Percy Jackson Creator Rick Riordan Blasts Racist Backlash Over Annabeth Casting

Leah Jeffries is Annabeth Chase. The young actress, who has appeared in "Empire" and will co-star in the Idris Elba-led movie "Beast" this summer, will play the smart and resourceful daughter of Athena in the upcoming "Percy Jackson" Disney+ adaptation. She, Aryan Simhadri, and Walker Scobell have been cast as the show's leads: three intrepid heroes who team up at a summer camp for the children of deities. These sentences all relay simple facts, but because the internet is the worst, they've also apparently caused some backlash among fans.

Racist backlash is unfortunately nothing new, and trolls who would give up on the long-awaited series adaptation of Rick Riordan's Greek mythology-inspired young adult books over the casting of a Black actress don't deserve so much as the time it takes to write about them. Yet this particular wave of backlash stands out thanks to Riordan's own eloquent and straightforward response to any and all naysayers. Today, the author of the five "Percy Jackson & the Olympian" books shared some strong words about the situation on his own website.

The author calls it like it is

After noting that the overwhelming response to Jeffries' casting has been positive, Riordan addressed readers of the series who have reacted negatively to the actor's casting. The author first noted that bullying a child is always inexcusable before directly calling out detractors who claim to be fans of the series:

"You have decided that I couldn't possibly mean what I have always said: That the true nature of the character lies in their personality. You feel I must have been coerced, brainwashed, bribed, threatened, whatever, or I as a white male author never would have chosen a Black actor for the part of this canonically white girl.

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."

After giving some insight into the year-long casting process, Riordan declares that any instant dismissal of Jeffries based on her race is also a dismissal of her "years of hard work honing her craft, her talent, her tenacity, her focus, [and] her screen presence." Finally, the author points out — clearly and candidly — that these responses amount to racism, and that examining one's biases is always beneficial. He then writes:

"If you don't get that, if you're still upset about the casting of this marvelous trio, then it doesn't matter how many times you have read the books. You didn't learn anything from them."

In an era where far too much social media bad behavior by has been normalized or dismissed as typical fan zealotry, it's great to see Riordan call it like it is. There is no world in which it's logical or healthy to spread hate about a child because you always pictured a fictional character with blonde hair. If fans see Riordan's words about Annabeth on the page as gospel, they should also see his words about Jeffries as equally true. The rest of his post, aptly titled "Leah Jeffries is Annabeth Chase," is well worth the read.

The new Percy Jackson series will air on Disney+, with no release date yet announced.