake of watching the next parts they’re undoubtedly cooking up.

  98. Dominque says:

    I appreciate your thoughts so much on the project. Personally, I refuse to see the movie, but I would love to see an animated film of the series with you and the rest of the REAL cast. Alternatively, I’ll wait twenty years for the remake, and hopefully they’ll learn their lesson by then and cast Asian actors for Asian characters.

  99. Peach says:

    Thank you for representing me, and people like me, Dante. Now and always.

  100. fractyl2 says:

    I watched the movie and enjoyed it, the plot condensed but still done well as I’ve seen the series you starred in Dante. In my opinion, while Dev was older sounding and the scar barely visible, his movie version of Zuko equals your own to an extent. If the “Book of Earth” and “Book of Fire” are filmed, so I can see more of Summer Bishil as Azula, I hope you and the animation cast would make cameos in them.

  101. maribel (water bender) says:

    You should all explore the core meaning of this brilliant story…..
    Its about acceptance and the balance of all things spiritual and physical.
    There is no race in this story…….If you all noticed Japanese, chinese or as you all say Asian animation the characters never have slanted eyes why don’t we all protest that. You should all close your eyes and open your hearts and souls to this innocent non judgmental story weather the movie be played by whom ever, we are all deep down one peoples. The man wants you to boycott this movie for all the goodness it stands for,,,they wanna get rid of all the ether and close all your shakras, so you can be herded like sheep.

    I hope something enlightens you like this did me. I am a Mexican water bender in love with a chinese american jeti.

    Peace to you all never stop voicing your opinions.

    • Jovita Alaniz says:

      Mira, Maribel…Yo soy una Mexicana nacida en Estados unidos entonces mi espanol no es tan perfecto para descutir esto contigo…Quiza no estoy entendiendo tu ingles muy bien. Me puedes explicar que es lo que estas tratando de decir? Are you aying because the cartoons did not have slanted eyes, we should protest that, because it is not TRUE Asian characters?

      PLEASE please please read this…

      You may be surprised to find out that those markers (slanted eyes) can be considered very offensive to some Asian people. Please do not think they are acceptable.

    • Alice says:

      “If you all noticed Japanese, chinese or as you all say Asian animation the characters never have slanted eyes why don’t we all protest that.”

      As a Chinese-American, I find this extremely offensive. We don’t have cookie cutter slanted eyes. Maybe it’s because you’ve never had a group of kids make fun of you in elementary school by drawing the corners of their eyes up with their fingers and shouting “ching chong chang!”, but you should know that squinty-eyed, buck-toothed Asian caricature that you’re referring to is not acceptable.

  102. Peizhi says:

    I disagree with much of this. Personally I’m chinese, but I see no discrimination towards asians in the movie. For one thing not a single character in the TV show looks generally asian. Yes, anime lied to you, dark hair doesn’t make an asian. Aang and Zuko (and everyone else in the air and fire nations) are very pale. Katara and Sokka look like they spent a few days in the sun, which confuses me considering there from the South Pole and thus should be very pale. The main reason for the acting choice of Aang was (I believe) his martial arts experience and truthfully he looks like Aang, skin color and everything else. The actors for Katara and Sokka are pale, a correction in my opinion. No one living in that cold climate would have skin as dark as in the show, realistically they’d be pale as a ghost. Honestly I liked the movie and I am a very big (and open minded) fan of the TV show. I felt the darkier feel of the movie made more sense after all they are in a war, something that should not be taken lightly, though it left Sokka with little personality besides being a protective older brother. The name changes sounded better, more correct and were easier to pronounce for an asian like me. The effects and CGI were great, not fantastic but still very good. I found the costumes beautiful and close to the original. It did a good job fitting 20 something episodes with few unimportant moments into 90 minutes. I look foward to the sequals.

    • BW says:

      “…not a single character in the TV show looks generally Asian”, but they don’t look White, either. It’s an anime style, and you use context. Dark hair doesn’t imply Asianness, but it doesn’t imply Whiteness, either.

      Avatar was established by the creators as set in a fantastical Asian world.

      True, no one outright said that the characters in the show were Asian, but you see Chinese calligraphy, martial arts (the bending forms), Asian/Inuit clothing, Asian architecture, Asian names, and a thousand other influences from the Pacific Rim that the creators painstakingly put into the show. No one said that Avatar was an Asian world, just like no one ever said that Lord of the Rings was European-based fantasy. But if it walks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck…

      “No one living in that cold climate would have skin as dark as in the show”, except real-world Inuits, which the Water Tribe was based on.

