A few weeks ago, Disney Plus and Rick Riordan both announced the casting of Walker Scobell as the titular character in the Percy Jackson Disney Plus series. Now, they’ve officially declared that he will be joined by Leah Sava Jeffries as Annabeth Chase and Aryan Simhadri as Grover Underwood.
While the cast are definitely more in the age range of the book versions of Percy, Annabeth and Grover, they do not physically resemble the characters that we know and love; Percy is described as having black hair and green eyes, Annabeth has iconic curly blonde hair and stormy grey eyes, and Grover has reddish hair and the beginnings of a moustache growing. However, despite these obvious differences, Rick Riordan himself had input in the casting of the actors and he is happy with the result, so it stands to reason that the actors are already doing a phenomenal job.
“These actors are 100% my choices, my decisions, and I could not be happier with how things are going. If you have any doubts, wait until you see them act in the show. You’ll quickly see why I chose them, and why I am so confident!” – Rick Riordan
Recently book and television adaptations tend to cast actors in a more diverse manner than in years past. For example, the latest adaptation of Agatha Christie’s Death on The Nile featured an African-American woman playing Rosalie Otterbourne as well as a same-sex relationship that certainly was not present in the original novel. Large television and movie franchises such as Marvel Studios are creating movies and television shows about racially diverse heroes (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Shang-Chi, Ms Marvel), featuring same-sex couples (shown in both Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness and Eternals) and superheroes with mental health disorders (Moon Knight).
It stands to reason that in our world that is becoming more diverse and accepting in terms of race, gender, sex, colour, religion and more, these famous franchises are choosing to spread their wings and fly when casting characters. Naturally, there are always those who want the movie and television characters to more closely resemble those from the book series, but that is naturally more difficult when said book series were not originally as diverse.
Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson book series had very minimal representation; The Heroes of Olympus and The Trials of Apollo (the two spin-off series featuring the Greek gods) were much more diverse. In fact, Nico di Angelo, arguably the most famous LGBTQ+ character in the Riordanverse, was only acknowledged as gay in The House of Hades, after years of readers thinking that he had had a crush on Annabeth, not Percy. Other characters like Piper McLean (bisexual) and Will Solace (gay) were in the series for years before readers learned that they were of the LGBTQ+ community (Piper’s takes 10 books and Will’s takes 6). Alex Fierro, the gender fluid character in the Magnus Chase series is introduced almost immediately as being gender fluid. As for a racially diverse cast, most of these came in later series as well, with Leo being Latino, Piper being half-Cherokee, Frank being half-Chinese and half-Canadian, and Hazel being African-American. In the first series, while Nico is half-Italian, the primary protagonists – Percy, Annabeth and Grover – are all described as and depicted in their official portraits as white.
Rick Riordan has very diverse LGBTQ+ and racial representation in his more recent books, but as his earlier ones did not, should the cast reflect his original depictions or a more varied portrayal? Based on his previous letter in which he clearly stated that it is not the actors’ portrayal of the characters being the cause of the Fox movie adaptations failing, he feels the script is to blame, despite the characters being significantly aged up and not accurate depictions of the characters in the books.
“There were some very fine actors in those movies whom I feel terrible for because they had to be associated with those movies. I would never ask them to revisit that nightmare, especially when so many have gone on to wonderful, successful careers.” – Rick Riordan
Thus, one can only hope that the audience comes to watch the series with an open mind, given that the previous cast in the 2010 adaptation were not nearly so well received, partly due to major age differences, script challenges and yes, differences in physical appearances from their book counterparts.
For more news about Rick Riordan’s works, check out our articles here and stay tuned for more news about Percy Jackson and the Olympians!