News that Percy Jackson was being adapted as a TV series for Disney Plus delighted fans of the YA novel series — especially with their more appropriate casting for the leading roles. However, as some social media users hit out at the casting of Black actor Leah Sava Jeffries for the role of Annabeth Chase, Rick Riordan, creator of the novel series, has spoken out.
The original books follow the story of young demigod Percy Jackson, who discovers that he is the son of Poseidon, the ancient Greek god of the sea. Along with his friends, Grover Underwood and Annabeth Chase, Percy must navigate his new powers while dealing with various threats, dangers, and conflicts along the way.
Although the Percy Jackson franchise had previously been adapted into a fantasy movie series, Rick Riordan was notoriously unhappy with how the critically-panned movies turned out. This has led to him taking a more active role in the development of the upcoming streaming service series, including writing the first episode and helping with the casting process for leading roles.
Although fans have been widely supportive of the casting choices for these leading roles, a vocal minority have been critical of Leah Sava Jefferies being cast as Annabeth Chase because, they say, Annabeth was white in the book series. However, Riordan has spoken out about the racist trolling Jefferies has received in light of her casting in a blog post on his website.
“If you have a problem with this casting, […] take it up with me.” he wrote. “You have no one else to blame. Whatever else you take from this post, we should be able to agree that bullying and harassing a child online is inexcusably wrong.”
“As strong as Leah is, as much as we have discussed the potential for this kind of reaction and the intense pressure this role will bring, the negative comments she has received online are out of line. They need to stop. Now.”
He added, “You are judging her appropriateness for this role solely and exclusively on how she looks. She is a Black girl playing someone who was described in the books as white. Friends, that is racism.”
Percy Jackson and the Olympians is set to drop on Disney Plus sometime in 2023, with filming starting in June 2022.