Why ‘Percy Jackson’ Works on TV, According to Author Rick Riordan

Walker Scobell in Percy Jackson and the Olympians.
Walker Scobell in ‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians.’ (Image credit: Disney/David Bukach)

Percy Jackson and the Olympians is on Disney Plus. Two episodes went live December 19, and new episodes come out weekly. The show sees Percy, and pals Annabeth and Grover, put to the test in their quest to restore order at Mount Olympus and save the world. 

Rick Riordan and Jon Steinberg created the show, and Riordan wrote the many Percy Jackson novels. The seventh book in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series comes out next year. 

The producers have the tricky challenge of satisfying those who read the books and those who did not. “The guiding principle is, just to try to tell a great story,” Riordan said. “That, in my opinion, is why Greek mythology is still with us thousands of years later.”

Riordan spoke of taking myths and modernizing them in Percy Jackson, making them “relevant and fun and a little wacky” in the contemporary world. 

Walker Scobell plays Percy. Riordan said producers went over “thousands and thousands and thousands” of audition tapes before settling on Scobell. “There’s something about Walker — a star quality you can’t really define, but you know it when you see it,” he said. 

Rebecca Riordan, Rick’s wife and an executive producer, mentioned how hard the kid worked on the set. “Adults should have that kind of work ethic,” she said.   

Chris Columbus directed the movie Percy Jackson & The Olympians: The Lightning Thief, which came out in 2010. The Riordans were not involved in that project. The series offers more space to detail Percy’s coming-of-age story, Riordan said. 

“The series is definitely true to the books tonally,” he said. “There’s a mix of humor and seriousness that is so important to engage viewers with. The more serious something is, the more you need comic relief to balance it out.”

The TV project started back in 2019. “We’re in every writers’ room, looking at every script,” Riordan said. “We have been there for the entire length of the process.” 

Michael Malone

Michael Malone, senior content producer at B+C/Multichannel News, covers network programming, including entertainment, news and sports on broadcast, cable and streaming; and local broadcast television. He hosts the podcasts Busted Pilot, about what’s new in television, and Series Business, a chat with the creator of a new program, and writes the column “The Watchman.” He joined B+C in 2005. His journalism has also appeared in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Playboy and New York magazine.