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NYCC Interview: Dan Hennah and Tish Monaghan Talk ‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians’

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Percy Jackson and the Olympians fans at New York Comic Con earlier this month got a sneak peek at the upcoming Disney+ series during a packed panel, and the reaction was enthusiastic. It’s clear that the series, based on Rick Riordan’s hit books, is everything fans have been hoping for and more. So much of the worldbuilding for Percy Jackson and the Olympians happens thanks to production designer Dan Hennah and costume designer Tish Monaghan. That’s why we were thrilled to chat with them in a roundtable interview after the NYCC panel to learn more about their creative process and bringing their art to screen.

During our roundtable interviews, we and other press spoke with Dan Hennah and Tish Monaghan about some of their historical inspirations for the show’s look. We also chatted about their collaboration and how they worked together. Monaghan and Hennah shared the most and least expensive items they sourced for the show. We also discussed Helena’s costume, the Asphodelians, the Underworld, and much more.

The interview with Tish Monaghan & Dan Hennah about Percy Jackson season 1

[Editor’s note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. There are mild spoilers for Percy Jackson and the Olympians ahead. ]

Interviewer: “So I am very curious how, because there are so many versions of Greek mytho- Oh my god, I can’t figure out how to word this. But it’s like there’s a bunch of movies about Greek mythology and everything. How do you make the world of Percy Jackson stand out from those?”

Tish Monaghan: “I didn’t look at any movies about Greek mythology. I looked at pieces from antiquity. I would say the main Grecian elements that I included in the costumes for Percy would’ve been the armor. And so fortunately there are various collections around the world and they’re all depicted online and I found the best imagery I could find and based my choices on that. It’s always good to go to an original source rather than somebody else’s interpretation. I mean, of course you do look at the picture of Brad Pitt in Troy, of course.”

Interviewer: “Purely for research basis.”

Tish Monaghan: “You have to go back to the script and you also have to work within the confines of your budget and what you’re able to produce within a specific timeline. So that was my quest, is produce something that was suitable for the kids, they’re teenagers and be adjustable because I didn’t know what sizes they were going to be. And so we had to make pieces that were going to fit somebody that was like 4’11” up to potentially six feet and still look good. So it was actually a great, I’m naturally mathematical and it was a great mathematical challenge trying to figure out the solutions for elongation of the body and expanding width and have it still look okay.”

On working together to create a visual language of the show

Ayla Ruby: “Can you talk about working together as PD and costume designer to create the visual language and just that part of the series? Because I imagine there’s a lot of…”

Dan Hennah: “A lot of collaboration, it’s across the board. And I mean pretty much my process involves a lot of concept art, and we try to incorporate the characters into the concept art. But at the same time, we don’t want to take liberties in terms of what Tish is doing. So there’s a dance going on the whole time working it out. And then we get to the point where Tish has got something she wants, an orange T-shirt, and we are making sure that we go inside Ares cabin. We can still see we don’t lose them against an orange. So that stuff, it’s all pretty basic stuff.”

Tish Monaghan: “But constant back and back and forth.”

Dan Hennah: “Yeah, it’s all very much part of the deal.”

On the most expensive and the least expensive thing they used for the show

Interviewer: “I was curious, both of you, I would love to hear, what was the most expensive thing you had to get for the show and what was the cheapest thing?”

Ayla Ruby: “If you can share it.”

Tish Monaghan: “Cheapest thing was the T-shirt. The purchase of the T-shirt, the labor that went into it though it was hours and hours and hours. The most expensive would’ve been the character of Helena, which you see in episode two, she’s a dryad and that took probably a thousand hours to produce the costume. And she’s a walking tree. But we-”

Dan Hennah: “Very elegant.”

Tish Monaghan: “Very elegant walking tree and that was our quest. The last thing I wanted her to look like was a talking piece of bark. It just wouldn’t have… So it had to be a very elegant, elemental creature that just magically morphs out of this tree and looks beautiful. But it was very laborious.”

Dan Hennah: “For the art department, probably the most expensive single piece was Percy’s stepfather’s car, that they took off in and crashed.”

Interviewer: “Wow.”

Dan Hennah: “And that car was like a ’78 Camaro. It was specific to the job. We needed five cars. One we did have to trash completely. Another one we had to use in stunts, so that got trashed as well. And then we had three immaculate cars that we had to pop various panels and doors. So it is an ongoing expense. That was a high one.”

Interviewer: “Wow. Thank you guys. I wouldn’t have thought it was a show about fantasy.”

Dan Hennah: “Everyone wants a ’78 Camaro.”

On the real life challenge of creating  armor that an actor could work in

Interviewer: “Well, I just wanted to ask about the challenges of putting together a look, that looks real, but you’re talking about armor or things that are actually very binding, restrictive, heavy in real life. How do you put together that look for an actor?”

Leah Jeffries in Percy Jackson & the Olympians
Leah Jeffries in Percy Jackson & the Olympians – Episode 102 (Disney+)

Tish Monaghan: “I had a stand-in.”

Interviewer: “Okay.”

Tish Monaghan: “We understand that we have to make it as comfortable as possible, but we had a stand-in that was Walker [Scobell’s]/Percy’s size that we worked with for probably over six times over the course of a two-month period. And we just double check, are you comfortable? Can you move? It wasn’t tight-fitting armor. It was armor that was adjustable on the sides and it was adjustable on the shoulders. We also had helmets that we manufactured out of, I think polyurethane. Part of them were, they were 3D sculpted. We went through endless fittings to make sure that they were not only stable on the head, so we almost used a football helmet style and that the kids could individually tighten with the little bolt at the back. It had to be lightweight, it had to look heavyweight and it had to be stable and not shift around on their head. So we had a lot of R&D. We had two months of R&D before we had to start manufacturing.”

On the best part of of working on Percy Jackson and The Olympians

Interviewer: “So we talked a lot about challenges, but what was the best part of this for you guys?”

Tish Monaghan: “The best part for me was, once the costumes were realized and you go on set and to show up on set, I’m going to start crying and see these fantastic sets. It’s like the hotel, the Lotus Hotel, because we had costumes from six different decades, all night-life. I mean it was incredible. And then we walk in, it’s like, oh, my God. And you look at the casino or, we had our Asphodelians which are swirled, sculptural creatures in the underworld, and then you go onto the underworld and you see them down there. It was just, I kept wanting to go back to the underworld and just stare.”

Interviewer: “It’s magical, yeah.”

Dan Hennah: “The best bit for me was going to work every day. I promise you. It was like, wow. What have they done overnight? What’s happened? Here we are again. Something cool to play with and new to it…”

How to Watch Percy Jackson and the Olympians

Percy Jackson and the Olympians is finally coming to Disney+ on December 20, 2023 , with a double-episode premiere written by Rick Riordan & Jon Steinberg and directed by James Bobin. 

Check out our other interviews out of NYCC here and keep following for more coming soon!

NYCC Interview: Percy Jackson and the Olympians Showrunners Dan Shotz and Jon Steinberg

Percy Jackson NYCC interview

NYCC Interview: VFX Supervisors Erik Henry & Jeff White Talk Percy Jackson and the Olympians

Percy Jackson NYCC interview

NYCC Interview: Director James Bobin talks Percy Jackson and the Olympians

Percy Jackson NYCC interview

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Ayla Ruby

I am a writer and interviewer based somewhere in the Alpha Quadrant. I love all things nerdy - but Star Trek and Spiderman have special places in my heart. Find me at @TulinWrites on Twitter. And visit my other website for more reviews and interviews:

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