“Good things take time, I think, and Jim understands that,” Worthington told E! News’ Francesca Amiker ahead of the film’s Dec. 16 release, as he and Saldaña agreed, simply, that Cameron was the reason they had no qualms about committing to what’s been a decade-plus-long saga. “This was his labor of love.”

“But,” added the Australian-raised actor, whose paraplegic ex-Marine Jake Sully decided at the end of Avatar that he’d rather fight for the Na’vi way of life alongside love Neytiri (Saldaña), “we didn’t take the 10 years off, or the 13 years off. It was about 2013 when [Cameron] said to us, ‘I know how to extend this story and extend this family, and tell a great saga.”

At that time, Saldaña noted, “it had only been three years since we had released the movie.”

Worthington added, “We were excited about the potential of what he was telling us.”

“And here’s the beautiful thing,” Saldaña continued, “if there’s anyone who has complete and utter respect for audiences and fans, it’s James Cameron. Yes, he could’ve taken advantage of the momentum of Avatar 1 and whipped out a formulaic Avatar 2— and then it would have lost its purity, the essence of what made it so special. So, good things do take time. He did have to take a break and go live his life. He did more expeditions, he spent time with his family that are his ride-or-die—especially Suzy—that always have his back and are really holding down the fort.”