      Please accept that the show is firmly Asian, and the cast of Avatar is, canonically, Asian in turn. If you have further inquiry, I would like to direct you to the Racebending primer and FAQ.

    • Jovita Alaniz says:

      Why are you even replying here? The man is talking about a missed opportunity for Asian American kids dreaming of becoming hollywood stars. And you’re going on and on about how great this movie is and how none of the characters are really asian or inuit??

      Seriously? Words from the creators of this series don’t mean anything to you? And what do you mean the characters don’t look Asian? Were you expecting slanty/squinty eyes and bad Chinese/Japanese/Korean accents in order for them to be seriously considered Asian?
      You might want to read this then…
      and watch this if you think ANIME is ambiguous or Caucasian-looking.

      Please have some respect for the owner of this blog at the least and don’t disregard all that he has said to use his blog as your Movie Review space.

    • Alice says:

      What would make them look Asian then? Squinty eyes? Yellow skin? I’m glad that the creators chose to not give the characters exaggerated, stereotypical features, because I personally would’ve found that offensive. What made the characters so obviously Asian to many fans was not their physical appearance, but the entire setting of the show. There were Asian backdrops, Asian clothing, Asian fighting styles, Asian writing, Asian mythology, etc. etc. It doesn’t make any sense that the characters would be white.

      “Aang and Zuko (and everyone else in the air and fire nations) are very pale.”
      Just because Aang and Zuko have light skin doesn’t mean they’re not Asian. Lots of Asians–LOTS–have pale skin. In fact I would say most Chinese, Korean, and Japanese people have light skin.

      “The actors for Katara and Sokka are pale, a correction in my opinion.”
      Have you never heard of Inuit people, who are ACTUALLY dark skinned and live in the north? And if they were a correction, then why is everyone else in their tribe dark skinned?

      I agree with Jovita Alanez, please don’t disregard what Dante has said in his own blog by asserting that the characters weren’t even Asian to begin with.

    • Emily says:

      The Water Tribe was Inuit/Eskimo. Just do a quick Google Image search, darling. Most of them are very dark indeed.

      The problem is not that the actors were of the wrong SKIN COLOR, it was that they were of the wrong ETHNICITY.

      The original cartoon was not entirely cohesive in its representation of Asians, this is true – the names were pronounced with American accents, rather than with Japanese ones like they switched it to in the movie. Also, Aang was very pale when he was – according to the producers – meant to be Tibetan, and Tibetans are generally quite dark.

      That is not the point.

      The point is that the original cartoon had leads who were not Caucasian, and yet THE ACTORS IN THE MOVIE WERE ALL CAUCASIAN.

  103. Katharina says:

    Thank you for your thoughtful words on this matter.

    The Avatar TV series will always be among my favourites! When I first heard the movie being announced I hoped you’d play the role of Zuko but considering everything that has happened to the movie since then, I am now happy that you aren’t part of that.

    Much love,


  104. Pere says:

    If they ever do a decent remake of Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, I’m going to start a petition that they cast you in the role of Rico. In the book he was Filipino…

    My only tiny consolation is that an overwhelming majority of these whitewashed movies are awful and do badly at the box office. It’s an indication that if the studio people make stupid, lazy choices with casting, they make them everywhere. Which is funny, considering their reason for not having protagonists of colour is that it would kill their ratings.

    Well, we fight on I suppose. Thanks Dante.

  105. groonk says:

    I’ve given up on Hollywood ever casting an epic tales like Avatar correctly. There are less and less movies coming out of there that interest me. And I want to *make* movies. I just don’t want to make the majority of flicks they’re selling these days.

    I will see what Shyamalan was wrought to the Avatar-verse one day. It helps to know a thing so that you can fully assess what went wrong or right. I’d like to see if he got Zuko and Iroh right. They’ve grown to be my favorite characters of the entire series.

    I do have a hope that the Avatar animated series will get another season on Nickelodeon. That is, if the creators and main voice cast returns.

  106. Janice says:

    very well said cousin

  107. Nadia says:

    I agree with this 100%!! I unfortunately went to see the movie yesterday and walked out feeling thoroughly disappointed. I am a huge Fan of “Avatar: The Lastairbender” and yesterday I realized Shymalan has taken one of my favorite shows and turned it into the WORST MOVIE I HAVE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE!! It was literally torture to watch this movie and it truly saddened me.
    I was really hoping to see you, Donte, in this film, it would have been amazing!!! to recognize the voice and to see you in person would have been great but to tell you the truth it’s probably a good thing you weren’t because it was AWFUL. This movie appears as though it was created by an armature or a first grader, which is about the same thing. And the casting that he did was a huge slap in the face because the actors where in no way good, everything about it was awkward and stiff and left me very detached. maybe that shows us the kind of respect Shylaman had for this story…he didn’t do it justice and I feel if it would have been put into another person’s hands it would have gotten the justice it deserved. I just hope the Asian community can receive the justice the deserve in the future and all ethnic races that are treated poorly by ignorant Hollywood!

