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Why Commander Zhao From Netflix's Avatar: The Last Airbender Looks So Familiar

When you're watching a movie or TV show, nothing's more distracting than recognizing a certain actor or actress but failing to remember where you've seen them before. We're here to help.

As reported by Deadline, in November 2021 Netflix began production on a live-action adaptation of "Avatar: The Last Airbender." It's aiming to be a faithful rendering of the beloved animated series that ran on Nickelodeon from 2005 to 2008. That means many of your favorite characters from the cartoon will be making the transition to the new series, including Admiral Zhao. If it's been a while since you watched the original "Avatar: The Last Airbender," he's a devious, high-ranking military officer from Fire Nation, who personally kills Moon Spirit Tui and kicks off the war with all the other elemental nations. 

Zhao will be played by Ken Leung. The longtime character actor has been working steadily since 1995 and has received over 50 credits in his career so far (via IMDb), but here's where you've most likely seen him from.

Ken Leung was one of the detectives in the first Saw movie

Before 2004, Leung had already appeared in several movies and TV shows — you might remember him from his scene-stealing turn as the energetic salesperson singing "Jesse's Girl" in the 2000 rom-com "Keeping the Faith" — but one of his first big roles in a blockbuster was Detective Steven Sing in the first "Saw" movie. Alongside Detective David Tapp (Danny Glover), Sing was one of the police officers assigned with tracking down the notorious Jigsaw serial killer (Tobin Bell). Unfortunately for Sing, he doesn't make it out of the movie alive. Midway through the movie, when he and Tapp first corner Jigsaw, the psychopath turns the tables and kills Sing with a trap consisting of four rigged-up shotguns.

Leung got the role when director James Wan and screenwriter Leigh Whannell saw him in his earlier roles. "They were fans of mine," he told Red Carpet News TV (via YouTube). "And they reached out to me to be in it. And that doesn't often happen. And I was so touched by that. And so aside from the movie being horrifying, I came at it from a very loving place, because I was approached out of love."

Leung briefly reprised the role in archival footage in "Saw III" and in a cameo appearance in "Saw V."

He played Miles Straume on Lost

Four years after "Saw," Leung joined the cast of "Lost" during the show's fourth season. He played Miles Straume, the spiritual medium, or "ghost whisperer," who would gather information from dead bodies by touching them, which he called "feeling." Straume was born on the Island and grew up in California, returning in 2007 as part of the science team sent to capture Ben Linus (Michael Emerson). After helping some of the survivors of Flight 815 escape on a freighter, Straume decided to stay behind. In one of the character's most memorable moments, after Linus moved the Island and sent some of the survivors traveling through time, Straume witnessed his own father holding him when he was a baby.

For Leung, one of the challenges of acting on a show like "Lost" was that the creators kept most of their plans a secret, even from their own cast members. Without context, that made it difficult to understand some of his character's motivations. "It's really hard, because you're kind of preparing in a bubble, and you're not sure if you're in a vacuum," Leung told the UCLA Center of Near Eastern Studies. "You prepare the scenes that you're doing so they make sense to you, and you're coming from some perspective, and it's really up to you to make decisions on why you do things or what you're after."

He was Admiral Statura in Star Wars: The Force Awakens

Movies don't get much bigger than 2015's "Star Wars: The Force Awakens," so chances are most of the people reading this recognize Ken Leung from his supporting role in the film. He played Admiral Statura, the New Republic officer who plays a pivotal role in figuring out how to destroy Starkiller Base. He's the one who identifies the "thermal oscillator" that can be targeted to blow the whole thing up. For non-"Star Wars," fans, the thermal oscillator is also known as "the big convenient, weak spot, just like the ones that both Death Stars had."

For Leung, getting to be in a "Star Wars" movie was both an honor and a dream come true. As he told the Mexican news site Sinembargo (via Dork Side of the Force), he's a lifelong "Star Wars" fan who fell in love with Leia Organa (Carrie Fisher) as a child, like millions of other kids did. Leung and his brother grew up as avid "Star Wars" fans, but his brother sadly died two years before "The Force Awakens" came out. Getting cast in "The Force Awakens" was obviously bittersweet. When Leung learned that he'd landed the role, he felt that his brother had played a role in making it happen.