Percy Jackson author Rick Riordan is raining down lightning bolts on those who have been bullying Leah Sava Jeffries, the young actress chosen to play Annabeth in the upcoming Disney+ series.
It was announced earlier this week that, alongside The Adam Project‘s Walker Scobell as the titular Percy, Jeffries (whose previous credits include Empire) will play Annabeth Chase, daughter of the Greek goddess Athena and a brilliant strategist who will train Percy to survive the mythological world.
Additionally, Aryan Simhadri (Disney’s Spin) has been cast as Grover Underwood, the half boy/half goat who will always throw himself into a fight to protect his friends.
Annabeth is “canonically white” in the Percy Jackson novels, so in response to Jeffries’ casting, some have spewed racist screeds — occasionally directed at the actress herself. And Riordan is not having it.
In a post to his blog, Riordan notes, “The response to the casting of Leah has been overwhelmingly positive and joyous.” But to those who refuse to express such approval, “take it up with me,” he says. “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 says that during the TV series “long, intense, massive and exhaustive” casting process, one that abided by Disney’s company policy on nondiscrimination, “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. We did that. 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.”
Riordan then had choice words (best read in full on his blog) for those who follow their criticism of Jeffries’ casting with, “But I am not racist.”
“You are judging her appropriateness for this role solely and exclusively on how she looks,” the author observes. “She is a Black girl playing someone who was described in the books as white. Friends, that is racism.”
Alexandra Daddario (most recently of HBO’s The White Lotus) of course played Annabeth in a pair of Percy Jackson feature films, and Jeffries has her endorsement as well. “Leah Jeffries is going to be an incredible Annabeth!,” she shared on Twitter Tuesday afternoon.
Leah Jeffries is going to be an incredible Annabeth!!!
— Alexandra Daddario (@AADaddario) May 10, 2022