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SYFY WIRE Percy Jackson

'Percy Jackson' creator calls out 'inexcusably wrong' bullying of young star in Disney+ adaptation

Percy Jackson author Rick Riordan is stepping up to defend one of the stars of his new Disney+ series.

By Matthew Jackson
The Cast of Percy Jackson

Last week, Disney+ added two new stars to its upcoming Percy Jackson series, which will star The Adam Project's Walker Scobell in the title role. The streamer announced that Aryan Simhadri and Leah Sava Jeffries would play Grover Underwood and Annabeth Chase, respectively, two of Percy's best friends throughout the fantasy adventure series by author Rick Riordan.

Now, just days later, Riordan has stepped up to defend Jeffries from what he called "bullying and harassing" and even "racist" behavior from fans who were unhappy with the casting choice. 

"The response to the casting of Leah has been overwhelmingly positive and joyous, as it should be," Riordan wrote in a blog post on his website Tuesday. "Leah brings so much energy and enthusiasm to this role, so much of Annabeth’s strength. She will be a role model for new generations of girls who will see in her the kind of hero they want to be."

He continued, "If you have a problem with this casting, however, take it up with me. 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."

Annabeth Chase is introduced in Riordan's Percy Jackson novels as the daughter of the goddess of Athena, and is described in the novels as white. In the Percy Jackson feature films, she was played by Alexandra Daddario, but when it came time to cast the series, Riordan made it clear that he prioritized personality over all else, opening the door for actors of color to play any of the characters from the novels. In his post, Riordan went on to explain why complaints over Jeffries' race, despite his own input on her casting as the creator of the character, are troubling to him. 

"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," Riordan said. "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.

"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."

Riordan concluded his post, which is well worth reading in full, by re-emphasizing that the series is "an adaptation that I am proud of, which fully honors the spirit of Percy Jackson and the Olympians." Riordan himself co-wrote the pilot to the series alongside co-showrunner Jon Steinberg, and has been heavily involved in every step of the show's development as an executive producer on the project, so it's no wonder he wants to step up and be there for his young stars.

Daddario also chimed in on the casting, voicing her support for Jeffries' casting, noting she believes she'll do a great job taking over the role.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians begins production later this year before its arrival on Disney+. 

If you're looking for more fantasy in the meantime, check out the best fantasy movies on Peacock.