The leading trio of kids cast in the upcoming Disney+ original series Percy Jackson and the Olympians have mostly been met with celebration, as Walker Scobell (The Adam Project) signed on as Percy alongside Aryan Simhadri (Spin) as Grover and Leah Sava Jeffries (Empire) as Annabeth in the reboot of the film franchise. However, a loud minority of fans have voiced their displeasure at the Annabeth casting, prompting a swift response from Percy Jackson author Rick Riordan: “Friends, that is racism.”
In a statement released on his website he expressed, “The response to the casting of Leah has been overwhelmingly positive and joyous, as it should be. 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. 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.”
Riordan went on to explain that while the character was described as white in the books, he stood by the open casting mandate from Disney to find the right actor for the role. “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.”
The new series is set to begin production in Vancouver this year; it’s based on Riordan’s best-selling book series from Disney Hyperion. Percy Jackson and the Olympians follows 12-year-old modern demigod Percy Jackson, who’s recently come to terms with his powers when Zeus accuses him of stealing his master lightning bolt. His friends Grover and Annabeth know he didn’t, and they embark on a great adventure to find it and bring it back to Olympus to restore order.
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