  108. Smatt584 says:

    The way I see colorblind casting is that if the source material that you are adapting from is already perfect the way it is (as it was with the animated series), why change it at all? Keep it as similar to the already successful source material as you possibly can and you have a recipe for continued success. Would have loved for you to be in the movie as I really can’t see Dev improving on your performance from the show. Hollywood seems to abuse the colorblindness of political correctness by whitewashing everything and saying that race doesn’t matter. But if race really didn’t matter, there wouldn’t be any reason not to cast as close to the source material as possible just for continuity with who the characters are. Regardless of what we tell each other, race is an important part of identity and if you change that you change who the character is. If it ain’t broke, don’t try to fix it. Although if what I’m hearing about the movie is any indication of the directors efforts, it sounds like they ‘done’ broke it. Too bad too, I had such great hopes for an adaptation of such a great series.

    • Nadia says:

      You are completely right and the thing is I learned that being colorblind can not work because then we would all be colorblind to others cultural diversity which would just create more controversy in the end for the lack of respect and ignorance. Another thing that is pretty fun is M Night’s decision to change the pronunciation of three of the characters names stating that the reason being because he wanted it to be more authentic to the Asian pronunciation yet the guy still chose to cast non Asian actors as the lead roles…sounds a little hypocritical to me

  109. Dalma says:

    Thank you for the awesome post Dante! Very well put.
    Like many people here, I’m not planning supporting this film, but I don’t think we’re missing out on much anyhow. So much for casting the best actors for the job…

    It would have been totally awesome if you had gotten to play Zuko (and of course, if the movie had been cast fairly.)

  110. MZ says:

    I am glad that you posted your thoughts on this topic. I really enjoyed you on the show and I believe you could have been great in this role. In fact you probably would have been the best part. You probably could have even helped Nicola, Jackson, and Noah out with taking their roles. I wish you the best in your upcoming roles and I have to say that we watch Hook around here quite often. Rufio and Zuku were both unforgettable characters. You are now apart of my blogroll. Good luck on your future projects and congrats on your engagement! Best Wishes.

  111. gar says:

    Dante, thanks for speaking up about this! I wish more actors and actresses had your courage.

    And of course, Hollywood totally missed out by not involving you with this project.

  112. aiyana says:

    i agree. this was a big missed oppurtunity for some Asian children to get lead roles an become stars. but what about the two Inuit children? they were both cast white too. they didn’t cast Asians or native americans when they should have.

  113. […] can read what he has to say here, but here are a few things that he said that struck me: Should Hollywood be able to cast […]

  114. Zombierabbit says:

    I get sick and tired of seeing Asian people cast as “the character who obviously knows martial arts and/or swordplay” and is used in that stereotypical way (especially when everyone else is using guns and they die early in the film). I love to study all sorts of Asian cultures and want to see something more than “martial arts” and “sword fighting” from those cultures in Hollywood. It is really depressing especially since the Avatar series is based on a lot of different aspects of Asian culture, and here would have been a great chance to have an epic fantasy of Asian influence come out of Hollywood, and it not only is miscast, but is a failed movie. Now, I’m a writer so maybe I should stop being disappointed and do something about it. You have inspired me to write! One more sentence, Dante, I love your voice acting skills with Zuko, and a movie with you as Zuko would have been worth it. Back to my post-Avatar movie depression.

  115. tuffkatara says:

    Yah I agree.. I felt the disheartening feeling upon reading this blog..
    Whites are just sooo UNFAIR.. maybe we can say they are too much voracious when it comes to roles..
    The should have chosen ASIAN NOT WHITES..
    Are whites the only set of people who can act that well?
    i dont think so..

  116. napalmnacey says:

    Beautifully said. I don’t know if I’ll see the movie, but I’m passionate about the cartoon series in a way I haven’t been since the French-Japanese anime series I watched as a kid (Mysterious Cities of Gold, Ulysses 31) and Astroboy. I will be buying the book and the three series cause it is just that good. You did an outstanding job as Zuko, you have a lot to be proud of.

