Popular author Rick Riordan is raining thunderbolts of scorn on critics complaining about a Black actor being cast as a daughter of Athena in the upcoming Disney Plus series "Percy Jackson and the Olympians."
In Riordan's best-selling books, the character of Annabeth Chase is described as white. The actor chosen for the part, 12-year-old Leah Jeffries, is Black.
When online critics sniped at the choice, Riordan wanted his fans to know where he stood.
"If you have a problem with this casting," he wrote on his blog, "take it up with me. You have no one else to blame. ...
"Bullying and harassing a child online is inexcusably wrong. As strong as Leah is ... the negative comments she has received online are out of line. They need to stop. Now."
Riordan explained that the casting process for the series followed Disney's company policy on nondiscrimination, looking at diverse actors.
Riordan wrote, "We took a year to do this process thoroughly and find the best of the best. This trio is the best. Leah Jeffries is Annabeth Chase."
After Riordan posted his powerful defense against racist critics, the hashtag #LeahIsOurAnnabeth was trending on Twitter.
Riordan has written more than 20 books for young readers, and there are more than 100 million copies of his books in print. In his blog post, he carefully dismantled the arguments against the casting decision.
"Some of you have apparently felt offended or exasperated when your objections are called out online as racist," Riordan wrote. "'But I am not racist,' you say. 'It is not racist to want an actor who is accurate to the book’s description of the character!'
"Let’s examine that statement. You are judging her appropriateness for this role solely and exclusively on how she looks. She is a Black girl playing someone who was described in the books as white. ... Friends, that is racism."
Leah Jeffries played the role of Lola on the critically acclaimed series "Empire."
After the casting was announced May 5, Leah took to Instagram and said she was "so excited" about her new role.
"Leah brings so much energy and enthusiasm to this role, so much of Annabeth’s strength," Riordan wrote. "She will be a role model for new generations of girls who will see in her the kind of hero they want to be."
While some complained about the casting, other fans had humorous responses. "Simhadri (the actor playing Grover) clearly doesn't have horns, nor does he have goat legs... the whole show will be unwatchable," one joked. Spoiler alert: The character of Grover is a satyr with goat legs and horns.