As you may have heard, one of the most beloved series of the zillennial childhood, “Percy Jackson and the Olympians,” is finally getting the small screen treatment about 10 years after its disappointing silver screen adaptation. The original film project was dropped after the second of five planned adaptations due to a series of failures — from pacing problems to excessive deviations from Rick Riordan’s carefully crafted books, the films were essentially dead on arrival (I’m sorry Logan Lerman — you will always be Percy Jackson to me). Safe to say, hopes are high that the Disney+ series will right the films’ wrongs, and that anticipation has hit a fever pitch with the release of the series teaser trailer.
You might be wondering why there’s such a dedicated audience chomping at the bit a decade later and what a minute-long teaser trailer can really tell us about the project, but the fact that I’m still thinking about this trailer three weeks after it dropped proves that “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” has already taken leaps and bounds away from its harrowing cinematic past. I loved “Percy Jackson” long before the movies were made, so although it was disappointing to see the original adaptation flop, its failure wasn’t enough to destroy my love of the series or the characters. I read “Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief” for the first time around age 9 and devoured the series as I entered middle school and began to truly explore, discover and decide who I was. Riordan’s writing was formative in the development of my imagination, my identity and my values. From Annabeth, I learned to admire smart and strong women and to never apologize for being one. From Grover, I learned about determination and the damage caused by carrying guilt with you through life. From Percy, I learned that my struggles and all of the things that other people marked as “undesirable” in me are not only unique, but powerful. From all three of them, I learned undying loyalty. That is why I’m here writing today.
And I’m not the only one who’s still here and still faithful — footage from Riordan’s book tour for “The Chalice of the Gods” shows how audiences responded to a reveal of the trailer, and their excitement couldn’t be more palpable. We have known who most of the actors will be for some time now, but the trailer assures us of what Riordan has promised — this adaptation is going to be different. Despite already knowing that Annabeth would be played by Leah Jeffries (“Beast”), nothing could limit the excitement at seeing her in the trailer. There were tons of cheers throughout the public screening, but audiences never screamed as loudly as they did for Jeffries. The casting of the 14-year-old Detroit local has been a topic of discussion since the decision was released, and there was some backlash to a version of Annabeth that isn’t blonde and white. But Riordan made it clear from day one that he wasn’t interested in anything less than enthusiastic support for Leah in the role of Annabeth, and many fans have embraced her presence and desperately await her interpretation of the beloved character. As Jeffries watches Percy (Walker Scobell, “The Adam Project”) in this trailer with intrigue sparkling in her eyes, giving away a Mona-Lisa-style hint of a smile, I can already tell that we’re in for a treat with the revamped version of this iconic duo.
Scobell inspires similar confidence in this trailer, wearing courage, worry and confusion (key emotions for Percy Jackson) on his face all at once and proving he has depth beyond his years. When Scobell squints at his worksheet in frustration as the letters grow blurry and he struggles to focus, I see a moment I have experienced for myself from the outside for the first time. Knowing that Riordan created the character of Percy Jackson for his 9-year-old son who was struggling with learning differences makes the moment hit that much harder. But what really gives me (and lots and lots and lots of other fans) goosebumps is the score — Tom Evans’ cover of “Riptide” supports our first extended look at this TV adaptation and, for lack of a better phrase, takes things from zero to 100 real quick. From the gentle opening line “I was scared of dentists and the dark” that eases us into Percy’s voiceover, the audience knows that this adaptation is made with an attention to detail that honors its source material and its longtime fans. Not only is “Riptide” also the name of Percy’s sword, but the cover’s tone is also the perfect soundtrack to his story, which vacillates between soft, vulnerable moments, high stakes and exciting feats of strength. As the chorus begins to swell, Chiron’s (Glynn Turman, “A Different World”) booming voice bellows “Percy Jackson … We’ve been expecting you,” striking any longtime fan like a kick to the chest. Because it’s true — we have been waiting, and we’ve been waiting for a long time.
There are so many other details that absolutely make this trailer, from Zeus (Lance Reddick, “John Wick”) standing in his pinstriped suit just as Riordan described in the books to Clarisse La Rue (Dior Goodjohn, “Are You Afraid of the Dark?”) letting free a triumphant yell during capture the flag. What really puts me at ease, though, as this series comes to life one more time, is knowing that the cast is being taken care of just as well as they take care of the longtime fans in the audience. Riordan said that the comfort and safety of these young actors is a top priority, and a Percy Jackson adaptation wouldn’t be an adaptation in good faith if it didn’t do its best to make everyone feel safe and capable at every level of creation and consumption. Even with over two months to go until the release of season one, I’m already proud of this young cast, and of Riordan, whatever the outcome.
TV Beat Editor Emmy Snyder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.