Fans of the upcoming Percy Jackson streaming series were treated to several unexpected surprises during the show’s official New York Comic Con panel on Sunday, October 15. Moderated by MTV’s Josh Horowitz, the Percy Jackson NYCC panel offered behind-the-scenes insights into the making of the buzz-worthy series and showcased three exclusive clips for NYCC patrons in attendance.
The series, set to debut on Disney+ with a two-episode premiere on December 20, is the second official live-action adaptation of Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief, the bestselling 2005 novel from author Rick Riordan. The book kicked off a literary universe that includes five direct Percy Jackson sequels, as well as multiple spin-off series.
The eight-episode season will closely follow the events of The Lightning Thief, which follows Percy and his friends Annabeth and Grover after he’s framed for the theft of Zeus’ Master Bolt.
‘Percy Jackson’ NYCC Panel: The Lightning Thief Stays True to Rick Riordan’s Vision
Though the show’s stars, including Walker Scobell (Percy Jackson), Leah Jeffries (Annabeth Chase), and Aryan Simhadri (Grover Underwood) were not in attendance in accordance with the ongoing SAG-AFTRA strike, the series’ creative team was able to speak about their experiences putting the show together.
“You come into things that are based on IP but nothing like this,” executive producer and co-creator Jon Steinberg said, reiterating the creative team’s commitment to staying faithful to Riordan’s work. “It would be extraordinarily difficult to try to do it justice, to do it right, without the person who dreamed it…the person who really did the work to sell it and to find this audience.”
As longtime fans know, this has not always been the case. Riordan famously panned the Percy Jackson films from the early 2010s, which found the author frustrated after his feedback regarding radical changes from the source material went ignored by the films’ creative teams. He described the experience as watching his “life’s work going through a meat grinder.”
The Crew’s Personal Attachment to ‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief’
Now, Riordan, a former English and history teacher, serves as one of the streaming series’ executive producers and writers. Steinberg noted during the Percy Jackson NYCC panel that working on the show with Riordan and his wife, Becky, felt like a “family business.”
“We were so unbelievably fortunate to be able to partner with Rick, and as Jon said, really, the whole Riordan family,” said EP Dan Shotz, who developed the series with the Riordans during the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s such a personal story for [Rick] and as we kept building it, it became very personal for Jon and myself. We’re fathers. We have kids. My daughter, who’s here…these books made her fall in love with reading. And I know that so many people feel that way.”
Both Steinberg and Shotz’s personal connections with the books spurned the feeling of responsibility they felt to deliver a show that stayed true to Riordan’s vision. Director James Bobin, who helmed the first two episodes, concurred, noting that his son’s favorite book is the series’ fifth chapter, The Last Olympian.
Exclusive ‘Percy Jackson’ NYCC Footage
The team then showed the first seven minutes of the first episode exclusively for Percy Jackson NYCC panel guests. According to Comic Book’s Liam Crowley, the footage featured Scobell narrating the opening pages of The Lightning Thief and flashbacks to a younger Percy (Azriel Dalman) encountering monsters before transitioning to his present-day life at Yancy Academy. Percy’s sword, Riptide, also makes an appearance, disguised as a ballpoint pen gifted to him by Mr. Brunner/Chiron (Glynn Turman).
Following the footage presentation, Steinberg spoke about the casting process and finding their three young stars. “The first time I saw Walker, there was a little voice in my head that said, ‘This is the kid. It was the thing you hope for…and we got very lucky because we found it three times.’”
Building Camp Half-Blood
The Percy Jackson NYCC panel continued as production designer Dan Hennah spoke about building Percy’s surrogate home, Camp Half-Blood, which features cabins dedicated to Greek gods, a dining hall, and more. “We got really lucky. We found a location that no one had used before and it suited us perfectly.”
Bobin added, “It was really exciting being there. [It was] such a fun place to hang out.”
When asked about creating the iconic orange Camp Half-Blood shirts for the campers to wear, costume designer Tish Monahgan revealed that the costume department tested “something like twenty different shades of orange” before settling on one that translated well onscreen in various settings and lighting conditions.
“We had to end up dying over 350 T-shirts in basically a witch’s cauldron, and you could only fit nineteen T-shirts at a time,” she said. “Sometimes we were dying yellow T-shirts. Sometimes we were dying melon-colored T-shirts. Or we were adapting a color of orange that we didn’t like, so it was quite a long scientific process before we were able to get the right color.”
