'Percy Jackson and the Olympians' introduces a new generation of demigods – Entertainment Weekly News

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It's time for another trip to Camp Half-Blood.
In the years since Rick Riordan first published a little book called The Lightning Thief, his series Percy Jackson and the Olympians has become an extremely popular middle-grade franchise, one of the few that can legitimately claim to be a worthy heir to Harry Potter. While young Harry's world changed with the revelation that he was actually a wizard, Percy learns at a similarly tween age that he is a "demigod." That makes him a scion of the Greek gods (who are alive and well in the present day) with a responsibility to protect the mortal world from monsters like Medusa and the Minotaur. 
In order to do so, Percy is sent to a summer camp known as Camp Half-Blood, where demigods like him train to become heroes in the vein of mythological figures like Hercules or Achilles — though, hopefully, with less ominous fates. The kids are separated into cabins based on their godly parent, and compete together in games like Capture the Flag using the same swords and shields that they'll eventually use to combat monsters. 
The books have inspired real-life imitators: If you pass through Brooklyn's Prospect Park or a number of similar locations in other cities over the summer, you might spot kids in orange Camp Half-Blood shirts playing with homemade swords and shields. The series has also been adapted for the screen already, in two films that starred Logan Lerman as Percy. Both of those movies did well enough at the box office, but not enough to satisfy Riordan and his ever-growing fanbase, who subsequently turned to other experiments like The Lightning Thief Broadway musical.
But with the advent of Disney+ and Disney's purchase of Fox, Riordan and his wife Becky realized there was a new opportunity to adapt the Percy Jackson books in a way that captured what readers love about them. 
"We have been involved in the series since its inception, since the very, very earliest conversations about what a new Percy adaptation might look like, how it would be sketched out, whether it would be episodic," Riordan says in an interview. conducted prior to the start of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes. "So, I feel comfortable telling fans of the books who have been waiting — in some cases, decades — for this kind of faithful adaptation, that this is the one you've been waiting for. We are involved and I think you're gonna love it."
The Lightning Thief was first published in 2005, which means many of the young stars of this new adaptation grew up reading Riordan's books. 
"It was the second book series I ever read, I think, and it left a huge impression on me," says Aryan Simhadri, who plays Percy's satyr friend Grover. "Like, not just, 'Oh, those books are cool,' but they helped me. I grew up with them, as I'm sure a lot of people did. I can't wrap my head around the fact that I get to be in something that I look up to so much."
The new adaptation also provided an opportunity to make the series more representative of the real world. Percy's demigod friend Annabeth Chase, a daughter of Athena, is described as a blond white girl in the books, but the series cast Black actress Leah Jeffries in the role. 
"I'm playing a character that is a different person, different hair color, different skin tones, and all that. That's what the prototype was," Jeffries says. "Just to hear that I'm playing her different was like, 'Wow, I'm now gonna be an inspiration to other girls.'"
Jeffries adds, "My experience filming the series has been phenomenal and unbelievable."
For Riordan, making the Percy Jackson cast more representative is completely in line with how the series started: As bedtime stories for his son, who was struggling to keep up with other kids in school. 
"He was struggling with dyslexia and ADHD, having a terrible time in school, but the one thing he did love was Greek mythology," Riordan says. "As a classroom teacher myself, I knew a great deal about Greek mythology. I loved teaching it. So I started telling him stories from the Greek myths and, when I ran out of the old stuff, I made up a new Greek hero: A modern-day kid named Percy Jackson who, like my son, has ADHD and dyslexia and finds out that those are indicators that you may well be a demigod. My son had no trouble believing that." 
Riordan continues, "20 years on, it was important that I looked at it again with fresh eyes and made sure that the story was speaking to all kids, and that everyone could look at this series and see themselves. It is inclusive enough that everyone can be a hero — after all, that's why I wrote the book in the first place. My son, because of learning differences, was feeling like an outsider and this was my way of saying, 'It's okay. Difference is a strength. You're gonna be just fine. And you belong in this world.'"
Percy isn't just the title character of the series; everything takes place from his point of view, and the experience of reading the books is inseparable from Percy's sarcastic voice. That was a challenge to adapt to the screen — though Riordan's hands-on approach helped star Walker Scobell see where his character was coming from. 
"Meeting Rick was exciting because I've been looking at his face on the back of a book for four or five years," says Scobell, who plays Percy. "I think he is the coolest guy ever. You can really hear Percy in his voice when he speaks — Percy's sarcasm and personality shows through in Rick." 
Though he's tight-lipped about details, Riordan teases that the show's creative team did find a way to translate Percy's perspective into live-action. 
"In the books, Percy is always there right by us," Riordan says. "He's our narrator, he's got this snarky kind of voice and you can't really do that quite the same on screen. So we had to figure out ways to make that visual." 
See what he means when Percy Jackson and the Olympians premieres Dec. 20 on Disney+.
These interviews were conducted prior to the start of the WGA and SAG-AFTRA strikes.
Make sure to check out EW's Fall TV Preview cover story on Gen V — as well as all of our 2023 Fall TV Preview content, releasing through Sept. 21.
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