Disney+’s long-awaited adaptation of Percy Jackson is finally here, and fans of the original book series written by Rick Riordan couldn’t be more excited. The show, which was co-created and produced by the author along with Jon Steinberg and produced by Dan Shotz, released its first two episodes on December 20, 2023.

We sat down with the two executive producers, who spoke about the challenges of adapting such a beloved franchise, along with working with Rick Riordan and how early on this story “wanted to be a show.” Keep reading for our exclusive interview.

Of the show’s early development, Jon spoke about working with the Percy Jackson author and his wife Becky Riordan, who had both previously written off Hollywood following the wildly disappointing movie adaptation in 2010 starring Logan Lerman.

“Trying to be respectful of the fact that this was both incredibly personal to him and that he hadn’t had a great experience with [a life-action adaptation] before,” Jon told J-14 exclusively. “And just trying to rip the bandaid right off at the beginning and let them know, this show won’t work if you guys don’t feel like it’s working.”

“This show could not have been made without their guidance and support, and it couldn’t have been made without their flexibility,” he added.

For his part, Dan explained one of the biggest benefits of this adaptation was its long development, as they first got started working on it during “early COVID” time.

“We just had a lot of time with not a lot of pressure to just sit on Zoom and just talk about this story,” the producer explained. “And talk about what this meant to them [the Riordans], talk about the details of where it came from, the connection to [their] family, the connection to their son and just having that time in this little bubble to just talk through all the anxieties about doing this.”

LONDON, ENGLAND – DECEMBER 16: (L to R) James Bobin, Dan Shotz, Deborah Armstrong, Jonathan E. Steinberg, Charlie Andrews, Aryan Simhadri, Ayo Davis, Leah Sava Jeffries, Karey Burke, Walker Scobell, Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, Rebecca Riordan, Jan Koeppen, President of The Walt Disney Company, EMEA, and Rick Riordan attend the UK Premiere of new series “Percy Jackson and The Olympians” at Odeon Luxe Leicester Square on December 16, 2023 in London, England. (Photo by Alan Chapman/Dave Benett/WireImage) Photo by Alan Chapman/Dave Benett/WireImage

While remaining loyal to the source material, the long time to reflect was also helpful for Rick, who started looking at the story with fresh eyes.

“[Rick] wrote this 20 years ago,” Dan began. “There’s opportunity for him to look at this. ‘What do I want to do with this? What do I want to explore now that I’ve written so many books in this universe? What do I want to go back and pick apart and look at and elevate and explore?’ So it was a special way to start this, and I think that worked all the way through.”

On top of that, the adaptation being in the form of a TV show helped to map out the series better — as so many details are often swept away in a shorter form content like an hour or two movie.

“I think that this story on some level really just wanted to be a show,” Jon recalled. “It wanted to be a story that was mapped out in this format. Not easy to do all of the math it takes to get it there, but once you started to figure out how to work it, the translation was pretty clean.”

The co-showrunner summarized, “I think everything that feels integral is there.”

As for what the creators want the fans to take away from the show? Jon says: “It was made from the place that you would hope it was made from,” adding, “I think with any fan base and with anything, you hope that the people adapting it get why you love it. And I hope that this show has that feel to it.”

“For me, there’s a lot to do with these three kids,” Dan says of the actors playing Percy (Walker Scobell), Annabeth (Leah Sava Jeffries) and Grover (Aryan Simhadri. “Putting them out there, knowing that you just become very insanely proud of what they delivered, the work that they had to do, the complexity of what Jon and Rick put on the page. It took a certain kind of kid and we found three of them.

“And when I see their excitement and I see the passion that they put into this and then watching it and seeing how that comes across, that’s the thing that I’m so excited for the fans to see what these three kids did.”

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