Who is Elizabeth Yu, a.k.a. Azula in Netflix's 'Avatar: The Last Airbender'?

The rising star made her Netflix debut in one of 2023's most acclaimed movies.

Elizabeth Yu as Azula in season 1 of Avatar: The Last Airbender
(Image credit: Robert Falconer/Netflix)

Netflix's live-action adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender is bringing the beloved cartoon series' main characters to life in an action-packed season featuring several new rising stars. Among the young cast is Korean-American actress Elizabeth Yu, who plays the terrifying badass Azula, Princess of the Fire Nation. While Azula only arrived in the second season of the original series, the new remake introduces the fan-favorite character from the start, and Yu gives an impressive performance as the daughter caught in a long-distance sibling rivalry with her brother Prince Zuko (Dallas Liu).

Even though ATLA is her first television role, Yu will be a familiar face to cinema fans, who first saw her Netflix debut in one of 2023's best drama movies. If you want to learn more about her, read on for a breakdown of Yu's career so far, as well as her romantic history with another well-known actor.

She previously starred in 'May December.'

Yu was born in October 2002 in New Jersey and only recently made her debut in Hollywood, with a supporting role in the 2022 indie film Somewhere In Queens. She made her Netflix debut last year in Todd Haynes' Oscar-nominated film May December, where she acted alongside Charles Melton and Julianne Moore as high school grad Mary Atherton-Yoo. Avatar: The Last Airbender is her first television role.

Elizabeth Yu attends Netflix's "Avatar: The Last Airbender" world premiere at The Egyptian Theatre Hollywood on February 15, 2024 in Los Angeles, California

Elizabeth Yu attends the world premiere of 'Avatar: The Last Airbender' at The Egyptian Theatre Hollywood on February 15, 2024.

(Image credit: Presley Ann/Getty Images for Netflix)

She's dating a fellow Netflix star.

On the romantic front, Yu has been in a relationship with Stranger Things star Gaten Matarazzo since 2018. The actors share an apartment (and three cats) in New Jersey and regularly post pics of each other on social media, including a sweet throwback from Yu's senior prom. They've also supported each other on red carpets, with Yu accompanying Matarazzo to the Stranger Things season 4 premiere, and Matarazzo serving as Yu's plus one for the May December and Avatar: The Last Airbender premieres.

In an interview with Refinery29, Yu said that the couple—who have been together since they were both 15—has aimed to keep their careers separate from their relationship. She also admitted that seeing his rise to fame with Stranger Things has given her inspiration for her own career. “Getting to see someone with such a huge heart navigate this industry is the best advice that I could be given,” she said, adding, “We’re both still trying to figure it out, and it’s really cool to be able to do it together.” 

Elizabeth Yu and Gaten Matarazzo attend the after party for Netflix's May December Los Angeles premiere at Academy Museum of Motion Pictures on November 16, 2023 in Los Angeles, California

Yu and Matarazzo at the after-party for the 'May December' LA premiere on November 16, 2023.

(Image credit: Natasha Campos/Getty Images for Netflix)

She's unfazed about fan responses to her casting.

Yu recently opened up to Refinery29 about the controversial response to her casting as Azula, when fans took to social media to suggest she looked "too innocent" to play the notoriously brutal villain. In the interview, she explained that she didn't take the criticism seriously: “I think anybody playing this part would’ve gotten some kind of backlash.” She also described the character as “a girl boss,” but “evil,” adding, “Azula is my baby girl, she’s my boo thing. I love her.”

Instead, the Korean-American star said that she's more concerned with what her two younger sisters will think of the show, recognizing that ATLA and other recent Hollywood films have helped make strides in on-screen Asian American representation. “The idea that my little sisters are going to be able to watch TV and movies, and the likelihood of them getting to see someone that looks like them is so much higher, is such a win. It’s so healing to know that we’re creating an industry where little girls — little anyones — can feel like that,” she said.

Elizabeth Yu as Azula in season 1 of Avatar: The Last Airbender

Yu plays the badass villain Azula, Princess of the Fire Nation, in 'Avatar: The Last Airbender.'

(Image credit: Courtesy of Netflix)
Contributing Culture Editor

Quinci is a Contributing Culture Editor who writes pieces and helps to strategize editorial content across TV, movies, music, theater, and pop culture. She contributes interviews with talent, as well as SEO content, features, and trend stories. She fell in love with storytelling at a young age, and eventually discovered her love for cultural criticism and amplifying awareness for underrepresented storytellers across the arts. She previously served as a weekend editor for Harper’s Bazaar, where she covered breaking news and live events for the brand’s website, and helped run the brand’s social media platforms, including Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter. Her freelance writing has also appeared in outlets including HuffPost, The A.V. Club, Elle, Vulture, Salon, Teen Vogue, and others. Quinci earned her degree in English and Psychology from The University of New Mexico. She was a 2021 Eugene O’Neill Critics Institute fellow, and she is a member of the Television Critics Association. She is currently based in her hometown of Los Angeles. When she isn't writing or checking Twitter way too often, you can find her studying Korean while watching the latest K-drama, recommending her favorite shows and films to family and friends, or giving a concert performance while sitting in L.A. traffic.