Who is Sigourney Weaver in Avatar: the Way of Water?

Sigourney Weaver in Avatar: The Way of Water
Sigourney Weaver in Avatar: The Way of Water (Image credit: 20th Century Studios)

Note: this article contains spoilers for Avatar: The Way of Water.

Avatar: The Way of Water brings moviegoers back to Pandora for the first time in 13 years. Along for the ride once again are the stars of the series, Sam Worthington as Jake Sully and Zoe Saldana as Neytiri, along with new members of the Avatar: The Way of Water cast. But there's another familiar name in the credits, Sigourney Weaver.

Some people may be scratching their heads over how Weaver, whose character Grace was supposed to have died in the first Avatar, can be back for the sequel. Is it flashbacks, as a vision, or what?

In case you haven’t watched Avatar: The Way of Water yet, we'll just say that Weaver is playing a new character, but one with a connection to Grace. If you want to find out what exactly that means, or if you've seen the Avatar sequel and want some clarity on who Weaver plays and what her deal is, read on.

Who does Sigourney Weaver play in Avatar: The Way of Water?

With Avatar: The Way of Water taking place more than a decade after the original movie, many of the new characters include Jake and Neytiri's kids, including their adopted daughter Kiri. Weaver is the actor playing Kiri. Yes, the Alien and Ghostbuster star is playing a teenager (thanks to the magic of performance capture).

Kiri was mysteriously born of Grace's avatar (no one knows how she was conceived), which is alive but in a state of suspended animation. Jake and Neytiri adopt Kiri and raise her as their own.

One of the interesting things we learn about Kiri in the Avatar sequel is that she appears to have a deep bond with Eywa, the Na'vi deity. She tells Jake she hears Eywa's heartbeat and multiple times in the movie she is shown using some kind of special ability that allows her to control animals and the environment around her.

We actually get a double dose of Sigourney Weaver in The Way of Water. In a scene where Kiri is hooked up to a spirit tree connected to Eywa, she has a vision where she sees the human version of Grace, once again played by Weaver. Kiri directly asks who her father is, but the vision ends before she can get an answer as Kiri suffers a seizure.

Norm (Joel David Moore) explains to Jake that this is likely a form of epilepsy and that if Kiri connects to Eywa again it could kill her.

Did Grace survive in Avatar?

So if Grace's avatar was able to give birth to Kiri, does that mean that Grace actually survived her wounds somehow? That doesn’t seem to be the case.

In Avatar, Jake and the Na’vi attempt to transfer Grace's consciousness into her avatar as she is dying, but the process appears to fail and Grace does die. However, her avatar body was kept in suspended animation and after a little bit they discover that it is pregnant with Kiri. Even years later when Kiri is grown, Grace's avatar is kept alive. But again, the human version of Grace is dead.

What’s the deal with Kiri?

Kiri's connection with Eywa is shown a lot in The Way of Water, but is not fully explained, as Cameron is probably planning to reveal more in the upcoming sequels. But we put our thinking caps on and have come up with a theory of just what is going on with Kiri.

We think that Kiri was conceived by Eywa during the scene where they tried to transfer Grace's consciousness into her avatar body. That would explain how the avatar was revealed to be pregnant after Grace's death and Kiri's connection to the connecting spirit between the creatures and environment of Pandora. 

Grace was in awe of Pandora and in video diary clips of her (like we saw Jake do in the first Avatar) she discusses some of her research and how she thinks the planet is connected by some kind sentient, powerful element — Eywa. If Eywa could sense Grace's appreciation and understanding, perhaps she chose Grace as a vessel for a new life, similar to how Jake was chosen as someone who could help the Na'vi, which results in the birth of Kiri.

As we said though, with Avatar 3, 4 and 5 planned, we're likely to learn more about Kiri's origins and greater purpose when those arrive.

Michael Balderston is a DC-based entertainment and assistant managing editor for What to Watch, who has previously written about the TV and movies with TV Technology, Awards Circuit and regional publications. Spending most of his time watching new movies at the theater or classics on TCM, some of Michael's favorite movies include Casablanca, Moulin Rouge!, Silence of the Lambs, Children of Men, One Flew Over the Cuckoos Nest and Star Wars. On the TV side he enjoys Peaky Blinders, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Saturday Night Live, Only Murders in the Building and is always up for a Seinfeld rerun. Follow on Letterboxd (opens in new tab).