‘Percy Jackson’ Writer Calls Out Racist Backlash to TV Casting

Repeat after “Percy Jackson” author Rick Riordan: “Leah Jeffries is Annabeth Chase.

Riordan has condemned a racist backlash to the recently announced casting of “Percy Jackson & the Olympians,” the upcoming Disney+ series based on his book saga of the same name. In a blog post published tuesdaythe best-selling novelist implored people to stop attacking Jeffries, the young black actor playing Annabeth, portrayed as white in the books.

“The response to Leah’s casting has been overwhelmingly positive and joyful, as it should be,” Riordan wrote. “Leah brings so much energy and enthusiasm to this role, so much strength from Annabeth. She will be a role model for new generations of girls who will see in her the kind of hero they want to be.

“If you have a problem with this casting, do not hesitate to tell me about it. You have no one else to blame. Whatever else you take away from this article, we should be able to agree that bullying and harassing a child online is inexcusably wrong. As strong as Leah is, even though we’ve discussed the potential for this type of backlash and the intense pressure this role will bring, the negative comments she’s received online are outside line. They must stop. Now.”

Earlier this month, Disney announced that Jeffries and Aryan Simhadri had landed the coveted roles of Annabeth Chase and Grover Underwood, respectively. In the “Percy Jackson” novels, Annabeth and Grover are best friends with Percy, who will be played by Walker Scobell.

The first book in Riordan’s fantasy series, “The Lightning Thief”, sees Percy meeting Annabeth at Camp Half-Blood, a retreat for the demigod children of the Greek gods. Annabeth is the quick-witted daughter of Athena, goddess of wisdom, while Percy is the brave son of Poseidon, god of the sea. Grover is a cautious satyr who embarks on daring mythological journeys alongside Percy and Annabeth.

“I was very clear a year ago when we announced our first open casting call that we would follow Disney’s corporate policy of non-discrimination,” Riordan continued in his blog post.

“I was clear, as a writer, 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 to 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.”

Since booking ‘Percy Jackson’, 12-year-old Jeffries has also received enthusiastic support from ‘The White Lotus’ star Alexandra Daddario, who originated the on-screen role of Annabeth in the film adaptation of 2010 from “The Lightning Thief”. On Twitter this week, Daddario predicted that Jeffries is “going to be an amazing Annabeth.”

“Once you see Leah as Annabeth, she will become exactly as you imagine Annabeth, assuming you give her that chance, but you refuse to believe that can be true,” Riordan wrote.

“You judge her suitability for this role solely and exclusively on her looks. She’s a black girl playing someone who was portrayed in the books as white. My friends, that’s racism.

In 2015, Jeffries made her small screen debut as Lola Lyon in the musical series “Empire”. She then played Lil’s on-screen daughter Rel Howery in the Fox comedy “Rel.” Then she will appear in the movie “Beast” opposite Idris Elba.

On Instagram, a “confident” and undeterred Jeffries also addressed casting complaints in a video message advising her enemies to stop “wasting time” trying to bring her down because “it won’t work”.

In a press release this month, Disney revealed that production on “Percy Jackson” will soon begin in Vancouver, Canada. Executive producers Riordan and Jon Steinberg will co-write the pilot episode, directed by James Bobin.

“Percy Jackson’s central message has always been that there is strength in difference,” Riordan concluded in his statement. “You should never judge someone on how well they fit your preconceptions. This neurodivergent child who failed in six schools, for example, could well be the son of Poseidon. Anyone can be a hero.

“If you don’t understand that, if you’re still upset about the casting of this wonderful trio, then it doesn’t matter how many times you’ve read the books. You haven’t learned anything from them.