According to Percy Jackson & The Olympians creator Rick Riordan, while production of the upcoming Disney Plus adaptation of his popular work has for most part “followed the book story very closely”, it has also made a number of “small tweaks and changes” which he claims have added a new level of “value” to the tale of Poseidon’s eponymous son.
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Riordan spoke to the upcoming changes to Percy’s story in an August 13th update on the series’ development posted to his personal blog.
After noting that he and his wife Becky had recently “returned to Vancouver, where we are back on set with the demigod squad, filming the first season of PJOTV [i.e. Percy Jackson & the Olympians Television series]” and providing a recap of their travels across Canada, the author turned to address the question of just how much progress he and Disney had thus far made in bringing the series to life.
“How much Percy content have we covered?” he began. “Put it this way: If you were following along in the book, we have pretty much filmed through chapter nine in The Lightning Thief.”
“That’s a big chunk of the story, but there is a massive amount of fun and games still to come!” he exclaimed, before assuring fans, “And yes, the filming has followed the book story very closely, almost as if the author were involved himself!”
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However, this assurance was not without a caveat, as he then admitted, “Sure, there are small tweaks and changes here and there,” which he explained “were mutually agreed upon” between himself and Disney.
“But the biggest difference is the ‘value added,’” said the author. “You will get peeks at character backstory, foreshadowing Easter eggs of things to come, and nuances in Percy’s family history that I think you will love.”
He further elaborated, “The neat thing about revisiting this tale, almost twenty years after I first wrote it, is that I get to address some of the questions that fans have asked me over the years: ‘What does this mean?’ ‘Why does this happen the way it does?’ ‘What would happen if —?’”
“It’s been really satisfying and fun,” Riordan concluded.
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Riordan’s hint of more changes to his original work follows the previous reveal that the production team – himself included – had made the decision to race-swap the character of Annabeth Chase by casting black actress Leah Jeffries as the originally white character.
Notably, Riordan responded to critics of this change – the overwhelming majority of whom held no racial ill-will towards the actress, but rather were disappointed that they would not be getting an adaptation accurate to the picture that was painted for them in the original books – by blanket accusing them all of being racist.
“You are upset/disappointed/frustrated/angry because a Black actor has been cast to play a character who was described as white in the books,” he wrote in May following the reveal of Jeffries’ casting. “‘She doesn’t look the way I always imagined.’”
“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,” the writer continued. “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.”
He then detailed, “And by the way, these criticisms have come from across the political spectrum, right and left.”
“You have decided that I couldn’t possibly mean what I have always said: That the true nature of the character lies in their personality,” wrote Riordan. “You feel I must have been coerced, brainwashed, bribed, threatened, whatever, or I as a white male author never would have chosen a Black actor for the part of this canonically white girl.”
“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,” the author declared. “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.”
“You are judging her appropriateness for this role solely and exclusively on how she looks,” he accused. “She is a Black girl playing someone who was described in the books as white. Friends, that is racism.”
As per Riordan, Percy Jackson & The Olympians is reportedly on track for a 2024 release.
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