    I had hoped that I could put the movie on my DVD shelf with the others, but sadly I can’t bring myself to support a movie with such hurtful casting.

    Congrats on the engagement, and I look forward to seeing/hearing more of your work in the future.

  117. Aragorn says:

    I hear the question “Does it really matter who was casted” a lot in defense of the movie.

    Why does this question even have to be asked?

    Let met put it this way. Would white people be okay if all the heroes in their precious Lord of the Rings movie were played by asian actors? Would they be okay if Harry Potter was played by an asian guy and he got to flirt with Hermione and all the other cute little wizard girls? Would white people be okay if Batman or Spiderman or Iron Man or Superman was played by an asian guy?

    Come on….there’d be riots, protests, endless criticisms from Rush Limbaugh and Fox News, etc. There’d probably even be an assassination since white people are so fond of doing that whenever there’s a social movement in the right direction for people of color.

  118. Kat says:

    I am quite happy you gave us your opinion on this.

    I didn’t boycott it; I wanted to give it a chance since I felt that the series was so powerful and wonderful. I almost wish I wouldn’t have wasted my money…

    I, myself, felt that the movie ended up being full of blown chances. First and foremost, I feel that the movie in no means did ANY justice to anyone who was part of the original series. You played Zuko with such heart, which I didn’t feel from 99% of the live action cast–I am not sure if it was poor writing, the cast not understanding the series, bad casting, bad directing, etc. Dev Patel is usually an awesome actor, but he just did not seem right as Zuko in any sense. Secondly, I felt that the Asian culture was either misused or completely whitewashed over for whatever M. Night felt like using–this includes failing to use Asian actors (I KNOW there had to be someone better out there than what was used). Thirdly, well, it pretty much stunk which was a hard pill to swallow after loving the series so much.

  119. kp says:

    Very classy response Dante. Have you heard anything from the series creators about how they feel about the issue? Also: “him casting his country man Dev Patel, doesn’t bother me” I think Dev Patel is actually British and M Night is American.

  120. Jovita Alaniz says:

    Thank you for sharing this with us.

    “I just don’t think it is at all viable for white actors to play ethnic roles… at least until they let us play white roles.”

    Exactly, I completely agree. I find it so sad that people don’t realize how bad and unfair this whole thing is. I can’t wait till they do Avatar right. I do truly believe they will get it right someday. It is too good a series to waste.

  121. Joseph says:

    That’s rough buddy.

  122. […] The Last Airbender: To Boycott or Not? « My take on life… with stats like this, its a little distressing that when actual roles for Asians come in a big budget film, they don’t get cast. Now I understand if you have to cast a big star like a Jake Gyllenhaal to warrant a budget in the hundreds of millions, but I think its different when you are casting unknown actors and children at that, with a franchise with an almost guaranteed. I think it’s a missed opportunity for the voice and the face of the Asian community, when will a project like this and of tis magnitude come along again? (tags: asian-americans failbender film race) […]

  123. […] On July 1st, actor Dante Basco wrote an article on his blog regarding the casting controversy surrounding The Last Airbender: The Last Airbender: To Boycott or Not? […]

  124. Alice says:

    Thank you for sharing your opinion. I completely agree with you, and I’m really glad to see the opinion of someone who’s worked on the original series.

  125. faak says:

    awesome for trailer

  126. Stephanie says:

    Dante, thank you for sharing this. As a Filipino-American myself, I really appreciate hearing your honesty on the issue, as well as your personal experiences. I have two younger cousins who watched the cartoon with me, and they really don’t know how lucky they are to grow up seeing more heroes who look like them. Hopefully we can have the same thing happen on movie screens in the near future.

    All in all, I’m really proud of you! (And I’m sure my cousins would be too. Can’t wait to tell them about this :D) This means a lot to us. We really need more people like you out there =)

  127. deward walid says:

    I liked Eclipse way better than New Moon.

  128. Anonymous2910 says:


  129. TTan says:

    I guess now that the movie’s out, we can rule the “they are better actors” argument out of the equation.

  130. Bronwyn says:

    I meet you at last years Armageddon in Auckland, and no matter who plays Plays Zuko in this movie, you will always be Zuko to me. I’m not planning on spending money to see the movie at the cinemas because I feel you should have played him and being honest, I was quite disappointed to learn you were not in it.
    You’re a brilliant actor and exceeded my expectations as a person. My friends told me all the actors I met there would be nasty people. Not everyone would be nice to a big girl with a child. You were though and I thank you Dante.
    Keep acting and being who you really are and you will always have loyal fans 🙂

  131. MD says:

    Well, you didn’t miss much. Pretty godawful movie. Terrible acting, CG, script, and just about everything else. Even the panning sucked.

