- Rick Riordan addressed those who criticized Leah Sava Jeffries’ casting for “Percy Jackson” in a lengthy blog post
- The author said he chose the best actors, and their appearance was not his priority for the adaptation
- Riordan said they underwent an intense and exhaustive casting process and followed Disney’s nondiscrimination policy
Rick Riordan addressed the backlash about his choice of casting a Black actor to play Annabeth Chase in “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” for Disney+.
Riordan decided to cast Leah Sava Jeffries as Annabeth, and it received mixed responses. While some were delighted to see a Black 12-year-old actress play the role, many spewed hate online.
The author responded to the casting criticisms in a blog post titled “Leah Jeffries is Annabeth Chase.” He said his post was “specifically for those who have a problem with the casting of Leah Jeffries as Annabeth Chase.” He clarified that he was speaking for himself and not for Disney, the show and all the crew involved.
“If you have a problem with this casting, however, take it up with me. You have no one else to blame,” Riordan wrote. “Whatever else you take from this post, we should be able to agree that bullying and harassing a child online is inexcusably wrong.”
The “Percy Jackson” creator said that Jeffries is strong and they have already discussed this issue as they anticipated such a “kind of reaction” due to the “intense pressure this role will bring.”
However, even if they already talked about it, Riordan admitted that “the negative comments she has received online are out of line. They need to stop. Now.”
The creator added that they followed Disney’s nondiscrimination policy about “diverse, inclusive casting.” For every role, they submitted qualified performers regardless of their “disability, gender, race and ethnicity, age, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other basis prohibited by law.”
The creator and author remarked that “the casting process was long, intense, massive and exhaustive.” He also reminded fans that he was looking for the best actors and their physical appearance was not his priority.
Riordan acknowledged that many were disappointed, frustrated and angry that a Black actor was chosen to play Annabeth, who was described as white in the books, because “she doesn’t look the way I always imagined.” The author noted that even if those people denied being racist, such a response was an act of racism.
For Riordan, they were already pre-judging Jeffries because they haven’t seen her play the role yet and may not be aware or have dismissed her hard work of honing her talent, tenacity and screen presence.
“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 added. “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.”
The author reminded everyone not to judge someone based on their “preconceived notions,” adding that “anyone can be a hero.” He also insisted that the casting of the trio in “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” was marvelous. If the critics are still upset, Riordan said no matter how many times they read his book, “you didn’t learn anything from them.”
“Watch the show or don’t. That’s your call,” Riordan concluded, noting that he would always be proud of the adaptation that fully honored the spirit of “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” — the bedtime story he told his son two decades ago to make him feel better about being a neurodivergent.
The live-action series is based on the best-selling book “Percy Jackson and the Olympians.” It was officially picked up by Disney+ in January, Variety reported. However, it was first reported to be in the works at the streamer as early as May 2020.
“Percy Jackson and the Olympians” also stars Walker Scobell as Percy Jackson and Aryan Simhadri as Grover alongside Jeffries as Annabeth. The production will start soon in Vancouver, Deadline reported.
© Copyright IBTimes 2022. All rights reserved.