Jon Steinberg, co-writer and executive producer of the upcoming “Percy Jackson” Disney+ series, knows the franchise may not be in the same pantheon as, say, Marvel or “Star Wars” in terms of audience awareness. But he sees that as an opportunity rather than a disadvantage.
Author Rick Riordan’s “Percy Jackson and the Olympians” fantasy book series has sold more than 180 million copies worldwide and spawned two feature films. But the Disney+ series, which has tapped “The Adam Project” breakout star Walker Scobell to tackle the titular role, will be many viewers’ first foray into the material.
“The show is an interesting exercise in that it’s one of the very few stories that is really important to a lot of people, but doesn’t have the vast merchandising universe and doesn’t have a feature series that people really connected to in the way that some of the other big franchises do,” Steinberg told TheWrap.
This provides Steinberg, who is co-writing the pilot with Riordan, with the chance to not only differentiate the series from the previous movies and attract a new generation of fans to the books but also capture the interest of unfamiliar newcomers.
“We felt right from the start that we have to get this right for wildly different audiences,” Steinberg said. “The goal is that if you’ve read these books 30 times and you want that experience, you’re going to get it. If you’ve never read the books and you don’t know who Percy Jackson is, we’re going to introduce him in a way that makes it feel like you want to be in this world too.”
Thematically, Steinberg sees the show as a story about “identity” and someone who must live as “two different people at the same time.”
The “Percy Jackson” series will be aimed at tweens, teens and young adults as it tells the story of a 12-year-old modern demigod who is just coming to terms with his newfound supernatural powers when the sky god Zeus accuses him of stealing his master lightning bold. In order to restore order to Olympus, Percy must trek across America to find it.
Joining Scobell in lead roles will be Aryan Simhadri and Leah Sava Jeffries. Virginia Kull, Glynn Turman, Jason Mantzoukas, Megan Mullally and Timm Sharp have joined the series as recurring guest stars. Production began in Vancouver earlier this month.
The novels were originally released between 2005-2009 with the first two books — “The Lightning Thief” and “Sea of Monsters” — being adapted into 20th Century Fox films starring Logan Lerman. Disney gained control of the intellectual property following its acquisition of Fox and made a new “Percy Jackson” project a priority.
James Bobin is set to direct. All three will executive produce with Dan Shotz, Rebecca Riordan, Bert Salke, Monica Owusu-Breen, Jim Rowe and Gotham Group’s Ellen Goldsmith-Vein, Jeremy Bell, D.J. Goldberg. 20th Television is producing under Disney Television Studios.