Recently, the showrunners at Disney Plus announced their casting choices for the upcoming series based on the young adult book series Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and fans were quick to react.
We at Disney Fanatic previously shared the casting news, but it appears that one particular casting choice has sparked some controversy and backlash among the fanbase. Actress Leah Jeffries is set to play the character Annabeth Chase, joining the lead trio that includes Walker Scobell (Adam Project) as Percy and Aryan Simhadri as Grover. In the books, Chase is white. Jeffries is black.
While die-hard “puritan” fanatics have been known to be outraged over any changes movie makers and showrunners decided to implement from the source material, it appears that the outrage over Percy Jackson‘s casting change has taken a racist turn. This, in turn, sparked a reaction from the creator of the Percy Jackson franchise, Rick Riordan.
The author posted a blog on his website titled “Leah Jeffries is Annabeth Chase,” in which he said, in part,
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…
…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. 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.
Riordan also repeated that he and the show’s crew followed Disney’s non-discrimination policy when it came to acting, which states, in part, “We are committed to diverse, inclusive casting.” He then rejected all claims–from both the right and left–that he was somehow “coerced, brainwashed, bribed, threatened, whatever” into race-swapping the role.
But Riordan went beyond defending his own rights as the creator of the character and series to call out all dissenters as being racist.
“Some of you have apparently felt offended or exasperated when your objections are called out online as racist. ‘But I am not racist,’ you say. ‘It is not racist to want an actor who is accurate to the book’s description of the character!’,” he wrote. “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.”
Click here to read Riordan’s full statement on the matter.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians is a coming-of-age book series about a teenager who discovers he is the son of the Greek god Poseidon and embarks on a series of adventures through Greek Mythology with his friends Grover and Annabeth. After two lackluster movie attempts with 20th Century Fox (now 20th Century Studios), Riordan has returned to Hollywood to try once again to bring his characters to the screen on Disney+.
We at Disney Fanatic will continue to monitor this story and other Disney+ news, and we will continue to update our readers as more developments come to light.