Leah Jeffries, star of “Percy Jackson and the Olympians,” recently discussed in an interview with Essence magazine how some negative fans first reacted negatively to her appointment as Annabeth Chase in the upcoming Disney+ series. The casting of a Black actress to play a character who is depicted in the literature as a blonde white girl infuriated racist trolls. In the Fox film versions of “Percy Jackson,” actor Alexandra Daddario, star of “The White Lotus,” portrayed Annabeth. Jeffries responded without taking a hard stance and without expressing any animosity toward such poisonous supporters. Rather, her response may take some by surprise.
Jefferies remarked, “I listen to people say things and try to tear me down.” “They claim that you are not Elizabeth. She cannot be played the way Alexandra Daddario can. However, what’s the deal? They’re accurate. I can’t play like her because I’m not her. But I will demonstrate to you my identity and approach to the role. I’m not attempting to emulate anyone. My desire is to be authentic and to ensure that other girls share my same sentiments.
Author of “Percy Jackson,” Rick Riordan, has always praised Jeffries’ choice to play Annabeth. Following the casting announcement, he penned an open letter on his blog in May 2022, saying, “Leah brings so much energy and enthusiasm to this role, so much of Annabeth’s strength.” For upcoming generations of girls, she will serve as an inspiration, showing them what type of hero they should aspire to be.
Riordan went on, “But if you have an issue with this casting, bring it up with me.” “You are the only one at fault. We should all be able to agree that it is unacceptable for anyone to harass or bully a child online, regardless of anything else you learn from this essay. Even though Leah is a strong person and we have talked about the possibility of this kind of response as well as the tremendous strain this role will bring, the unjustified criticism she has seen online is unacceptable. They must give up. Right now.
For our “Percy Jackson” cover, Riordan explained in an interview with Variety, saying, “Leah impressed me from the moment I met her.” Although she possesses the kind of steel that makes a leader, she also exhibits some weakness. “Again, does she resemble Annabeth from the books?” he asks. No. Did I find that significant? No. Expanding the cast’s representation was, if anything, a huge advantage.
Afterwards, Riordan told Entertainment Weekly that choosing Jeffries to play Annabeth was in keeping with the spirit of his franchise, since the primary reason he developed “Percy Jackson” was to help his dyslexic and ADHD child who was struggling in school.
Since it’s the main reason Riordan wrote the novel, “it is inclusive enough that everyone can be a hero,” he said. “I wanted to let my son know that it’s acceptable because he was feeling like an outsider due to learning disabilities. Distinctiveness is an asset. You’re going to be all right. You are a part of this universe, too.
“I’m playing a character that is a different person, different hair color, different skin tones, and all that,” Jeffries herself said to EW at the time. The prototype was just that. To hear that I’m portraying her in a different way made me think, “Wow, I’m going to inspire other girls now.” I had an amazing and incredible time filming the series.
Disney+ and Hulu are currently offering the first two episodes of “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” for streaming. Every Wednesday, new episodes are released on Disney+.