The upcoming Percy Jackson show on Disney+ boasts some pretty famous faces among its cast, including Lin-Manuel Miranda, Megan Mullally, Jason Mantzoukas, and Adam Copeland (aka Edge from WWE). But if you were hoping to see some crossover casting from the Percy Jackson movies in the upcoming Percy Jackson and the Olympians on Disney+, don't hold your breath.
Unlike previous adaptations of the popular middle-grade book series about a boy who discovers he's the son of a Greek god, the new Disney+ series has Riordan's full support and involvement, which means that we'll get to see the world depicted in the way the author intended. And thanks to Disney announcements, photos on social media, and posts on Riordan's website, we're getting regular updates from behind the scenes. On Nov. 11, 2022, Riordan explained why fans of Logan Lerman, Alexandra Daddario, Brandon T. Jackson, and more stars of the movie adaptation won't be appearing in the show.
Here's everything we know so far about Percy Jackson and the Olympians on Disney+, including more details about Miranda's casting as Hermes, as well as the release date, full cast and character details, and early footage.
On Nov. 11, 2022, Riordan responded to the continued social media buzz, putting to rest any speculation that the stars of the Percy Jackson movies will be cast in different roles in the show.
Riordan's book series was previously adapted for the big screen over a decade ago with the 2010 movie Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief and its 2013 sequel, Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters; the movies performed well at the box office but were widely panned by critics, and the scripts were publicly criticized by Riordan himself, who said he refused to watch the films because he didn't want to see his "life's work going through a meat grinder." Fortunately, Riordan is deeply involved with the new TV series, which he promises will be a more faithful adaptation, and he frequently shares optimistic updates on his website.
Nevertheless, some fans on social media had been calling for Logan Lerman, who played Percy in the films, to be cast as Percy's father, Poseidon, in the show, and for Alexandra Daddario, who played Annabeth, to play her mother, Athena.
"What about actors from the original movie adaptations?" Riordan wrote. "The answer should not surprise you if you've read anything I've said about the movies over the last decade, but I'll say this again: A lot of wonderful, talented actors were involved in those movies. I have been quite open about my feelings concerning the adaptations, but that is no fault of the actors, whom I have enjoyed watching in many other great screen productions. That said, the whole point of me being involved in the TV show is to make sure this is a completely different production and a fresh start for Percy Jackson. That means an entirely new cast putting their own spin on the characters, and it's important for the cast and crew that they have a clean slate to work from. Because of that, there will be no crossover casting between the movies and the new TV show. This must be and will be its own thing."
Casting for Athena, Poseidon, Zeus, Hades, and several more major characters has yet to be announced.
Rick Riordan's five-book middle-grade series centers on Percy, a 12-year-old boy who discovers he's the son of a Greek god. He winds up at a summer camp for fellow demigods, where he learns more about his lineage and how to use his newfound powers. But when Percy is framed for stealing Zeus's lightning bolt, he and his friends embark on a frantic journey to find the real thief to prevent an all-out war between the gods.
"The filming has followed the book story very closely, almost as if the author were involved himself!" Riordan wrote in an Aug. 13 blog post. "Sure, there are small tweaks and changes here and there, which were mutually agreed upon, but the biggest difference is the 'value added.' 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. The neat thing about revisiting this tale, almost 20 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."
At Disney's massive D23 Expo in Anaheim, California in September 2022, Rick Riordan and the young stars of Percy Jackson and the Olympians unveiled the show's first teaser trailer, which offers a glimpse of Percy as he walks through Camp Half-Blood, and a warning to viewers that will be familiar to fans of the book series. Check it the trailer, as well as some images of the cast at D23, below.
Disney+ has yet to announce a release date for Percy Jackson and the Olympians, but fans probably will have to wait until early 2024 to see the lightning thief in action. According to an October 2022 post on Riordan's website, filming is still underway, with principal photography probably continuing through January 2023. The time-consuming post-production process is just beginning and will likely take a year. The first season of Percy Jackson and the Olympians will contain a total of eight episodes, according to Riordan.
After the Percy Jackson series premieres, new episodes will likely be released weekly rather than all at once. Historically, Disney+ has adopted a weekly release schedule for big franchise shows like Loki and Moon Knight, as well as for kids' programming like The Mighty Ducks: Game Changers.
Unlike the 20th Century Fox Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief movie and its sequel, the new Disney+ Percy Jackson and the Olympians show set out to cast actors in the same age range as the characters described in the first book — about 12 years old. (When the first movie was released in 2010, Logan Lerman was 18, Alexandra Daddario was 24, and Brandon T. Jackson was 26.) "The goal is to stay true to the original story and have Percy's character age from 12 to 16 over the course of the TV series, assuming of course we are lucky enough to make all five seasons," Rick Riordan wrote in a blog post announcing a preliminary casting call in April 2021.
