A:TLA wasn’t hurting for devotees by any stretch, but the emergence of the series on Netflix has certainly brought new eyes to the adventures of Aang and friends. Since its debut, the series has consistently hovered in the streamer’s top 10 (since the site doesn’t release viewership figures, we’ll just have to assume that means it’s doing well). That means loads of new people are just now catching on to the fact that as our heroes continue forth on their quest, they’re somehow wrecking a lot of cabbages, and they all seem to be sold by the same person (voiced by James Sie).
Enter Marissa Martinelli at Slate, who has worked up a thorough and charming oral history of the cabbage merchant through conversations with “key players from Avatar’s cast and crew,” including Sie, character designer Aaron Alexovich, voice director Andrea Romano, and several of the show’s writers, among others. The piece is worth reading in full, detailing the first appearance of the character (in the show’s fifth episode, “The King of Omashu”), his ultimate fate, and what it’s like to be recognized for a role where you say the same thing, over and over again:
Romano: James Sie would get fan mail for the cabbage merchant, which is just—you never know what the audience is going to react to, how they’re going to respond, what things they like and what they pick up on and what they relate to. But everybody seemed to love the cabbage merchant.
Sie: It’s become the biggest touch point that people know me for. I’ve done other, similar recurring characters, but this is the one where people almost swooned when they say, “You’re the cabbage merchant?!” There are music remixes of the cabbage merchant saying, “My cabbages!”
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