‘Percy Jackson’ author speaks out against racist backlash to casting Leah Jeffries

The popular book series is getting a television adaptation on Disney+

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Rick Riordan, author of the Percy Jackson books, has taken to social media to defend actress Leah Jeffries after racist backlash against her casting as one of the leads in the upcoming Disney+ series.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians is finally getting the treatment it deserves after two poorly received film adaptations. A full-season order for the series was announced in January and last week, Riordan and Disney made a major casting announcement.

Rick Riordan's The Kane Chronicles, Book 1: The Red  Pyramid Book Party
Author Rick Riordan speaks at the launch party of Rick Riordan’s The Kane Chronicles, Book 1: The Red Pyramid at Brooklyn Museum. (Photo by Amy Sussman/Getty Images for Disney)

Jeffries was cast as Annabeth Chase in the series, starring opposite Walker Scobell and Aryan Simhadri as Percy and Grover respectively. While she received a lot of love from most of the fanbase, others complained on social media about a Black actress playing a role written as white in the books.

Riordan called out the backlash for what it was: racism.

In a statement posted on his website, he wrote,”This post is specifically for those who have a problem with the casting of Leah Jeffries as Annabeth Chase. It’s a shame such posts need to be written, but they do…Leah brings so much energy and enthusiasm to this role, so much of Annabeth’s strength. She will be a role model for new generations of girls who will see in her the kind of hero they want to be.”

“If you have a problem with this casting, however, take it up with me,” he continued. “You have no one else to blame. 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.”

Screening Of Twentieth Century Fox And Fox 2000's "Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters" - Arrivals
Actors Leven Rambin, Douglas Smith, Logan Lerman, Alexandra Daddario and Brandon T. Jackson arrive at the premiere of ‘Percy Jackson: Sea Of Monsters’ at The Americana at Brand on July 31, 2013 in Glendale, California. (Photo by Angela Weiss/Getty Images)

He added, “Some of you have apparently felt offended or exasperated when your objections are called out online as racist. ‘But I am not racist,’ you say. ‘It is not racist to want an actor who is accurate to the book’s description of the character.’

Let’s examine that statement. 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…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.”

He goes on to call Jeffries and the other actors, “perfect,” for their roles and that should fans give her a chance, she “will become exactly the way you imagine Annabeth.”

Percy Jackson is not Jeffries’ first foray into acting, having previously appeared in Empire, Rel and more. “She is a brilliant actor who can break our hearts, make us laugh, and have us cheering for her all in the same scene,” Riordan wrote when Jeffries was first announced as Annabeth.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians is set to start filming soon in Vancouver.

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