Avatar: Last Airbender Star Dallas Liu Explains Zuko & Katara's Rivalry In Live-Action Show (Exclusive)

By Russ Milheim Posted:
Avatar: The Last Airbender, Zuko, Dallas Liu, Katara in live-action

Dallas Liu, the talented performer behind Prince Zuko in Netflix’s live-action Avatar: The Last Airbender, has explained the rivalry between his character and Kiawentiio’s Katara.

While Zuko is most known for his obsessed ramblings about capturing the Avatar to regain his honor, Aang is far from the only person in his life who he consistently butts heads with.

There are people like his father, the Fire Lord, his sister, Princess Azula, and Aang’s best friend, Katara.

[ Avatar Netflix DP Reveals Why Firebenders Were So Hard to Bring to Life (Exclusive) ]

Live-Action Avatar: Zuko & Katara Rivalry Explained

Dallas Liu as Zuko and Kiawentiio as Katara in Netflix's Avatar: The Last Airbender

In an exclusive interview with The Direct’s Russ Milheim, Avatar: The Last Airbender star Dallas Liu explained the rivalry between his character, Zuko, and Kiawentiio’s Katara.

Liu admitted that he "love[s] playing the villain" but called attention to Katara and Zuko’s first confrontation. Zuko almost didn't want to fight her in Episode 2, as he felt like she truly had no chance:

"I love playing the villain… It's interesting because in Zuko's scene with Katara, not when they first meet, when they meet on Kyoshi Island, you almost feel this, not like a sadness, but Zuko is like, 'I'm really about to mess you up bad.' And I'm giving you a chance to get out of the way… The line is like, 'This is your choice. Whatever happens, it's on you.'"

When The Direct pointed out how he failed to beat up Katara, the actor jokingly fired back, exclaiming that Avatar Kiyoshi showed up: "What am I supposed to do in that situation?"

Jumping back to Katara, Liu admitted he and Kiawentiio hadn't spent much time together before filming their scenes and that distance was something he leaned into. 

The actor explained how he "sort of avoided her that day on set, just to make it feel a little more impactful:"

"Kiawentiio and I, at the very beginning, we had spent time training, but then again, Zuko is always away from them. At that point in filming, we hadn't really been on set together like that. So I played into this part of our real-life relationship where we didn't really know each other too well. I sort of avoided her that day on set, just to make it feel a little more impactful."

"She’s awesome," Liu said, assuring there was never any disconnect between them while also confirming that their bout "was [his] first day ever filming:"

"She's awesome. In between takes is when we build our chemistry on camera. But that was my first day ever filming, that whole entire sequence. So I went full force with the villain aspect of Zuko. But it was cool, man."

Another element of his character that helped him get into the role was Zuko’s armor, which Liu explained felt "quite intimidating compared to the rest of the cast:"

"I [feel] like Zuko's armor is also just quite intimidating compared to the rest of the cast… They feel close to the original. It's something that plays well on camera. But it's so hard to move into it because it's three layers of leather. None of us could really lift our arms above our heads because the shoulder pads would just dig into our necks."

Elizabeth Yu as Azula in Netflix's Avatar: The Last Airbender

Another important dynamic Zuko has in the series is with Elizabeth Yu’s Princess Azula, his on-screen sister.

While the two didn't share many scenes this season, Liu and Yu "hung out a few times" and were "able to connect really easily:"

"Me and [Elizbeth Yu] hung out a few times. And she's honestly the complete opposite of Azula. So, as people, we are able to connect really easily. But I thought it was important for me to--you know that YouTuber, Hello Future Me?... He does these intensive breakdowns of Avatar characters in the original series in general. And something that I had to do to get into characters is to look into these videos because there's so much information outside of my own."

Even though they share little screen time, Liu explained how he made sure that Azula still affected Zuko, like him "hearing Azula’s name:"

"So I watched Zuko's video… But then I saw Azula. And even though you don't see that on camera, in our show, you will see how hearing Azula's name will affect Zuko, especially in that last episode. So I was like, I should definitely watch this video too. Because even though it's not explicit, nothing's explicitly said about a whole lot about their dynamic. I want people to understand that this is already a part of Zuko's life and their rivalry."

As for bringing Prince Zuko to life, one of the actor's key goals was to make the character’s "desperation feel genuine:"

"I wanted his desperation to feel genuine. Even though that's a part of his character, for Zuko to be in that mindset in so many scenes, it can feel one note. Just like how it did in the animated series, where you see up until the Northern Water Tribe, he feels like he's just this character constantly going after the Avatar and being angry."

"I wanted to add depth and levels and layers," Liu said:

"And I wanted to add depth and levels and layers to all of those different scenes to give the fans something that felt organic with a character as complex as Zuko. You have to naturally just take care of each scene because you're not seeing him in every scene."

Unlike Aang and Team Avatar as a whole, Zuko didn't have the privilege of getting "these 20-minute scenes:"

"Like with Aang, Sokka, and Katara, you're not getting these long 20-minute scenes. You’re getting little pieces of Zuko and Iroh here and in many different moments. Luckily, the writers were like, 'We'll get some classic, Zuko and Iroh slice of life; they're looking for the Avatar.' Like when he comes across June, and you get comedic moments. And that is the complete opposite of what you would see, for example, in their flashback at Lu Ten's funeral."

Dallas Liu’s entire conversation with The Direct can be seen in full here:

Avatar: The Last Airbender is now streaming on Netflix.

Read more Netflix Avatar news:

Avatar Netflix Season 2 Release, Cast & Everything We Know

Avatar: The Last Airbender Live-Action CGI Vs. Practical Effects Revealed by DP (Exclusive)

Avatar: Suki & Sokka's Relationship Explained: Differences Between Live-Action & Animation

- In This Article: Avatar: The Last Airbender
Release Date
February 22, 2024
Dallas Liu
Gordon Cormier
Ian Ousley
- About The Author: Russ Milheim
Russ Milheim is the Industry Relations Coordinator at The Direct. On top of utilizing his expertise on the many corners of today’s entertainment to cover the latest news and theories, he establishes and maintains communication and relations between the outlet and the many studio and talent representatives.