Percy Jackson: A year after casting began, Riordan and Disney announced that Walker Scobell, who is 13 years old, will play Percy Jackson. Scobell previously starred alongside Ryan Reynolds in the Netflix film The Adam Project, and will appear on the big screen later in 2022 in Secret Headquarters, a superhero film also starring Owen Wilson, Michael Peña, and Jesse Williams. "It was obvious to me and the rest of the team that Walker had the perfect mix of comedic timing, sweetness, rebelliousness, snark and heroism to embody our hero Percy Jackson," Riordan wrote in a blog post announcing Scobell's casting. Scobell was already a "super-fan" of the books and happened to be wearing an orange Camp Half-Blood T-shirt when Riordan surprised him with the casting news.
At D23, Scobell described his Percy as "witty, sarcastic, and hot headed." "I promise you, I will always try my hardest every single day to bring Percy Jackson to life for all of us," he said.
Grover Underwood: In May 2022, it was announced that Aryan Simhadri will play Grover Underwood, Percy's best friend and protector, who happens to be a satyr. Simhadri, who is 15 years old, is no stranger to Disney, having previously starred in the 2022 remake of Cheaper by the Dozen on Disney+. He has about 20 more credits, appearing in the likes of SEAL Team, Will & Grace, and Adventure Time: Distant Lands. "He had me laughing out loud with his delivery and timing," Riordan wrote in the casting announcement. "He has a mixture of sweetness, humor, and internal toughness that is perfect for our favorite satyr."
Simhadri described Grover as "the protector of the group" who guides Percy and Annabeth through their adventures.
Annabeth Chase: In May 2022, it was announced that Leah Sava Jeffries will play Annabeth Chase, the brilliant strategist and daughter of the Greek goddess Athena who teams up with Percy at Camp Half-Blood and beyond. The 13-year-old actress previously appeared on the small screen in Empire and Rel, and is starring alongside Idris Elba and Sharlto Copley in the movie Beast, which premieres in August 2022. "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 in a post announcing Jeffries' casting. "Leah is exactly the way I imagined Annabeth in the books: smart, strong, and courageous, a true daughter of Athena who has zero patience for the foolishness of a certain Seaweed Brain. Watching her act with Walker and Aryan, I saw Annabeth Chase come to life. As soon as you see her on the screen, you will know what I mean. The Wise Girl has arrived!"
Jeffries said Annabeth is "a daughter of wisdom" who is smart, nice, supportive, and a great sword fighter, but you have to impress her to get in her circle.
Luke Castellan: Charlie Bushnell is playing Luke, the head of the Hermes cabin and a key player who helps set Percy off on his quest in The Lightning Thief. Bushnell previously appeared in The Diary of a Future President on Disney+.
Sally Jackson: Virginia Kull has been cast as Percy Jackson's mom, Sally. Her previous credits include Boardwalk Empire and Big Little Lies, among others. "Her combination of strength, humor and, heart makes her just the Sally Jackson we need," Riordan wrote in the casting announcement in June 2022, adding, "In the table read for episode 101, her performance moved us to tears."
Mr. Brunner aka Chiron: Glynn Turman is playing Chiron, Percy's centaur mentor who begins the tale disguised as one of Percy's teachers, Mr. Brunner. Turman's prolific career includes notable performances in The Wire, House of Lies, and Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. "Not only is he a multitalented actor, Glynn is also a champion rodeo cowboy who has run Camp Gid D Up in Southern California since 1992 to introduce inner-city and at-risk youth to horsemanship at a working ranch," Riordan wrote in June 2022. "In other words, he is the perfect Chiron, the immortal centaur and trainer of heroes at Camp Half-Blood."
Mrs. Dodds aka Alecto: Megan Mullally is playing Alecto, one of the Furies who stalk and torment Percy. When we first meet the character, she is disguised as an algebra teacher at Percy's school. Mullally's previous roles include Will & Grace, Bob's Burgers, Parks and Recreation, and many more.
Mr. D aka Dionysus: Jason Mantzoukas will play Camp Half-Blood director and god of wine Dionysus. Mantzoukas has previously appeared in Brooklyn Nine-Nine, The Good Place, Invincible, and other series. Riordan wrote in June 2022, "Self-described as '100% Greek,' Jason is the perfect guy to inhabit everyone's favorite grumpy wine god and head of camp, Dionysus."
Gabe Ugliano: Timm Sharp has been cast as Percy's scumbag stepfather, "Smelly Gabe." Sharp's credits include Enlightened and Six Feet Under, among others. "Timm had us laughing out loud with his take on Gabe Ugliano, and we can't wait to see him play stepdad to Walker Scobell's Percy Jackson," Riordan wrote in June 2022.