    I really do hate how Asian actors nearly never star in films, usually only taking on goofy or insignificant roles. You would think the movie industry would have evolved with the times, but Hollywood wallows in its own old-fashion methods of some fairly obvious racist casting. I don’t believe there’s not a single drop of talent in the pool of Asian-American actors, yet look at the ratio of leading white actors to leading Asian actors; the latter is almost non-existent.

    Well, who takes Hollywood movies seriously, anyway? I had just begun to watch the Avatar TV series that my friend compared to the movie adaptation. She firmly stated that the TV series was far superior to the movie, and from what I’ve watched so far, I’d have to agree. I don’t think having you act in it would have done you any good; the movie was trash. It would have been very entertaining to see you cast as Zuko, though.

    Great job on your voice acting! -years late-

  132. Slim Goodie says:

    I knew nothing of the Avatar animated series until just recently, but as soon as I heard Prince Zuko’s voice, I knew it was Dante. I’ve followed Dante’s career since I saw him in Hook back in 1991. It saddens me that Dante was not given the role in the movie, that very few if any Asian actors were cast and that studios trusted Shamalala (not even going to try to spell his name correctly) to do the animated series justice. Shamalala hasn’t made a decent movie since The Village (and that’s being generous) he should never have been green lighted to direct this film. I’m not sure if I want to see the movie due to the blatant disrespect of the Asian community and the fans of the animated series. I hope that if there is a sequel, Shamalala isn’t allowed anywhere near it.

  133. Ai says:

    There were many things I felt were out of place when I saw the film. After becoming a die-hard fan and building up over a year’s worth of anticipation, I was utterly disappointed when I watched the movie this week. The casting was indeed one of the elements that just didn’t sit right; I honestly did entertain in my head that at least Dante Basco would’ve provided the best face to the character whose voice he literally breathed life into – and I’m not just saying that. There’s hope for the next two films if only everything and everyone, including the director, are abandoned and the project starts from the foundation again. But for now, I’m embarrassed for the actors who’ve now tarnished their reputations (for most of them, it’s just the beginning) with this horrendous interpretation of a legendary story. (Mabuhay!)

  134. Denny Tran says:

    Wow, Dante Basco, thank you for sharing with us.

  135. dude says:

    Rufio! Ru-fi-oooooo!

  136. Martha Tumbokon says:

    Hey Dante,
    I’m an aspiring writer as well as a Filipino who immigrated to the San Fernando valley. I know that there is very few Asian roles out there and it’s funny how Asian culture is accepted but not Asians themselves. There is so much wrong with how Asians are treated in this country and it’s all thanks to that “model minority” idea that clouds people’s perspective.

    Anyway I just wanted to tell you that I want one of my books to become a movie someday and I would make a promise to include at least one Filipino character so that one day you would be able to play that role.

    Have you heard of Melissa de la Cruz? she’s a successful Filipina writer and her fans are waiting at least two of her series to become a movie. Unfortunately her books do not contain much Asian characters.

  137. elle says:

    Dante, you brought Zuko to life the same way James Marsters did Spike on Buffy. I love the show and I’m a 44 year old woman.

    The nuances you brought to all of Zuko’s interactions with other characters on the show was sublime. Many episodes made me feel an immense sadness for him.

    Even the cartoon visuals had more emotion than the actors who butchered the last airbender. The team of you who did the cartoon are stellar actors. I vote that they dub over the movie with you folks doing the dialog.

  138. Cael says:

    I have to say, I am disgusted about all of this. I don’t think race should be a determining factor when choosing, for both sides. One could say the fact that the original series was seen as all Asian is racist in its own right, where are the all the other races? Oh wait, its a fantasy world, so it doesn’t exist, so are they really Asian?
    Whether something is racist depends on intentions of the people in power that make the choices. If they purposely choose white actors over Asians because they didn’t want Asians, then there is a problem. But if they choose based on who they thought would be the best person in their minds for the job, then they did the right thing, they excluded race from their decision.

    People seem to think that if you choose a white person or a minority on purpose, then its racism, which it is, but if you choose an minority over a white person on purpose, then somehow its ok, because they are a minority, guess what, racism works both ways, and both ways suck.

    I have seen businesses/workplaces only hire Asians on purpose, that is illegal, but if you comment on it, somehow you are the racist.

    Many minorities are given special rules to make up for all BS that they have to deal with, and in many cases, it is needed, like award shows for example because that race is not being recognized in for example the Oscars. But my question is, is this the answer? Is actually creating a separation to fight being separated the solution?

