Ready your thunderbolts. Mount Olympus, or at least the gods in charge of Disney+, will soon release a streaming series adaptation of the Rick Riordan fantasy book series Percy Jackson and the Olympians.
The story focuses on Percy (Walker Scobell), a 12-year-old who has always felt like an outsider. This could be because he has ADHD and dyslexia, as well at the type of physique that’s prime prey for bullies. It could also be because, as Percy soon discovers, he’s a demigod: While his mom is the mortal Sally Jackson (Virginia Kull), his dad is Poseidon. Yes, that Poseidon, as in the god of the sea from Greek mythology. (The character is, fittingly, played by an actor who knows about battles at sea: Black Sails alum Toby Stephens.)
Things get only more complicated for Percy when the Greek god of the sky, Zeus (late actor Lance Reddick in his final TV role) gets it in his head that the young demigod stole his thunderbolt.
Fans of Riordan’s young-adult series will rain hellfire if this series doesn’t live up to their expectations. The two film adaptations, which starred Logan Lerman and were released in 2010 and 2013, were poorly received both by critics and audiences.
However, there is hope for the series. Fans responded positively to a trailer. And Disney+ won marks for its smooth TV adaptation of another story of a young man battling gods and goddesses: American Born Chinese, which is based on the Gene Luen Yang graphic novel and premiered in May.
But these facts make up just the tip of the mountain. We’ll add to this piece as more information becomes available, but, until then, read on to see what else you need to know about the series, including key plot points, casting controversies and other stars.
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There are six books in the Percy Jackson series. The plan is for each season to take on a different book, which means that the first season would concentrate on the 2005 title, The Lightning Thief.
In that story — in addition to finding out that he’s a demigod and, later, that Zeus has a beef with him — Percy learns that his best friend Grover (Aryan Simhadri) is actually a satyr masquerading as a 12-year-old kid. He’s been tasked with protecting Percy until our hero is old enough to train at Camp Half Blood (just as it sounds, this is a sleep-away facility for young demigods).
While at camp, Percy meets Annabeth (Leah Sava Jeffries), a daughter of Athena who’d already spent years training at the camp. This will prove to be useful because, along with Annabeth and Grover, Percy soon treks across the United States to find the entrance to the Underworld. Why? So he can stop a war among the gods.
Walker Scobell, whose previous work includes the Ryan Reynolds Netflix movie The Adam Project, stars as Percy. The character is described as “a smart and compassionate kid with a sharp sense of humor. He’s always seen himself as an outsider, in no small part because of how the world sees his ADHD and dyslexia. He’s impulsive and rambunctious and is quick to anger when things seem unfair to him. But beneath his cynicism is an affectionate son and loyal friend who just wants to do right by those he cares about. If only he could find a place where he fits in,” according to Variety.
Percy’s friend Annabeth (Jeffries) is described as someone with little memory of the human world and who “trains Percy to survive the mythological world, while he becomes her guide to connect with humanity,” according to The Hollywood Reporter. His friend Grover (Simhadri), the half-human, half-goat, is someone who “cares deeply about others and will put their needs before his own, sometimes at his peril,” according to THR.
Other cast members include Megan Mullally as Ms. Dodds, Percy’s despised math teacher who also happens to be one of the three Furies who serves Hades, and Jay Duplass as the aforementioned god of the underworld. This season will also introduce Lin-Manuel Miranda as Hermes, the messenger of the gods. And WWE wrestler Adam “Edge” Copeland will play Ares, the cocky god of war.
Author Riordan, who has been openly dismissive of the movies and has said he’d stepped away from those productions after they didn’t take his guidance, is a co-creator of this series with Black Sails and Jericho co-creator Jonathan E. Steinberg. Steinberg also serves as co-showrunner with his producing partner, Dan Shotz.
The series was ordered in January 2022 with filming beginning later that year. James Bobin, who directed the Disney+ adaptation of The Mysterious Benedict Society, helmed at least the first two episodes.
“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 told Entertainment Weekly. “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.”
Fans have dissected the trailers for clues as to how loyal the show is to the source material and if it “corrects” any changes that the films may have made. (So far, they seem satisfied).
And, as is de rigueur these days, some people are upset about the decision to cast Jeffries as Annabeth because the book descriptions have the character as white and blonde.
Riordan has always been quick to show his support for the casting. He wrote on his website in 2022 that “[s]he will be a role model for new generations of girls who will see in her the kind of hero they want to be.” In the EW interview, he said he wrote the series as a way to help his son, who like Percy has ADHD and dyslexia, and that “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.”
The first season of Percy Jackson & the Olympians premieres its first two episodes December 20 on Disney+. Subsequent episodes will roll out weekly.
Disney+ announced the news on August 18; an important date in the world of the series because it’s Percy Jackson’s birthday.
The review embargo for Percy Jackson and the Olympians has not yet been announced. Season 1 will get a Tomatometer score when the embargo lifts and at least five reviews are posted.