Clarisse LaRue: Dior Goodjohn, 15, will play Percy's Camp Half-Blood nemesis, Clarisse. Goodjohn has been acting since the age of 3 and landed the role of young Santana in Glee when she was 6. She recently starred as Robyn Rook in HBO Max's Head of the Class and will next be seen in Are You Afraid of the Dark? on Nickelodeon. "As Clarisse LaRue, child of Ares, she is a strong-willed and competitive fighter who doesn't let much stand in the way of her winning. Intensely loyal to her close friends, she's also quite intimidating to newcomers — look out, Percy!" Riordan wrote in June 2022.
Nancy Bobofit: Thirteen-year-old Olivea Morton has been cast as Nancy Bobofit, Percy's tormentor at Yancy Academy. The young actress previously appeared in several short films. Riordan announced the casting in June 2022.
Medusa: Jessica Parker Kennedy is playing the snake-haired gorgon who tries to turn Percy and his friends into stone. Kennedy is best known for playing Nora West-Allen in The Flash on The CW. According to her character description, Medusa is "wronged by the gods and bitter. Medusa lives in isolation until travelers stumble on her emporium. She is welcoming to some and a threat to others," per Variety. Riordan wrote, "I can tell you this is one Aunty Em you do not want to mess with. Her poised, powerful, elegant take on Medusa blew me away! And wait until you see some of the statuary in her Garden Gnome Emporium."
Ares: Adam Copeland is playing Ares, the belligerent god of war. Copeland, of course, is best known for being WWE Hall of Famer Edge, but he's also starred in shows like Haven and Vikings. Ares is described as "handsome in a wicked way and arrogant, despite not always being the sharpest tool in the shed. He loves conflict and acts as an agent of chaos wherever he goes," according to Variety. Riordan gave Copeland a glowing endorsement, writing, "I knew Adam was our Ares as soon as I saw his audition tape. He absolutely nailed it... This guy IS Ares the way I imagined him in the Percy Jackson series. He obviously knew the part, loved it, and was having WAY too much fun being the god of war. He even got a Harley-Davidson motorcycle so he could practice riding and get into character. That is commitment! Can't wait to see him go mano a mano with Percy Jackson? Me neither!"
Echidna: Suzanne Cryer is playing Echidna, the so-called Mother of Monsters. Cryer, whose credits include Straight Man, Shameless, and Silicon Valley, is "an incredible actor who brought menace and magic to her portrayal of Echidna," Riordan wrote. "Percy and the gang have their work cut out for them when they go toe-to-toe with this primordial force of nature, along with her favorite little monster baby... who may not actually be a chihuahua." Echidna is described as "dangerous, intimidating, and strangely maternal. She enjoys her task of challenging heroes and will test Percy's faith in the gods," Variety reported.
Hermes: Lin-Manuel Miranda, the creator of Hamilton and composer behind Disney's Encanto, is playing Hermes, the shrewd god of messengers, commerce, and thieves. Although Hermes doesn't appear until the second book, The Sea of Monsters, Riordan explained, "When you see the episode in question, it will make sense why we introduced Hermes early." Riordan said that after writing Hermes into the show, he couldn't get Miranda's voice out of his head, and reached out to him about playing the character, assuming it was a long shot. "I knew he would be the perfect person to bring Hermes to life in all his complex glory," Riordan wrote. Miranda agreed. Riordan wrote that he "delivered a performance that ignites the screen."
Casting details for other characters have yet to be announced, and some members of the pantheon won't appear until later seasons, provided the show is renewed.
"Not all 12 Olympian gods appear in book one, so not all gods will appear in Season 1, nor have all gods been cast yet," Riordan wrote in November. "Actors have to be cast based on scripts, and scripts have to be written one season at a time. Aphrodite, for instance, probably won't appear until Season 3, assuming we're lucky enough to get a Season 3, so that casting is at least 2-3 years away. Apollo and Artemis, same thing. Hestia, Hera, and Demeter probably wouldn't appear until Season 5."
But we can expect at least three more major casting announcements in the coming weeks and months: Hades, Poseidon, and Zeus.
The casting announcement for the series' three young leads was widely celebrated, with many fans sharing GIFs and fan art online to express their excitement. But a small group responded by criticizing the casting of Jeffries, who is Black, as Annabeth Chase, who is described as white in the novels, and attacking the young actress on TikTok, resulting in her account being banned.
On May 10, Rick Riordan condemned the racist backlash and defended the actress as "perfect" for the role. "If you have a problem with this casting," Riordan wrote on his website, "take it up with me. You have no one else to blame. … We should be able to agree that bullying and harassing a child online is inexcusably wrong."
He added, "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. 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. She is a Black girl playing someone who was described in the books as white. Friends, that is racism."
Riordan also praised Jeffries' acting chops, writing, "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."