    I believe in real equality, which means I would like to see all rules be equal for all races, a world where no race gets any special treatment, that decisions are based on the merits of the person. Unfortunately this is easier said then done. Maybe this is a reality that will never happen.

    I think many people forget that racism goes both ways, a minority can show racism towards a majority, but it’s politically correct to ignore this. All racism is wrong, no matter what race it is against.

    What makes me sick in society is when people make the assumption that racism was intended when the intention may have never been there. These types of assumptions can be dangerous, if the assumption happens to be wrong.

    Lastly I feel bad for Noah Ringer that played Aang, here is his first movie, what an exciting thing for him, and this crap has to come up to ruin. I just hope people leave him out of it, because he is just a innocent 12 year old.

    Sorry I know I am late to the discussion, but I have been feeling bad for what the kid maybe going through and had to give my 2 cents.

    • TTan says:

      Cael, you sound like a nice guy, but the issues run deep.

      There was a lot of racism that went into the casting, and the film shows that the decision being based on Noah Ringer’s abilities is bogus. You can’t make the argument that the casting went to the best actors when the actors turn out to be terrible.

    • Emily says:

      Unless it is actually meant to, you know, take place in far east Asia, in which case, oh look, most of the people who live there will in face be far east Asian.

      Leaving out Caucasians and Africans doesn’t mean the cartoon was being racist, it means THE CARTOON TOOK PLACE IN ASIA.

  139. Cael says:

    I understand what people are saying, and maybe his decision wasn’t based on who would be the best, but I am really not sure if I believe 100% either way. I don’t like making assumptions on issues this hot. For example I enjoy coaching kids, but I am a single male. I do it because I feel it is my duty to the community to pass on my knowledge, but you always get parents in the background making assumptions that because I do not have kids or kids on the team, that I must be a pervert.

    Assumptions can really cause damage in society, and media (news links I have read) don’t care what the truth is, they just want to create fires.

    I agree the acting was very bad, but I actually liked what Noah Ringer did, sure there were some moments why I blame more on the direction, because directors really have to help out new actors. I thought the more emotional scenes Noah did really well, I felt involved. Maybe it was because everyone else was so wooden.

    What I want people to understand is things are never black and white (no pun intended), there is a lot of gray, so treading lightly is important. I will read more of the articles and keep and open mind. But some I have read are really out there and seem to overshadow the articles where intelligence prevails. One thing I won’t support is going after the actors for this, especially Noah because considering his age He seems to be an exceptional young man and has worked hard on his martial arts skills and doesn’t deserve to have his possible career (if it goes any farther then this) to be ruined or tainted by misdirected attacks.

    If I seem a bit defensive, I am I guess, I spent much of my life counselling kids, so I tend to be a bit protective of their feelings. I may have went off topic, if I did I apologize.

    • Jovita says:

      If you truly understood, than you would know that no one is going after the actors themselves. They’re going after the STUDIOS and the cast directors for NOT giving young minority aspiring actors the SAME chance to get into lead roles when it would’ve been FINE and the appropriate thing to do. This is past “ASSUMPTIONS” the information is out there. Actors like Jackson Rathborn & Jesse McCartney were recruited. They did NOT audition.

      Now why does that matter? Because this is a KIDS movie. And today’s kids are not just WHITE kids. There are kids of all backgrounds. But only the white ones get to see themselves represented on the big screen all but MOST OF THE TIME.

      In an ideal world this wouldn’t matter, but it’s not an ideal world. And you’ll see one example of why in a minute.

      Minority children need ALTERNATIVES. They need heroes they can identify with at least visually…FOR MANY REASONS. A white person might say, skin or racial background shouldn’t matter, but to a minority child who doesn’t know any better and is CONSTANTLY bombarded with the white standard, IT DOES.

      Since you spend your life counseling kids I want to share this 2005 video with you regarding dark skinned children and how they may perceive themselves. Pay very close attention to the Doll test in the middle…

      I care about kids too. So it hurts me to see that kids today still perceive their skin color that way. It’s no wonder either! There are so few heroes/leads of color and so few alternatives to the usual white hero/beauty standard in their own media! Most of the time all they see are white heroes & white models. White is the NORM…anything different is NOT AS GOOD.

      And when there does come a movie or show that could be different…to show that white isn’t the NORM…that different is GOOD…Hollywood decides the MAJORITY of the time to go with the “white default”. Why does the default ALWAYS have to be white??

