Rick Riordan Responds To Percy Jackson Casting Backlash

Last week, Disney+ announced that Leah Jeffries and Aryan Simhadri had joined the cast of Percy Jackson and the Olympians as Annabeth Chase and Grover Underwood, respectively. And while most of the responses from fans have been positive, the news unfortunately provoked some extremely negative responses as well, particularly regarding Jeffries’ casting. Some “fans” are less willing to accept the idea of an actress of color playing a character who was implied to be white in the novels. They also targeted Jeffries on her social media accounts. Now, Percy Jackson author Rick Riordan is coming to her defense.

Riordan hit back at Jeffries’ critics in a new blog post titled “Leah Jeffries is Annabeth Chase” on his website. Unlike 20th Century Fox’s Percy Jackson films, Riordan is working on the TV series as a writer and executive producer. So he had a say in the casting process. And if he thinks Jeffries was the right choice to embody Annabeth onscreen, it makes little sense to disagree with him.

“If you have a problem with this casting, however, take it up with me,” wrote Riordan. “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.”

RELATED: Disney+’s Percy Jackson Series Casts Its Annabeth and Grover

“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,” continued Riordan. “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.”

In case that didn’t make his position clear enough, Riordan also called out this behavior for what it really is: racism. He even unpacked the typical “I am not racist!” response, arguing that everyone has some degree of racial bias. But they can either choose to “recognize and try to work on” it, or “deny [their] own biases and refuse to work on them.”

“The core message of Percy Jackson has always been that difference is strength,” added Riordan. “There is power in plurality. The things that distinguish us from one another are often our marks of individual greatness. You should never judge someone by how well they fit your preconceived notions. That neurodivergent kid who has failed out of six schools, for instance, may well be the son of Poseidon. Anyone can be a hero.”

What are your thoughts on Riordan’s statement? Let us know in the comment section below!

Recommended Reading: Percy Jackson and the Olympians 5-Book Paperback Box Set

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