She also revealed that the costume department made modifications to the shirts based on which cabins the campers wearing them were from. “With Ares, which is a military sort of school, we tried to age the T-shirts a little bit more, rough them up, tear them.” Monaghan says the T-shirts of those from the Hephaestus cabin were given a dirtier appearance with ripped sleeves.
Using the Volume in ‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief’
Any show featuring ancient gods and mythological creatures needs impressive visual effects, some of which were on display in the footage shown throughout the nearly hour-long Percy Jackson NYCC panel.
ILM visual effects supervisor Jeff White spoke about the benefits of using the Volume, the massive LED screen also used in recent Marvel Studios and Star Wars productions, in Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.
“We’re going to visit so many fantastical and real-world locations that have to look absolutely authentic,” White told the audience. “In the clip you saw, the Met interior [was] all shot on the Volume…Our approach was to get rid of blue screens,” he said, speaking to the importance of having the actors see the environment they’re interacting with.
When it came to the creatures they created for the series, VFX supervisor Erik Henry spoke about how special it was to design the creatures, highlighting the Chimaera and Minotaur. “We needed to make sure [the Minotaur] was appropriately scary but not too scary. I don’t want to make the kids turn it off because it’s too scary.”
He also spoke about the physicality of their mythological creations, including the choice to make the Minotaur run on all fours but have the ability to stand on its hind legs. The team created a hair-covered mechanical Minotaur for Scobell to interact with. Monaghan even created tighty-whities with a “102-inch waist” for the Minotaur to wear.
They followed the discussion with an exclusive clip of the Minotaur scene, which sees Grover revealing to Percy that he’s a satyr, explaining how The Mist works before the Minotaur arrives on the scene following a lightning strike.
The Supporting Cast of ‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief’
Though The Lightning Thief features a stacked, star-studded cast, Steinberg told fans they never wrote a character with a specific actor in mind.
“I’m always trying to find somebody who can be funny,” he said, noting Emmy-winning Will & Grace star Megan Mullally, who portrays Mrs. Dodds/Alecto, one of the three Furies in Greek mythology. “I think, if you can be funny, you can do anything. Most of this cast, when you look at it, are a lot of people that come from comedy.”
“A lot of these adult guest stars had connections to the book or it was kismet why we cast them,” Shotz said. “Glynn Turman, who plays Chiron, runs an inner-city camp that works with horses,” Shotz recalled speaking with Turman’s agent and asking if he could ride a horse. “They were like, ‘he is a rodeo cowboy.’”
“Lin [Manuel Miranda], his kids are obsessed with the books,” Shotz continued, speaking about the Broadway playwright and actor who portrays Hermes in the series.
When a fan asked about casting AEW wrestling favorite Adam “Edge” Copeland as Ares, the God of War, Steinberg said the Rated R Superstar made it “very easy,” noting that he has the movie star persona and humor they were looking for.
Steinberg added that, though campers Luke Castellan (Charlie Bushnell) and Clarisse LaRue (Dior Goodjohn) don’t get a lot of screentime in season one, they cast the roles with the intention of expanding them in the future. They also understood the importance of making the audience feel the relationship between Luke and Percy from the very beginning.
Honoring Lance Reddick at the ‘Percy Jackson’ NYCC Panel
“We cast Lance Reddick as Zeus,” Shotz said, remembering the legendary actor, who sadly passed away in March of 2023. “We all got very close with Lance. It was only a short period of time that we worked together, but [we] ended up getting very close to him.”
“Playing Zeus is going to be one of his last performances,” Shotz continued. “It’s so iconic. He’s so powerful. He’s so soulful and he has one of the biggest hearts you can imagine. I’m just grateful to get to know him and work with him. He was a very special human being.”
Rick and Becky Riordan Steal the Show at the ‘Percy Jackson’ NYCC Panel
In the closing moments of the panel, Horowitz introduced Rick and Becky Riordan, the “surprise guests” teased on Becky’s social media in the days leading up to the panel.
The married couple introduced a third exclusive clip of the book’s famous capture the flag scene, which ends with Percy’s wounds healing after Annabeth pushes him into the water.
When and Where You Can Watch ‘Percy Jackson’
The in-house fans’ raucous reactions to all three clips further solidify the prevailing thought that the Disney+ series will not only stay true to Riordan’s work but it will also capture the magic that made children and adults alike fall in love with his quirky and fantastical world.
The first two episodes of Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief will premiere on December 20, 2023, on Disney+. What are you most excited to see in the upcoming Percy Jackson adaptation? Leave a comment below, or hit us up on the Agents of Fandom socials to join the conversation!