      So I agree. Please, let’s think of the children, but NOT JUST the WHITE ONES. The minority kids matter too. Let’s stop neglecting them, please.

      • Josette says:

        Well said. Thank you for the video. It really struck a cord in me because, growing up, I only had white Barbie dolls because they didn’t have any Asian ones. POC and their children definitely need role models in the mainstream media.

  140. zad carlos says:

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  141. I completely disagree. On every, single, level. I’m sorry sir, I love your acting chops, and I love your work as Zuko, but there is no weight to these comments. Kattara and Sokka are Inuit, not Asian. They have never been, and never will be, Asian. Aang was white in the series, with maybe a hint of olive complexion. Do not pretend otherwise, because it’s simply not true. I don’t know why you and others feel the need to drag what is actually a tremendously good movie through the dirt, but that is all you are doing. You aren’t being moral champions, you aren’t fighting for the rights of ethnic actors. In fact, You. Are. Hindering them. I saw more Asian actors in this movie than I have in a long time, and most of them are even in starring roles. HUGE roles. General Xiao? The Firelord? Zuko? Iroh? As for Jesse Mcartney being slated to play Zuko, pardon me if I’m skeptical about that. Even if it is true, why does that matter? He didn’t even come close to playing the role, and Dev Patel did a splendid job in the character. It’s time to face facts, and the facts are there is no racism in this movie. It hits every point perfectly, and does so with finesse. I am sorry you were not able to be a part of it. I believe that if you had been, you might have come out with a much different perspective.

    • Marissa Lee says:

      It’s been well established that the characters in the series were Asian and Inuit. Nickelodeon even marketed the original series as set in an Asian world. The movie reflected systemic discrimination in Hollywood, colorism, and cultural appropriation. Unless the actor was playing was a villain, if the actor was a person of color, his character did not get a name. This production used actors of East Asian descent as set dressing, nothing more. This production used actors with darker skin to portray villains, described as “dark,” “evil,” and “rapacious” in advertising and marketing.

      This movie does not champion diversity. It uses the veil of diversity to reinforce discrimination.

    • The Mad Hatter is a troll says:

      Way to disrespect a great actor’s blog with your trollish “you’re wrong because I said so” drivel. Begone.

    • BW says:

      Yes, Katara and Sokka are Inuit. Dante probably used “asian” as shorthand to reference Asian and Inuit. That’s what the spirit and intent of the rest of his essay implies.

      Aang looks White to you because he’s rendered in anime style, without any racial markers. To people in the US, that might come across as “White”, but it could stand for anyone – many Japanese anime characters look like that, regardless of origin. We rely on cultural markers to tell ethnicity. In a world with Asian architecture, clothing, food, writing, and names, well, the easiest conclusion we can draw is that Aang’s Asian.

      The original casting call preferenced White actors at the beginning, and Jesse McCartney was indeed originally cast as Zuko.

      Yeah, there are some Asian actors, but they don’t even get names, and they don’t play the heroes. None of them are important. Does it not seem a little off to you that people of Near/Middle East/Indian heritage are playing the evil nation, and the White actors play the protagonists?

      I hope that the discussion and attention sparked by this movie will help minority actors play bigger roles, because very few parts are open to them.

      And, “tremendously good movie”? Tell that to the critics. Double thumbs-down from Roger Ebert. 8% on Rotten Tomatoes.

    • Josette says:

      I cannot even believe that you have the nerve to say that Dante’s comments have no weight. Are you completely daft? You write: “It’s time to face facts, and the facts are there is no racism in this movie.” I really hope that you are a troll because if there are idiots like you roaming around, I fear for the future of mankind.

    • Emily says:

      Pale skin color does not mean a character is Caucasian. I have many friends from China, Korea and Japan; most of them are far paler than myself.

      Aang, the creators explicitly said, was meant to be Tibetan along with the rest of the Air Nomads.

      The clothing, the writing, the art and architecture styles, even the hairstyles – it was all Asian, except for the Water Tribe, who were Inuit.

      The racism comes from the fact that non-Caucasian characters were played by Caucasian actors. Every protagonist, every lead character on ‘the good side’ was played by a Caucasian, when that was not meant to be the case.

  142. CaitieCat says:

    Thank you very much for your nuanced and personal view on the topic, Mr. Basco. The conflict is completely understandable. In all the advocating I’ve done around the topic, one thing I’ve wanted to make clear is it’s wrong to criticize the actors who were cast for taking the roles. As you say, 2%; you take what you can get, and keep yourself fed. When the choice is food or high-minded adherence to principles, it’s not a hard choice, and no one should be criticizing any actor of colour here for making the only reasonable choice.

