Avatar: The Last Airbender Voice Actor Greg Baldwin Explains the One Fan Request He Does Turn Down
Uncle Iroh is one of the most beloved characters in Avatar: The Last Airbender. A loving father figure, the voice of reason, a mentor, and most importantly, a tea lover, Iroh was one of the characters who showed us the complexity of the Fire Nation early on. During the first two seasons he was voiced by legendary Japanese voice actor, Mako Iwamatsu, who also voiced Aku in Samurai Jack. After his passing, the task of carrying on the role went to Greg Baldwin.
Baldwin did a good job with the role, despite it being a very specific and iconic voice. He carried on the voice from the final season of Iroh onto The Legend of Korra, where the character made a cameo. He is for many just as much the voice of Iroh as Mako, but there is one request that he turns down as a way of honoring his predecessor: he will not sing “Leaves From The Vine.”
I’m often asked to sing “Leaves From The Vine” at Comicons. Out of deep respect for Mako Iwamatsu…it’s one fan request I always decline.
It’s Mako’s song…not mine.
— Greg Baldwin (@GregBaldwinIroh) March 1, 2020
“Leaves From The Vine” comes from a stand-alone episode of Avatar: The Last Airbender called “The Tales of Ba Sing Se” which has the individual stories of Toph and Katara, Aang, Zuko, Momo, Sokka, and Iroh. Written by Andrew Huebner, “The Tale of Iroh” has Iroh going on a journey to collect materials for a special occasion. It turns out at the end that the special occasion was to have a memorial in honor of his late son’s birthday. It is there that we get Iroh singing “Leaves From The Vine.”
It is one of the most emotional scenes in the series, especially because so often Iroh was the voice of optimism and you never saw him as someone who actively carried grief. We know his son, Lu Ten, died during the war, but he is a character we don’t see. Yet, in that sequence and in that song, through the power and skill of Mako Iwamatsu’s voice acting, we get all the pain and love Iroh felt for his son. It also highlights even more so why Iroh is so determined to love, care for, and protect his nephew.
The episode was dedicated to Mako Iwamatsu, who passed away from esophageal cancer. It is his song and when you listen to it, there is no one who can compare to Iwamatsu.
With everyone celebrating the 15-year anniversary of Avatar: The Last Airbender, this is a lovely reminder of the legacy this show has for young people, but also the hard work these voice actors put into telling stories that would move our hearts for years to come.
What are some of your favorite emotional moments from the series?
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