The enthusiastic response at New York Comic Con earlier this month showed that fans of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians books are eager for the epic mythology-packed adventure that the upcoming Disney+ series promises. Based on Rick Riordan’s beloved books, the series premieres in December, and fans eagerly await its arrival. (It’s not like we have a countdown at The Cosmic Circus, ahem, 55 days.)
After the exciting NYCC panel, which featured sneak peeks of the Percy Jackson and the Olympians series, including a capture-the-flag scene, an extraordinary sequence with the minotaur, and more, we sat down for roundtable interviews with Jon Steinberg, executive producer and co-creator, and Dan Shotz, executive producer. Their creative minds helped bring the show to life, along with a vast cast and crew.
In our roundtable interview with Shotz and Steinberg, we discussed bringing Percy Jackson and the Olympians to TV. They shared how the cast, crew, and Riordans formed a close-knit community and how COVID-19 unexpectedly gave them more time to develop the show. We also asked about the possibility of a second season and what characters the duo is most excited about.
The interview with Jon Steinberg & Dan Shotz about Percy Jackson and the Olympians
[Editor’s note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity. There are mild spoilers for Percy Jackson and the Olympians ahead.]
Interviewer: “Let’s talk about Percy. Guys, you seem really passionate about this universe. We saw the panel, and you guys talked with so much passion. How do you think that this passion that you have for the book, for the story itself, contributes to the show itself? Can you talk a little bit about that, please?”
Jon Steinberg: “I think it’s critical. I think if you don’t believe it, if you don’t feel it, you can’t put it on screen. I think spending time with these books, not as a fan, but as somebody really trying to figure out… What do I feel in here? How do I make an audience feel these things in a really visceral way? I think requires understanding what’s important in the story. And so, that was key for the whole team, for the writing staff, for producers, for cast, for everybody on set to be exposed to this story in a way where it felt like you could invest in it, and be proud of it, and be excited about where it was going.”
Interviewer: “Thank you.”
Ayla Ruby: “So for you guys, there’s a through line that came through with the panel and in your interviews, that this is a family. That the Riordans and you guys, it’s just very close. Can you talk about how that happened? Because there have been other Percy Jackson properties. How do you come in new to this and get that comradery? What’s that like?”
Dan Shotz: “I think so much, early on, was about building that trust. This is like a child to them. It represents stories that he used to tell his child. So you felt that very quickly, what this means to them as a family and that they were inviting us into that family. And so, we got fortunate that the early stages of this were over COVID. So we could just lock in without the pressure of, ‘Oh my God. This needs to be on the air in the next two years, right away.’ We got to just sit there and spend a lot of time with them, many, many Zooms, just talking about the story, talking about why he wrote this, talking about what it means to them. What’s really important? What can we play with?”
“And that just never stopped. We just kept doing that in different forms. That went from casting. That went from the shoot, from post… All of it, we just kept that dialogue going throughout the whole process. They were there on set. So all of that really allowed for us to be true to this story. You need that relationship for this to work.”
On what characters Steinberg and Shotz would play if they were actors
Interviewer: “Was there a character that just popped for you that you find the most interesting? And if you were an actor, which character would you play? Which character would you just love to play?”
Dan Shotz: “That’s a good question.”
Jon Steinberg: “Popped… I came into this with really high hopes for the story we could tell from Sally’s point of view, and to try to do justice to how impossible it must be to raise a kid who you can’t protect from this thing you can’t even talk about and try to instill in him tools way faster than is really possible to face things that are way more dangerous and awful than you’d ever want to talk to a kid about. And Virginia Kull came in and just got it, and brought such a sense of gravity, and honesty, and was just cool. She just felt like a mom who was doing all of those things in every moment, and in no moment making it feel like she was working very hard to get there. I’m really proud of that story. I think it turned out pretty well.”
Dan Shotz: “Who do you want to be?”
Interviewer: “Who would you play?”
Jon Steinberg: “Man, it’s hard. There’s a reason I’m on this side of the camera. I don’t know.”
Dan Shotz: “I’m the song and dance man. Who do I want to play? Probably Grover, but I wouldn’t do it justice the way Aryan did it. We love to talk about him because he was the heart of the group. You root for him in a second. And his empathy, the actor has it. The character has it. He brings it to it. And that character is just very fun. And it would be fun to have goat legs, too. Come on. Look how fast you could jump.”
Interviewer: “And do yoga.”
Dan Shotz: “Yes.”
On whether or not there will be a season 2 of Percy Jackson and the Olympians
Interviewer: “Yes. Hopefully, you guys can help me with this question. So I read somewhere that each season’s going to be modeled after a specific book… season two. Is that happening? Can you guys tell us anything or have discussions at least begun?”
Jon Steinberg: “Definitely discussion. Discussions began a long time ago. I think it hasn’t been ordered, but there are people who spend some time in their days thinking about it and working on it. So make of that what you will.”
On approaching the books to tell the story of the first season
Interviewer: “Did you approach this project looking at all of the books and just thinking, how do I want to divide up telling the story? Let’s just assume it’s going to go forever. Or did you just come in and say, this is the story to tell right now?”
Dan Shotz: “I think it broke out pretty cleanly, and I think we just knew, or decided pretty early, that Lightning Thief would be the first season. If we get to season five and we finish that book… Then, we’ll just get Rick [Riordan] to keep writing.”
Jon Steinberg: “I would say, he’s still writing more. I think we were able to… It was helpful to have all five books to inform this season, to inform the Lightning Thief. Easter egg… Things that we could put in there. Things that we know where it’s going so that we can make sure we are landing in season-”
Dan Shotz: “And things we knew it’s about. Things I think that Rick’s been very open about, and the fact that he discovered things as he was writing. He didn’t know several 1,000 pages ago what this was going to turn into. And so, I think knowing that on some level this is a story about Percy’s humanity as much as it is his divinity is a thing that, having read book five, you come to it informed and in a way where you can build all of the first steps in a way that feels personal.”
How to Watch Percy Jackson and The Olympians
Percy Jackson and the Olympians is coming to Disney+ on December 20, 2023. That’s right, demigods of Earth, your wait will be over soon. If you can’t hold your satyrs until then, you can read more about Rick Riordan and his Percy Jackson series here on his official site, and check out our own Brian Kitson’s guide to the world of Percy Jackson via the link below!
Are you excited for Disney+’s new Percy Jackson and the Olympians series? Let us know on social media @mycosmiccircus or in The Cosmic Circus Discord!
For all our past NYCC coverage, including more interviews coming this week, check out the NYCC tag.