Rick Riordan says racists aren’t welcome in the Percy Jackson fandom.

In a post on his website, the author addressed recent backlash surrounding the casting of Leah Jeffries in the Percy Jackson & The Olympians series for Disney+. Jeffries is set to play one of the series’ three leads, Annabeth Chase. 

The daughter of Athena was originally described in Riordan’s novels as being a white blonde girl. The casting of Jeffries, a Black actress, apparently upset some so-called “fans”, who began bullying and harassing Jeffries online.

And Riordan is not having it.

In a detailed post, Riordan addressed the behavior of some of the PJO fandom, calling them out for prejudiced and racist behaviors and demanding they stop attacking Jeffries. It reads in part:

“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. Once you see Leah as Annabeth, she will become exactly the way you imagine Annabeth, assuming you give her that chance, but you refuse to credit that this may be true.

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.”

Riordan went on to reiterate that Percy Jackson included an incredibly extensive casting process, during which many actresses were considered for the role of Annabeth. Jeffries ultimately landed the role because she was the best choice to play Annabeth.

“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. We did that.  We took a year to do this process thoroughly and find the best of the best. This trio is the best. Leah Jeffries is Annabeth Chase,” said Riordan. “Leah brings so much energy and enthusiasm to this role, so much of Annabeth’s strength. She will be a role model for new generations of girls who will see in her the kind of hero they want to be.”

Riordan rounds out his scathing takedown by reminding fans of the core message behind his book series.

The core message of Percy Jackson has always been that difference is strength. There is power in plurality. The things that distinguish us from one another are often our marks of individual greatness. You should never judge someone by how well they fit your preconceived notions. That neurodivergent kid who has failed out of six schools, for instance, may well be the son of Poseidon. Anyone can be a hero.

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.”

Riordan does not seem to care if his assertions drive away fans who find themselves unable to confront their own biases, telling them “watch the show or don’t.” If you can’t accept a Black Annabeth Chase, the series isn’t for you anyways.

“This will be an adaptation that I am proud of, and which fully honors the spirit of Percy Jackson and the Olympians, taking the bedtime story I told my son twenty years ago to make him feel better about being neurodivergent, and improving on it so that kids all over the world can continue to see themselves as heroes at Camp Half-Blood,” finished Riordan.

You can read Riordan’s statement in full on his website here.

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