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Percy Jackson creator Rick Riordan rips complaints about casting the TV series

Rick Riordan, author of <em>Percy Jackson and The Olympians.</em>
Rick Riordan
Rick Riordan, author of Percy Jackson and The Olympians.

Rick Riordan, author of the best-selling Percy Jackson and the Olympians, has some pointed words for critics of the decision to cast Leah Jeffries as the character Annabeth Chase in the upcoming Disney+ series based on the books. Jeffries is a person of color. In the books, Annabeth is white.

Under the headline, "Leah Jeffries is Annabeth," Riordan writes on his website, "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." He continues, "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."

According to Jeffries, her Tik Tok account was "banned" by people angry over the decision.

"So I guess all the people that kind of did not want me to be Annabeth or something, they literally took down my whole account," Jeffries says in a video posted in a new Tik Tok account.

A spokesperson for Tik Tok says Jeffries' account was taken down due to the platform's minimum age requirement of 13. Jeffries is 12.

Riordan's Percy Jackson books have sold more than 180 million copies worldwide. The live action series tells the story of 12 year old Percy Jackson, a modern demigod embracing his newfound supernatural powers.

"The trio is complete!" Riordan enthused on May 5 when he announcing that Jeffries' Annabeth would join actor Aryan Simhadri as Grover Underwood who plays Percy Jackson's best friend. Jackson will be played by Walker Scobell.

In his statement, Riordan writes that Percy Jackson fans who denounce the casting decision have missed the series' "core message."

"The core message of Percy Jackson has always been that difference is strength. There is power in plurality. The things that distinguish us from one another are often our marks of individual greatness. You should never judge someone by how well they fit your preconceived notions. That neurodivergent kid who has failed out of six schools, for instance, may well be the son of Poseidon. Anyone can be a hero."

Through his imprint with Disney Hyperion Publishing, Riordan has a track record of elevating the work of diverse authors. According to his website, "Our goal is to publish great middle grade authors from underrepresented cultures and backgrounds, to let them tell their own stories inspired by the mythology and folklore of their own heritage."

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Elizabeth Blair is a Peabody Award-winning senior producer/reporter on the Arts Desk of NPR News.