The forthcoming TV series Percy Jackson and the Olympians has unveiled the first exclusive look of the cast on the set. While fan reactions have been mostly overwhelmingly positive, there’s another side to the fandom consisting of the trolls who have expressed unfavorable judgment, concerning the casting choices — especially Leah Jeffries’ portrayal of Annabeth Chase. Previously, following supposed backlash concerning woke inclusivity and comments tinged with prejudice, the author of the series, Rick Riordan, himself had to address such fans directly in a post on his website.
As it turns out, the criticisms are back again with Leah Jeffries being accused and trolled for race-swapping in the upcoming Disney+ series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians.
Why The Backlash?
Following the casting reveal announcement which took place earlier this year, on May 6th, many believed and stated that Annabeth’s casting was subpar, as it did not adhere to the canonical representation of the character in the books. Annabeth is characterized as having wavy blonde hair, a tan complexion, and grey eyes in the literary series. Her portrayal in the books describes her as being white, which contradicts the latest casting choice for Annabeth, who will be played by Leah Jeffries.
Following the reveal, the initial reception gave way to disheartening comments on the internet; some targeting the young actress and consequently, harassing her. Things got to a point where Rick Riordan, the author of the Percy Jackson series, had to clear the tense air and provide reasoning as to why Jeffries was the better casting choice.
Following is what the author had to say:
“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 … This trio is the best. Leah Jeffries is Annabeth Chase.”
The author’s lengthy post addressed the nitty-gritty of the casting process and expressed how he was simply abiding by his principles when he chose Jeffries as Annabeth: that only a person’s personality reflects their honest, true nature. His statement, however, was not of much help as the criticism has flared up yet again. But fans of the series came to Jeffries’ rescue.
Percy Jackson Fans Defend Leah Jeffries
Fans of the series were quick to defend the actress and responded to the criticism online. While most of the backlash was tame, some others resorted to trolling. Speaking up against such remarks, the Percy Jackson fans pointed out the logical reasoning behind their support for Leah Jeffries portraying the role of Annabeth Chase. Following is what they had to state:
why are you so bothered by a black girl? like who cares? you should care if the show is good not that a black girl is in it
— andré! (@heavyonit) August 18, 2022
Athena isn’t blonde. She’s a brunette and it’s not the 00s anymore
— Des⁷ says she’s reading The Son Of Neptune ❂🔱 (@DestheDreamer_) August 18, 2022
do the replies know that the casting for the trio was OPEN AUDITIONS and the author chose the actors who best portrayed the character… like the personality, mannerisms, traits etc. not their fault (especially leah’s) they they were the most talented in their auditions 🤷♀️
— Nia | (@carstairsbur) August 18, 2022
u all are so quick to get defensive whenever hollywood gives BIPOC roles to white people or LGBTQ roles to cishet with the excuse “theyre ACTORS! if the actor is better than they should be cast”
so why cant it be the same the other way around? or do u just think that BIPOC
— Nia | (@carstairsbur) August 18, 2022
Why you are focusing on that instead of other things that are more apparent…
— VoyageurInternet (@VoyageurFutur) August 18, 2022
There’s a thin line, often at times blurred, between what encompasses criticism, trolling, and harassment. While many have voiced their support for the actress, others have stuck to their initial opinion. As always, the Internet is at a split when it comes to its perspectives. What one can hope for is that with time, the trolling targeted at Jeffries quietens down and people welcome a fresh perspective to the acclaimed series with open arms.
The first season of Percy Jackson and the Olympians is anticipated to premiere on Disney+ in early 2024.