Arts & Entertainment Editor: Kamryn Kobel
(Image via twitter.com)
The Percy Jackson franchise is getting a reboot – this time, in the form of a television series that has been co-created with the help of the author, Rick Riordan.
Here’s a history of the franchise, details about the new series, and a look into the recently released trailer.
It’s been 18 years since the well-beloved young adult novel series Percy Jackson and the Olympians first debuted. The first book in the series, The Lightning Thief, has remained a beloved piece of literature, both within the young adult genre as well as for teen and adult readers.
Recently, The Lightning Thief hit its thirteen-year mark of being on the New York Times Best Sellers list – an ode to its longevity and status as a modern classic.
So when the new Percy Jackson television series was first announced, the excitement was understandably high. Riordan announced the new project on his personal website, saying, “After a lot of hard work and a lot of support from you guys, Percy Jackson is coming to Disney+.”
“We are very excited about the idea of a live-action series of the highest quality, following the storyline of the original Percy Jackson five-book series, starting with The Lightning Thief in season one. Rest assured that Becky [Rick’s wife] & I will be involved in person in every aspect of the show,” reads Riordan’s website.
And the Riordans have been extremely involved every step of the way – including writing, casting, directing, and marketing.
This is a welcome change from the first attempt at a Percy Jackson on-screen adaptation, which was a catastrophic failure.
The problems with this movie arose from its lack of loyalty to the source material, as well as its refusal to involve Riordan. In a series of now-deleted tweets, Riordan says, “They should censor the entire thing” and that the movies are his “life’s work going through a meat grinder.”
But Percy Jackson and Riordan are getting their redemption with the new television series, set to air on Disney+ on December 20th.
The series stars Walker Scobell as Percy Jackson. Riordan announced the casting on his website, saying, “It was obvious to me and the rest of the team that Walker had the perfect mix of comedic timing, sweetness, rebelliousness, snark and heroism to embody our hero Percy Jackson.”
“In his auditions for Grover Underwood, Aryan won our hearts. He had me laughing out loud with his delivery and timing. He has a mixture of sweetness, humor and internal toughness that is perfect for our favorite satyr.” says Riordan on his website.
He also notes Simhadri’s great chemistry with Scobell, which is essential for depicting Percy and Grover’s friendship on-screen.
Riordan goes on to say, “Leah is exactly the way I imagined Annabeth in the books: smart, strong and courageous, a true daughter of Athena who has zero patience for the foolishness of a certain Seaweed Brain. Watching her act with Walker and Aryan, I saw Annabeth Chase come to life.”
Many fans were overjoyed to hear that Jeffries, who is Black, will be playing the well-beloved Annabeth. Within the series, Annabeth must overcome prejudices and fight stereotypes that paint her as less intelligent– something that many young Black girls deal with on a daily basis. Having her be portrayed by a Black actor doesn’t take anything away from her character– if anything, it adds more depth and interest to her story and journey.
However, there was also a lot of racist backlash at the casting, as supposed “fans” of the series took issue with the fact that Annabeth would not be blonde, which is a minor detail of her character.
Many users across Twitter (X) and Reddit complained that Jeffries is not “book accurate,” despite Walker not having Percy’s book-accurate black hair. Clearly, the outrage is not coming from concerns about book accuracy; it is simply racist hatred.
Riordan quickly defended Jeffries on his blog, saying, “I have been clear, as the author, that I was looking for the best actors to inhabit and bring to life the personalities of these characters, and that physical appearance was secondary for me. We did that. We took a year to do this process thoroughly and find the best of the best. This trio is the best. Leah Jeffries is Annabeth Chase.”
“You either are not aware, or have dismissed, Leah’s years of hard work honing her craft, her talent, her tenacity, her focus, her screen presence. You refuse to believe her selection could have been based on merit. Without having seen her play the part, you have pre-judged her (pre + judge = prejudice) and decided she must have been hired simply to fill a quota or tick a diversity box.”
“You refuse to believe me, the guy who wrote the books and created these characters, when I say that these actors are perfect for the roles because of the talent they bring and the way they used their auditions to expand, improve and electrify the lines they were given. Once you see Leah as Annabeth, she will become exactly the way you imagine Annabeth, assuming you give her that chance, but you refuse to credit that this may be true.”
Again, Riordan’s complete involvement with the casting of the series proves how much care and attention was put into this project. Jeffries’s portrayal of Annabeth is included in this care and thoughtfulness.
On September 19th, the first full-length trailer was released on the Disney+ YouTube channel.
The trailer includes Percy giving a voiceover of the opening lines of the book, as well as a rendition of “Riptide” by Vance Joy. It shows scenes from the first episode, of Percy discovering that he is a demigod and making it to Camp Half-Blood.
There are also a few shots from scenes that appear later in the series, including the trio entering the Lotus Hotel and Casino and their confrontation with Aries.
Fans can rest assured that Riordan, Walker, Jeffries, Simhadri, and the entire crew paid close and careful attention to the source material. The world of Percy Jackson, including Camp Half-Blood and Mount Olympus, come to life within this trailer. Fans can get excited about the upcoming eight episodes full of Percy and his adventures.