Jeffries also spoke out against the harassment in an Instagram Live video, saying, "To whoever is hating, stop doing that. I know you think that's gonna hurt me, though… it's not. You're just wasting time. I'm still confident in myself. Everyone else is confident, everyone else is happy for me. So don't try to bring me down. It's not gonna work."
The young actress received support from a former co-star who was all-too-familiar with the situation. Javicia Leslie, the star of The CW's recently canceled Batwoman, received a similar response when she joined Batwoman in the lead role in a Season 2 recasting after former lead Ruby Rose departed the series. Leslie and Jeffries both appear in the upcoming Amazon Prime rom-com Something From Tiffany's.
In a video posted to Twitter, Leslie said, "A very special young lady who I had the pleasure of working with in Something From Tiffany's, Leah Jeffries, was just cast in the new 'Percy Jackson' Disney series. ... The thing is, the character that she's cast under, Annabeth, was originally a white character. And just like my experience, and a few of my other friends' experience, she's received a lot of negativity and a lot of hate. This is a child, you guys. So, what I want to do is I want to send her an abundance of love and light. I want all of you guys to go to Leah's page, follow her... and fill her comments with love and light."
And former Annabeth actress Alexandra Daddario also expressed her support for Jeffries on Twitter, writing, "Leah Jeffries is going to be an incredible Annabeth!!!"
Rick Riordan, who wrote the Percy Jackson novels as well as multiple spin-offs, is serving as an executive producer on Percy Jackson and the Olympians and co-wrote the pilot with Jonathan Steinberg (Black Sails). Steinberg also serves as showrunner. James Bobin (Dora and the Lost City of Gold,The Flight of the Conchords) is directing the pilot. Riordan wrote on his blog that Anders Engström and Jet Wilkinson are also directing episodes.
Riordan described his first week at the studios, including planning action sequences, watching the young trio of actors work on swordplay and stunts, and location scouting in Vancouver.
Filming on the first episode of Percy Jackson and the Olympians began June 2.
Riordan tweeted a photo of his personalized chair on the set of the new Disney+ series, along with the caption, "Excuse me, is anyone sitting here?"
Later in June, Riordan shared a photo of a "welcome to camp" sign as well as a video of trees and birdsong taken on location in Vancouver.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians is the first production to use Industrial Light & Magic's brand new StageCraft LED stage, which features a 95-foot LED screen, per The Hollywood Reporter. "Based on the groundbreaking technology that created The Mandalorian, our new Volume stage is an even more cutting-edge version of that wraparound virtual environment," Riordan wrote on his website on June 28. "We are using it for things that have never been attempted before, creating settings so realistic that if we do it right, you should never be able to guess which scenes were done on location and which were done on the stage."
In the books, Percy Jackson's birthday is on Aug. 18, and Disney+ celebrated the occasion in a big way. The Empire State Building in New York City — the setting of a pivotal scene and the location of Olympus itself in the first novel — was illuminated with blue lights in honor of Percy and his Olympian parent, Poseidon.
Plus, the show's Twitter account shared the first official photos of the three leads — Leah Sava Jeffries, Walker Scobell, and Aryan Simhadri — on set. And the following day, they zoomed in on Grover's (Simhadri) satyr horns.
In a post on his website in October 2022, Rick Riordan gave an update on the filming progress, revealing that the production has filmed up to the events of Chapter 16 in the first book, though filming doesn't necessarily follow a strict chronological order. (Chapter 16, as book fans know, is "We Take a Zebra to Vegas." The book contains 22 chapters in total.) "I have full input in everything that happens, and I have been delighted by the results so far," he wrote. "It's a huge relief, after waiting so many years and working so hard, to watch a sort-of final product and think, 'Oh, thank the gods. This works!'"
Riordan detailed the production and post-production process to his readers, noting that principal photography will likely continue through mid-January, and that early episodes have been cut, but that the bulk of post-production, including time-consuming visual effects, has yet to occur. "We are now planning the end of the season — the episodes that will bring home the action described in The Lightning Thief," he wrote. "The scripts are all finished, but of course they will be changed many times until the scenes are actually filmed. Rest assured I read every draft of every script and give input whenever needed."
Riordan shared photos from actress Leah Sava Jeffries' 13th birthday celebration on set, including a photo that offers a peek at an accessory that her character, Annabeth Chase, is never without. Check out the photo of Jeffries opening a birthday present, but see if you can spot Annabeth's magic Yankees cap in the photo below.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians will be released on Disney+, which also boasts the full Marvel and Star Wars catalogs, as well as Disney and Pixar animation, Disney Channel originals, and more exclusive series and movies. You can subscribe for $8 per month or $80 per year, or you can bundle Disney+ with Hulu and ESPN+ for $14 per month.