Fans of Rick Riordan's Greek mythology-centered Percy Jackson book series have been hotly anticipating Disney+'s new series adaptation of the Young Adult novels.
But after it was announced that the character of Annabeth, the daughter of the goddess Athena described as a blond-haired girl in the books, would be played by Black actress Leah Sava Jeffries, many fans were not having it.
In a lengthy blog post, Riordan has spoken out about the controversy in no uncertain terms, saying Jeffries' casting was his decision and flatly telling his fans angry about the casting, "Friends, that is racism."
\u201cAnyone can be a hero.\nIf you don\u2019t get that, if you\u2019re still upset about the casting of this marvelous trio, then it doesn\u2019t matter how many times you have read the books. You didn\u2019t learn anything from them.\u201d #LeahIsOurAnnabethhttps://rickriordan.com/2022/05/leah-jeffries-is-annabeth-chase/\u00a0\u2026— Rick Riordan (@Rick Riordan) 1652199236
In the poorly received film adaptations of Jackson's books, the role of Annabeth was played by Alexandra Daddario, best known for her roles in San Andreas and HBO's The White Lotus.
But for the Disney+ series Riordan has had far more creative control, and handpicked himself Jeffries for the role of Annabeth out of a huge pool of potential actors--a detail he forcefully shared in his post. He wrote:
“If you have a problem with this casting, however, take it up with me. You have no one else to blame."
He went on to excoriate his fans for attacking Jeffries online.
"Whatever else you take from this post, we should be able to agree that bullying and harassing a child online is inexcusably wrong."
"As strong as Leah is, as much as we have discussed the potential for this kind of reaction and the intense pressure this role will bring, the negative comments she has received online are out of line."
"They need to stop. Now.”
Riordan then called the uproar over Jeffries what it is, in no uncertain terms:
"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."
On Twitter, many applauded Riordan's response to the uproar.
I am so proud to be part of this project and to get to work with @rickriordan and @camphalfblood. Especially today. \n#LeahisOurAnnabeth https://twitter.com/rickriordan/status/1524060177749757955\u00a0\u2026pic.twitter.com/TbDCeQheiz— Daphne Olive\ud83c\udf3b (@Daphne Olive\ud83c\udf3b) 1652202246
In a world of J.K. Rowlings, be a Rick Riordan.https://twitter.com/rickriordan/status/1524059110978826240\u00a0\u2026— One Smart Ass (@One Smart Ass) 1652208449
Rick Riordan really said if u have a problem with the casting take it up with ME, we\u2018ll meet on top of the empire state building at the summer solstice and now SIT DOWN #LeahisOurAnnabethpic.twitter.com/oOSZB9vuaZ— Arthur | jack wolfe protector nr1 (@Arthur | jack wolfe protector nr1) 1652209160
oh he\u2019s mad as hell and i\u2019m smiling. #LeahisOurAnnabethpic.twitter.com/8MI0d53ied— kamani \u2b52 (@kamani \u2b52) 1652199541
rick riordan who created annabeth chase looked you right in the eyes and said leah was EXACTLY who he envisioned annabeth to be and you have the courage to say a word? write percy jackson yourself coward— lexi | leah sava jeffries & jack wolfe\u2019s attorney (@lexi | leah sava jeffries & jack wolfe\u2019s attorney) 1651776215
This is quite literally one of the best responses to a toxic fan base I have ever seen. #LeahisOurAnnabeth https://twitter.com/rickriordan/status/1524059110978826240\u00a0\u2026pic.twitter.com/EjZKszltoM— Chat Noir \u2790 (@Chat Noir \u2790) 1652202359
And an outpouring of support for Jeffries quickly ensued--so much so that the hashtag #LeahIsOurAnnabeth began to trend.
Reminder that Leah beat TEN THOUSAND other talented girls for this role. She deserves this role #LeahisOurAnnabethpic.twitter.com/xtmCwNU7Q0— kari \ud83d\udde1 22 DAYS! (@kari \ud83d\udde1 22 DAYS!) 1652149036
Black girls shouldn't have to be strong. Let them be soft, let them be carefree, let them be whoever they want to be! Black girls may be magic, but they deserve to be protected. We ride for Leah Jeffries! #LeahIsOurAnnabethpic.twitter.com/CP3FRMyDir— Black Girls Create (@Black Girls Create) 1652213700
I\u2019m so happy about the fact he addressed this and did it so well, and I am so excited to see OUR ANNABETH!!!!https://twitter.com/rickriordan/status/1524060177749757955\u00a0\u2026— joel \ud83d\udde1\ud83c\udf42 (@joel \ud83d\udde1\ud83c\udf42) 1652202451
Leave \u2018em in the dust sis. \n#LeahisOurAnnabeth— Chris McCarrell (@Chris McCarrell) 1652210141
Riordan also told his fans that their reaction to Jeffries means they fundamentally do not understand his books. He wrote:
"The core message of Percy Jackson has always been that difference is strength. There is power in plurality..."
"If you don’t get that... then it doesn’t matter how many times you have read the books. You didn’t learn anything from them."
Here's hoping they learn something from Riordan's response.