Though he continually presents himself as a calm, happy pacifist, once upon a time, Uncle Iroh lived a much different life. When Zuko was merely a child, Iroh commanded great armies of the Fire Nation and was even next in line to the throne once his father, Lord Azulon (Walter Edmiston), passed away. He rarely brings up his past in “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” but had the original plans for the character made it to the small screen, his military background and the cold demeanor it created would have been front-and-center well into his retirement years.
“I think we had more of a harsh character idea for him. More of a strict kind of kung-fu sifu guy,” revealed Bryan Konietzko in a 2008 interview with Toon Zone News, giving head writer Aaron Ehasz and Mako credit for reshaping Iroh into the character we know him as today. “He used to be that really hardcore general and military guy, and now he’s sort of in his golden years…I think that Aaron wrote really well for Iroh. And with Mako, you know, it just made him such a lovable character.”
With his brother, Fire Lord Ozai (Mark Hamill), Princess Azula (Grey Griffin), and, of course, Zuko, all defined by their stern, angry personalities, making Uncle Iroh the total opposite of his family was certainly the right move. It allowed him to not only turn his nephew away from the generation curses that befell his relatives but become one of the most popular characters ever to appear on “Avatar: The Last Airbender.”