Five new cast members have been announced for Percy Jackson and the Olympians, the Disney+ TV series adaptation of Rick Riordan's wildly popular Percy Jackson books. We now know who will be playing Sally Jackson, Chiron, Dionysus, Mrs. Dodds, and Smelly Gabe. The news was announced June 2, the day filming began on the first episode of the show.
The 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 story was previously adapted for the big screen over a decade ago with Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief and its 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 series, which he promises will be a more faithful adaptation, and he frequently shares optimistic updates on his website.
Here's everything we know so far about Percy Jackson and the Olympians on Disney+, including the newest cast members joining the show.
On Thursday June 2, the first day of filming on the pilot episode, five more cast members were announced, including the actors who will play everyone's favorite centaur, Chiron, and Percy's mom, Sally Jackson. Riordan unveiled the new cast members in a post on his website. "The excitement is so thick you could cut it with a celestial bronze ballpoint pen!" he wrote.
Here are the actors joining Team Percy Jackson:
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, 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 other words, he is the perfect Chiron, the immortal centaur and trainer of heroes at Camp Half-Blood."
Mrs. Dodds aka Alecto: Megan Mullally has been cast as 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, "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.
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.
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."
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 12-year-old actress previously appeared on the small screen in Empire and Rel, and is starring alongside Idris Elba and Shartlo Copley in the upcoming 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!"
Casting for other characters — including Zeus, Poseidon, Athena, Sally Jackson, Chiron, Medusa, and more — has yet to be announced.
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 Tuesday, May 10, Rick Riordan condemned the backlash as racist 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.
In a post on his website, 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 Thursday, 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?"
No Percy Jackson and the Olympians trailer has been released yet, since production is still in the early stages. But Riordan released a short title card teaser on his TikTok ahead of a Disney shareholders' meeting in December of 2020. The teaser featured the show's title and imagery from the Percy Jackson book covers.
Disney+ has yet to announce a release date for Percy Jackson and the Olympians, and production on the TV show is still in the early stages, with the main trio's casting only just announced in May 2022, and filming on the first episode begins in June. Fans probably will have to wait until the summer of 2023 at the earliest to see the lightning thief in action. 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 likeThe Mighty Ducks: Game Changers.
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 Disney Plus-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.