    Your superb work deserves more opportunities, and I hope the work we from the racebending community are doing serves to bring more of those opportunities. I’m involved in theatre at an amateur level, and having directed shows at that level, I know how very difficult such a fine level of acting is to produce; to have done so with just your voice is a truly talented achievement. I hope to enjoy your work for many years, as I have the incredible Mako.

    With great respect and thanks,

    CaitieCat (contributor at Shakesville, and a member of the LJ Racebending community)

  143. Lailanie says:

    Thank you Dante for sharing your opinion. I definitely agree with you and I really hope that something changes in Hollywood. I’m definitely disappointed that you won’t be in this film. Hopefully, maybe, someone else decides to make their own Avatar movie and actually stays true to the series and that you’re in it, too!

  144. Emily says:

    I was willing to hold out until I saw this movie just in case, for some reason, the director was right and the most perfect, amazing actors for the roles just happened to be Caucasian.

    They clearly were not.

    To be fair, even some of the great actors in this movie – like Shaun Toub – did not come out of it well, so I’d be more willing to blame the horrendous script and the director than the actors.

    Still, it at last becomes entirely undeniable that these actors were not picked because they ‘just happened to be better for the role than any Asians who auditioned.’

    It’s also complete nonsense that Shaymalan ‘couldn’t find an Asian-American actor who was merketable’ to play Aang. Case in point, Brandon SooHoo.

    The whole thing is really just a shame. DX

  145. […] “Boycott is a strong word, but I do know that I won’t go see it opening weekend. I’m sure I will see it sooner or later, but my money won’t be apart of the opening weekend tally. In this day and age, in America 2010… I just don’t think it is at all viable for white actors to play ethnic roles… at least until they let us play white roles.” – Original post here […]

  146. Dev Patel is no Zuko. Dante, you were the heart and soul behind the character, it should have been you. But the movies messed up a lot of things, turning Firebenders into wimps. Who wants to be a part of that?

  147. helen nguyen says:

    Hopefully, there will be a remake of book one with you and better actors in it that represent the tv series better… and actors that know how to pronounce the names right!! It was bugging me throughout the movie when they kept saying Aang’s name all weird. I was also wondering how come the creaters of the tv show didn’t have much say in casting people? With Twilight, the author was able to choose who she wanted to direct the movie in the sense that she felt they would present her book with justice in the films. (Twilight the movie still sucked though) But yeah, I wish that Indian man wasn’t the director of Avatar the last airbender because he’s known to create horrible movies and he totally did not grab any inspiration from the original show. His movie was ok but I felt like he didn’t do the movie justice.

  148. Derrick says:

    I think the director should have stayed true to the story.Like uncle Iro seriously A white guy im not racist in any way but im just saying what about “Samo Hung” or “chow yun fat” great actors and Rufio lol I mean Dante Bosco would have been great I think and this is probably just me i think the director was all wrong Aang,Katara,and Soka were the best he did and the fire lord

  149. Derrick says:

    thanks for listening..

  150. MeiMusono says:

    wow! is this really Dante Basco’s blog? I am honored to comment here, you were amazing in the series. I LOVE AVATAR! I love Team AVATAR, I love the line “Hi! Zuko here!” You really acted that perfectly! I’m sure Dev Patel will do a good job too! Do you know anything about The Last Airbender 2 auditions?

  151. Jenessa says:

    Hey I’m a huge fan of you and most definately avatar: the last air bender.
    I know this is weird but I was hoping you could email me I had questions about the show.
    In my opinion the film did not do justice to the show at all I was not impressed but still watch the movie because i adored the show and continue to watch it because I have the three books on DVD

  152. I loved your voice in the series, and I would have loved to see you play in the movie! I personally don’t think it was fair, I think you would have been better!

  153. […] One more thing.  The movie is only THAT bad when you take out the racebending… white actors playing Asian roles… That is a whole ‘nother blog entirely.  Dante Basco, the voice actor of Zuko on “Avatar: The Last Airbender” wrote this great piece about it that puts it in some perspective. Here is a link about it HERE. […]

  154. Stunning story there. What occurred after?
    Good luck!

  155. Ostime says:

    I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought this post was good.
    I don’t know who you are but certainly you’re going to a
    famous blogger if you are not already 😉 Cheers!

  156. Rian says:

    I recently found out that Dev Patel, the guy who played Zuko in the movie, had a terrible time while he was making the movie. Saying he was ‘totally overwhelmed’ by the whole experience, not in a good way.

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