'Percy Jackson' Author and Alexandra Daddario Support Leah Sava Jeffries After Racist Backlash Over Casting

The author published a blog post slamming people who have expressed outrage online over the Black actress playing Annabeth.

Author Rick Riordan is letting anyone who calls themselves a fan of his Percy Jackson franchise that racism will never be tolerated. On Tuesday, the writer published a blog post condemning the racist backlash against Leah Sava Jeffries, the 12-year-old actress cast to play Annabeth Chase in the upcoming Disney+ series, Percy Jackson and the Olympians

"If you have a problem with this casting, however, take it up with me. You have no one else to blame," the author wrote. "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."

"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," he added. "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."

The author also tackled the comments from fans who decried the racist label of their criticisms, pointing out the fallacy of those arguments when the key difference between Jeffries and Annabeth is their race. If fans were truly upset about the character's blonde hair and gray eyes, they would simply ask that those features be included, not protest the actress' casting.

"You are upset/disappointed/frustrated/angry because a Black actor has been cast to play a character who was described as white in the books. 'She doesn’t look the way I always imagined,'" he mused. "You refuse to believe her selection could have been based on merit. Without having seen her play the part, you have pre-judged her (pre + judge = prejudice) and decided she must have been hired simply to fill a quota or tick a diversity box... 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."

He later concluded, "Watch the show or don't. That's your call. But 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."

Variety first broke the news of Jeffries' casting on May 5. She will star show alongside Walker Scobell as the titular character and Aryan Simhadri as Grover. The series adaptation of the book series was ordered at the streamer back in January and will tell the fantastical tale of the titular 12-year-old modern demigod (Scobell), who's just coming to terms with his newfound supernatural powers when the sky god Zeus accuses him of stealing his master lightning bolt. With help from his friends, Grover and Annabeth, Percy must embark on an adventure of a lifetime to find it and restore order to Olympus.

Annabeth is a true daughter of the Greek goddess, Athena. In a press release from Disney+, she's described as a brilliant strategist with an active and curious mind. She trains Percy to survive the mythological world, and in turn, he helps her connect with her humanity after she's spent the last five years at Camp Half-Blood.

Despite none of the three actors resembling the characters as they were originally written in Riordan's novels, Jeffries' casting specifically faced outrage online because she is Black and Annabeth has been portrayed as white. 

"Making an explicitly white character [Black] feels like he’s forcing and trying too hard in the wrong places," wrote one Twitter user after the announcement.

"I like Grover and I like percy, ok, but annabeth. I'm sure she's a great actress, but just WHY go against a DESCRIPTION YOU gave US," another tweeted.

The wave of negativity spread quickly, with Jeffries revealing on an Instagram Live that her Tik ok had been banned after people reported her account, upset about her casting. "They literally took down my whole account," she said.

But the actress has since received support from others, including Riordan's wife, Rebecca Riordan, and Alexandra Daddario, who formerly played the fictional character.

The 36-year-old actress sent love for her successor on Wednesday, writing, "Leah Jeffries is going to be an incredible Annabeth!!!"

Rebecca, who serves as an executive producer for the new Disney+ program, criticized the hatred directed toward Jeffries, writing on Twitter, "Leave Leah alone."

"Demagoguery is a good word to know," Rebecca said in a quote tweet of her own message from May 6 reminding fans that there is "no room" for such treatment online. 

"Do we need to have a talk about the intersectionality of misogyny and racism? Misogyny is equally a problem here. We condemn both," she wrote. "Getting yelled at? Annabeth doesn't belong to you. She never did." 

During her recent Instagram Live, Jeffries thanked her supporters for showing her love while she copes with the racist backlash. She also vowed to not let her critics bring her down.

"To whoever is hating, stop doing that! Like, I know you think that's going to hurt me though. It's not. You're just wasting time," she said in a clip of the Live shared by a user on Twitter. "I'm still confident in myself. Everybody else is confident. Everybody else is happy for me. So don't try to bring me down. It's not going to work."

Jeffries, Scobell and Simhadri will begin filming the highly anticipated Disney+ series this summer.