Back from the West Coast

Hello, friends! Becky and I have just returned from a ten-day trip to Los Angeles and Vancouver. Why were we there? That information is top secret, but its initials are P.J.O.T.V.

We started our adventures in L.A. the weekend of the Super Bowl, and no — when we planned this trip, we had no idea the Super Bowl would be in L.A. It definitely made travel interesting, though.

On Saturday, we headed to the Disney Studios in Burbank for some in-person chemistry read auditions for Percy Jackson. This means we brought together different combinations of young actors we had identified as interesting candidates for the roles of Percy, Annabeth and Grover, and had them read through scenes together to see how they interacted. It was informative and exciting, and though we have come to no decisions yet, the process is moving along well. Seeing these actors taking on the roles in person made me appreciate once again just how talented and capable middle school kids can be when given a chance to shine. They were all amazing. Special shoutout to our casting director Denise Chamian and her team, who did an incredible job putting the auditions together, and our director James Bobin, who directed the kids through their scene work. I wish I had had a drama teacher like James when I was twelve!

Here are Becky and I, ready to head to Burbank for the auditions with our KN95 fashion statement face wear:

And here I am enjoying breakfast at BaseCamp Cafe in Burbank on a beautiful Saturday morning, right down the street from Disney HQ before the auditions began:

The weather was sunny and warm, which was quite a shock after February in Boston, but we enjoyed it.

On Super Bowl Sunday, like the good red-blooded Americans we are . . . we completely ignored the game and went to a play at the Geffen Center.

Bryan Cranston lead a potent cast in Power of Sail, which is about a Harvard professor who wades into massive controversy by inviting a white supremacist to debate him in a lecture series on campus. It felt a little strange traveling from Boston to Los Angeles to see a play set in Boston, but the performance was compelling and timely.

This is the set for the play, with Cranston’s Harvard office.

On Monday, while hordes of grumpy Bengal fans headed back to the airport, Becky and I had lunch with our film agent and studio VP at the San Vicente Bungalows, then had a kick-off meeting with the feature team at Disney+ and my co-writer Aditi Brennan Kapil to discuss the adaptation for Daughter of the Deep. We anticipate diving into the script for the film soon!

On Monday night, I took my sweetheart to dinner at our favorite local Mexican restaurant for Valentine’s Day.

Our meetings in L.A. concluded, we made an impromptu decision to pop up to Vancouver (because we were in the neighborhood, I guess?) to re-familiarize ourselves with the city where we will be spending this summer filming the TV show. News flash: Vancouver in February is a lot colder than L.A., and we did not pack appropriately. Fortunately, they sell warm clothing in Vancouver, and we bought most of it.

I have been to Vancouver numerous times over the years for book signings, but it’s always been a quick overnight stay at most, leaving me no time to explore. The last time Becky and I were in Vancouver together was at the end of our Alaska cruise in 2010, and even then we only stayed a couple of nights. This was our first chance to get to know the place, and I must admit there are worse places to film a TV show! It is a beautiful city.

While there, we walked around Gastown, part of the historic city center, and I investigated the famous steam clock, which I’m pretty sure was created by Hephaestus. Despite my best efforts, however, I could not get it to transform into a bronze dragon, nor could I use it as a Tardis.

We also happened across a sword-fighting academy, which suggests that Vancouver has its share of young demigods in need of training:

The highlight of our trip was visiting the studios where the show will be filmed.

They even have a reserved parking place for this guy:

(That’s not my car, though. We didn’t have a car on this trip.)

What is through this stage door? I can’t tell you, but magic is happening . . .

And this? This is the most exciting section of concrete floor you will ever see, because upon this floor Percy, Annabeth and Grover shall walk when we begin filming (although the floor will probably be covered with set designs by then).

I would love to show you what the rest of the room looks like, but that is top secret, and it would melt your mind if you saw what the crews are constructing for us. For now you’ll just have to trust me: I got the full tour, and I was blown away.

After touring the stages, we explored the Percy production offices, where prep work is underway for the show. We met our costume designer Tish Monaghan, who was reading through the illustrated Lightning Thief to brainstorm for costume ideas (good move!) and Dan Hennah, our production designer, whose team is busy creating the visual world in which Percy will travel. His office walls are covered with beautiful artwork of places you would recognize from The Lightning Thief: Mount Olympus, the Underworld, Aunty Em’s, Sally Jackson’s apartment, and many more, all done in a way that is true to the story, but also fresh and exciting. Dan Hennah, by the way, is from New Zealand, and spent the past few decades working on the Lord of the Rings with Peter Jackson, so Dan knows a few things about bringing magical worlds to life.

The best part of the Percy production offices? People bring their dogs to work! We got to meet several new canine friends, which made me feel a little better since I was missing my own Speedy. The production team’s “Chief Morale Officer” is a golden retriever puppy named Chili Dog. We made sure to get an office as close as possible to him.

After a wonderful dinner with James Bobin and Dan and Chris Hennah, Becky and I flew back to Boston. Goodbye, for now, Vancouver, but we’ll be seeing you again soon. We are due to start filming on June 1, assuming all goes as planned, and Becky and I will be there from day one!


Rick Riordan