When Nickelodeon didn’t want Toph to be a girl in Avatar: The Last Airbender

Image: Avatar: The Last Airbender
Image: Avatar: The Last Airbender /

When Nickelodeon premiered their animated fantasy series Avatar: The Last Airbender in 2005, no one could have imagined that it’d still be relevant today. But with new animated projects in development, a live-action remake coming to Netflix and a new mobile game on the way, the beloved show is getting a new lease on life.

We’ve got a lot to look forward to, but let’s rewind a bit to see how we got here. In the beginning, Team Avatar looked very different. Katara and Sokka wore pink instead of blue, and fan-favorite earthbender Toph was a man. Seriously, just look at the concept art, shared by a Reddit user:

"Concept art vs final design from TheLastAirbender"

During an appearance on the Braving the Elements podcast, Last Airbender co-creator Bryan Konietzko explained that he and Michael Dante DiMartino had to work hard to convince the network that Toph should be a girl. “You know, we would fight our battles,” he said. “And like I said, we had quite a battle to convince the network to let us make Toph a girl. You know, it’s just, they were still clinging onto this idea that they wanted, like, a ‘boy audience.’”

"But Mike and I have always been like, when I was a kid, I watched shows with girls, all the time. And I was never, like, it wasn’t a problem! If it was a good show, I was into the show. And I think I remember this tough-looking, muscular teenage kid, and we were like, ‘So, who’s your favorite character?’ And he said, ‘Toph.’ [Laughs] We got so many of those, but that one was really memorable, and it’s just vindicating, you know? You’re just like, ugh, if you could just get the suits to understand."

Prey star hints at a role in Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender remake!

The Predator prequel film Prey came out earlier this month and was an immediate hit. Star Amber Midthunder (Naru) has become an overnight superstar; no doubt we’ll see her show up in lots of upcoming projects. In fact, there are rumors that Netflix’s Avatar: The Last Airbender remake has cast her as Princess Yue. Of course, none of this has been officially confirmed yet, although it looks likely.

In an interview with The New York Times, Midthunder played coy when asked about a potential role in the upcoming Avatar show. “Nothing that I can be talking about right now,” she said. Isn’t that exactly what someone would say if they were in the show? Or am I reading too much into this?

One new casting that has been confirmed, however, is Momona Tamada (The Baby-Sitters Club, The Boys) as Ty Lee; the best friend of the Fire Nation’s Princess Azula. According to reliable fansite Avatar News, Tamada has already completed filming her scenes for season 1.

Netflix’s much-anticipated live-action Avatar remake doesn’t have a release date yet.

dark. Next. The first new Avatar: The Last Airbender movie is about Aang and friends

To stay up to date on everything fantasy, science fiction, and WiC, follow our all-encompassing Facebook page and sign up for our exclusive newsletter.

Get HBO, Starz, Showtime and MORE for FREE with a no-risk, 7-day free trial of Amazon Channels