‘Percy Jackson’ Author Shuts Down Backlash to Casting Black Actress as Annabeth Chase: ‘Friends, That Is Racism’
Rick Riordan will not stand for any racism toward or bullying of the new “Percy Jackson” cast. On Tuesday, the author issued a lengthy statement defending the casting of Leah Jeffries as Annabeth Chase.
In a post on his website, Riordan — who wrote the “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” book series, will write the pilot of the Disney+ series, and executive produce the series — noted that most of the responses to Jeffries being cast have been “overwhelmingly positive and joyous.” But there are still some out there who are upset that Annabeth, who is described as a white girl in the books, will be played by a Black actress and that’s who Riordan directed his post at.
“You either are not aware, or have dismissed, Leah’s years of hard work honing her craft, her talent, her tenacity, her focus, her screen presence,” Riordan wrote. “You refuse to believe her selection could have been based on merit. Without having seen her play the part, you have pre-judged her (pre + judge = prejudice) and decided she must have been hired simply to fill a quota or tick a diversity box. And by the way, these criticisms have come from across the political spectrum, right and left.”
Riordan made a point to clarify that he was not instructed by Disney or anyone else on who he should pick to play the beloved half-bloods.
“If you have a problem with this casting, however, take it up with me. You have no one else to blame,” he said. “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 also reiterated that, as the man who created these characters, he is inarguably best suited for knowing who should play them, and is confident that audiences will fall in love with Jeffries as Annabeth.
“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,” 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.”
Jeffries takes over the mantle of Annabeth Chase after the character was originally brought to life in the “Percy Jackson” movies by Alexandra Daddario.
Back in December, Daddario told WrapWomen’s “UnWrapped” podcast that she has no involvement in the new Disney+ series, but was excited to see who would be tapped to play the daughter of Athena next.
“I am so excited for the kids that are going to be cast in that and how they’ll inspire a new generation of young women. Like it’s so cool, Annabeth is a really inspiring character to people,” she said.
Following the release of Riordan’s statement, #LeahIsOurAnnabeth began trending on Twitter, with fans voicing their support for the young actress. You can read Rick Riordan’s full statement here.