Percy Jackson and the Olympians, the Disney+ series, based on Rick Riordan’s beloved young adult novels, began pre-production in 2020 and was officially green-lit in January. Although there is no official release date yet, fans celebrated recent announcements regarding the series, including the cast.
Fans found out for the first time that Walker Scobell would play their beloved Percy Jackson. This week, the latest announcement came when Rick Riordan surprised fans on his blog. The top three were complete, with Leah Sava’ Jeffries as Annabeth Chase and Aryan Simhadri as Grover Underwood.
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Fan reaction to this casting was overwhelmingly positive, but a vocal minority sparked outcry against one particular cast: Leah Sava’ Jeffries as Annabeth Chase.
In Rick Riordan’s book series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Annabeth Chase is white. Jeffries is black. Most fans celebrated this inclusive casting, but many unleashed racist harassment on the young actress.
Despite being just a teenager, Jeffries has an impressive acting resume, having been a series regular in Rel (2018-2019) on FOX and a frequent guest star on FOX’s Empire (2015).
Related: ‘Percy Jackson’ Fans ‘Cry,’ Annoyed At Disney
Rick Riordan quickly took to his blog to express his support for Jeffries, writing that he thought she was the perfect fit for Annabeth:
I was very clear a year ago when we announced our first open casting call that we would follow Disney’s corporate policy of non-discrimination: we are committed to diverse and inclusive casting. For each role, please submit qualified performers without regard to disability, gender, race and ethnicity, age, color, national origin, sexual orientation, gender identity or any other basis prohibited by law. We did it. The casting was long, intense, massive and exhaustive.
I was clear, as a writer, 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 to me. We did it. 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.
He continued, expressing the disappointment and shame of those who harassed the teenage Jeffries:
You judge his suitability for this role solely and exclusively on his appearance. She’s a black girl playing someone who was portrayed in the books as white.
Friends, that’s racism.
Riordan praised Leah and the Jeffries family for their strength during this time, but demanded the harassment stop:
If you have a problem with this casting, do not hesitate to tell me about it. You have no one else to blame. Whatever else you take away from this article, we should be able to agree that bullying and harassing a child online is inexcusably wrong. As strong as Leah is, even though we’ve discussed the potential for this kind of backlash and the intense pressure this role will bring, the negative comments she’s received online are irrelevant. They must stop. Now.
Thousands of fans expressed their support for Jeffries with a hashtag: #LeahisOurAnnabeth, which is trending this week on Twitter.
Just yesterday, Cartoon Network released a statement of support for Leah Sava’ Jeffries, in a rare move considering Disney is a direct competitor. They wrote:
When we see harassment, we talk. We can’t wait to see @LeahSavJeffries like #Annabeth 💙
#StopBullyingSpeakUp #LeahJeffries #CartoonNetwork #LeahIsOurAnnabeth #PercyJackson #representationmatters
When we see harassment, we talk. We can’t wait to see @LeahSavJeffries as #Annabeth 💙#StopBullyingSpeakUp #LeahJeffries #CartoonNetwork #LeahIsOurAnnabeth #PercyJackson #representationmatters https://t.co/5MWPsb2Nka
— Cartoon Network (@cartoonnetwork) May 12, 2022
Are you excited for Percy Jackson and the Olympians on Disney+? Let us know in the comments!