Exclusive: Rick and Rebecca Riordan on Percy Jackson and the Olympians: âœTV is a better formatâ¦â

Book adaptations are always tricky. In 2010, Rick Riordan’s best-selling fantasy book series was converted into a disappointing live-action film, Percy Jackson & the Olympians: The Lightning Thief. After over a decade, Rick, along with his wife Rebecca Riordan serves as an executive producer on Percy Jackson and the Olympians, a series that promises to right all wrongs of the film.

The eight-part show takes fans to Camp Half-Blood where Walker Scobell’s Percy Jackson, Leah Sava Jefferies’ Annabeth Chase and Aryan Simhadri’s Grover Underwood embark on a high-stakes quest. In an exclusive interview with Filmfare, Rick and Rebecca Riordan opened up about creating a show for fans, course-correcting and more.

When did you decide that you needed to become co-creators of your own adaptation of Percy Jackson and the Olympians?

Rick: We saw an opportunity when Fox was bought by the Disney corporation. Disney publishes my books in the United States and has since always. So it gave us an opportunity to go to them and say “You also have the film rights for the books. Let’s talk and see if we can turn it into a TV show we can all be proud of.”

Percy Jackson and the Olympians

Did you feel the weight of the 2010 film or did you see it as an opportunity to reclaim your story?

Rebecca: It’s a bit of both. The movie is a burden because there are a lot of fans that come to Percy Jackson as just being movie fans. So in some way, we need to satisfy them and the book fans too come to it with a different perspective. They want to see a book adaptation that feels right to them. It’s very exciting.

Rick: Yes, it is something we are mindful of. TV is a better format because it gives us the time to tell the story across eight episodes. It’s much better suited for the Lightning Thief. It needed to be a season of television. And I hope viewers will agree. And oh yeah, it’s exciting.

What went into casting the perfect Percy, Annabeth and Grover?

Rebecca: They are absolutely perfect. It was a long process. We looked at thousands of tapes of wonderful child actors who all had special things that could’ve brought to the show. But these three actors brought a sense of the characters and a professionalism that you don’t usually see in a child actor. We were so incredibly lucky to find them. We found our Percy, in fact, I think we found Leah even before we found Walker.

Rick: Yeah, we went into it simply looking for the actors that best embody the personalities of the characters. And it was also important that they work well together. It’s one thing to find a great actor and it’s another to find three of them that work wonderfully together. And these definitely do. All of the choices informed each other.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians

How much of the material did you update for younger audiences?

Rick: Oh yes, I think there was a general agreement with Becky and I and the team that we want the story to feel timeless. We want it to hold up. But it also needs to have a sensibility that is considerate and aware that this is a story that is being told for a global audience. It’s just not my son that I’m telling the story for. It’s not just for people in America, it’s for people all over the world. So it was important for us to make sure that the story felt welcoming. Anyone could be a demigod in Percy Jackson’s world. That was our guiding principle. Things like who is a monster and who is a hero – you can’t tell just by looking.
Rebecca: Yeah, perhaps the monsters aren’t how they appear.

Have you given any thought to dabbling into Indian mythology?

Rick: Well, I personally love Indian Mythology. The Ramayana and the Mahabharata are incredible works. I don’t think that would be very well received for a white American man to tell a story about Hindu mythology. So it wouldn’t be a very good idea. That is one of the reasons why we opened up Rick Riordan Presents which is an imprint in publishing that we have here in the States for writers from those cultures to tell their stories. Roshni Chokshi for instance, does a story around a character called Aru Shah and it is anchored on Hindu mythology. She does a much better job than I could.

Rebecca: And our production company is hoping to do an adaptation of Aru Shah. That would be great.

Percy Jackson and the Olympians is set to release on December 20, 2023, on OTT.