While some remain dubious the Avatar sequels are ever actually going to happen, the films just took a major step forward by casting the first new lead role. Indeed, THR reports that Fear the Walking Dead star Cliff Curtis has signed on to fill a lead role in all four Avatar sequels. The Training Day and Last Airbender actor will be playing Tonowari, the leader of the Metkayina reef people clan. Filmmaker James Cameron has been saying for years that the Avatar sequels would explore a whole new environment of Pandora by going underwater, and it appears the Metkayina may play a major role in the story arc of Avatar 2, Avatar 3, Avatar 4, and Avatar 5.
Curtis is the first new actor to join the franchise since development began on the sequels in the wake of Avatar’s success, way back in 2010. Release dates have been announced and then pushed back a number of times, and most recently 20th Century Fox set Avatar 2 and 3 for release in December 2020 and 2021, with Avatar 4 and 5 following in December 2024 and 2025. This indicates that Cameron will indeed be shooting these sequels in blocks and not necessarily all four at once, with production slated to begin early next year on Avatar 2 and 3, after which Cameron and the team will break to start post-production work on those two sequels before going back to shoot the final two films.
What this means for Curtis’ future on Fear the Walking Dead is unclear. The AMC spinoff series has already been renewed for a fourth season with new showrunners, but Season 3—which premieres this June—started filming in January. If they keep that schedule, Curtis’ Avatar duties would likely conflict with the filming of Fear the Walking Dead Season 4, so again it’s unclear if the Fear production will shift, if Curtis’ character is being killed off in Season 3, or if he can juggle duties on both projects simultaneously. Given that the Avatar movies are shot entirely in a motion-capture volume it’s possible to shoot Curtis’ scenes in a block without worrying about the schedules of other actors, so there are a number of ways this could all play out.
Sam Worthington, Zoe Saldana, and Sigourney Weaver are all confirmed to be returning for the Avatar sequels, which were written by Cameron and a combination of Josh Friedman (Emerald City), Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver (Rise of the Planet of the Apes), and Shane Salerno (Savages). And while some may still be dubious, the staggered release schedule of the Avatar sequels combined with Curtis’ casting seem to suggest Cameron and Fox may have finally pinned this thing down.