Back on Set with the Demigod Squad

I hope everyone is having a good weekend! Becky and I have returned to Vancouver, where we are back on set with the demigod squad, filming the first season of PJOTV.

Before leaving Boston, we had a chance to catch Elton John at Gilette Stadium, which is the second time we’ve seen him on his farewell tour in the last four years. It’s a looooong good-bye, but we were glad for another chance, because this time we got to bring our son Haley along with us. Just an intimate little crowd, as you can tell:

Sir Elton was in fine form, relaxed and nimble-fingered at the keyboard as he ran through his greatest hits. We especially enjoyed the numbers with just him and his piano. He’s still got the skills!

The saddest thing about leaving Boston was saying goodbye to our sons for a few weeks, and of course leaving our pup Speedy.

She has gotten used to our trips, though, and is okay as long as she has her boys at home to take care of her. It’s hard to be away from my ‘pack’, though. If you see me hugging random dogs on the streets of British Columbia, you will know why.

Our first day back in Vancouver, when I arrived at the film lot, I found a brazier of hot coals burning, which either meant we were doing burnt offerings to the gods, or we were having barbecue chicken sandwiches for lunch. Either way, an excellent omen!

In case you’re wondering, our hardworking catering staff typically prepares 260 lunches every day to feed our crew, and that’s not including any background actors who might be working that day. This tells you how many people it takes to keep this production running. If we are doing burnt offerings, I’m saying a prayer of thanks for our food prep people, and all the rest of the demigod squad who puts this show together.

One highlight of the week was welcoming my editor Steph Lurie to Canada. She got to visit the set with a contingent of folks from Disney Publishing and merchandising, and spent two days meeting the cast, seeing the various sets and locations, and chatting with our producers, directors and designers. Steph, Becky and I got travel and see some of the beautiful sights around Vancouver. Here are Steph and me at an undisclosed location on the water:

Just after we took this shot, Becky spotted a random seal swimming by, because nature. I’m also told that the crew went swimming in that water one day after we wrapped filming. BRRRRR. I’ve been tempted to do some diving around the area, but if I do, I will be using a well-insulated drysuit, thank you very much. Steph got a lot of compliments on her Camp Half-Blood hat, which is a vintage item left over from one of our promotional book tours. She was demigod before demigod was cool.

Another random shot I took as we were exploring British Columbia, not necessarily related to anything we were filming:

That is Mount Tantalus in the distance, named after our old friend from the Fields of Punishment, who never did manage to catch that donut he was chasing through the dining pavilion at Camp Half-Blood. I showed this photo to a friend back in Boston who couldn’t believe it was taken just the day before. Snow on the mountain in August? And it was 80 degrees Farhenheit at sea level. The wonders of the Pacific Northwest in summertime.

Filming continues to go very well. Day to day, we don’t necessarily film in strict chronological order. If, for instance, there are scenes that happen on a city street in two different episodes, we may film them at the same time because it is more efficient that way. But in general, we have now covered most of the principal photography for ‘block one,’ which has been overseen by our fearless directorial leader James Bobin. While we continue filming the subsequent episodes under the talented and able direction of Anders Engström and Jet Wilkinson, James will now retreat into his Fortress of Solitude and begin creating a director’s cut for the work he has done so far. Everything already looks so good in the raw footage, I can’t imagine how great it will be when James gets done choosing his favorite shots and putting them all together. Then the producers (including me) will do our revisions. Then the studio will put in their input. So there is a long way to go. But the good news is we are on schedule. Given the massively ambitious scale of this show, that is no small accomplishment. Kudos once again to our incredible show-runners Jon Steinberg and Dan Shotz, who, by the way, recently created The Old Man with Jeff Bridges for FX. If you haven’t checked that out yet, do so!

How much Percy content have we covered? Put it this way: If you were following along in the book, we have pretty much filmed through chapter nine in The Lightning Thief. That’s a big chunk of the story, but there is a massive amount of fun and games still to come! And yes, the filming has followed the book story very closely, almost as if the author were involved himself! Sure, there are small tweaks and changes here and there, which were mutually agreed upon, but the biggest difference is the ‘value added.’ You will get peeks at character backstory, foreshadowing Easter eggs of things to come, and nuances in Percy’s family history that I think you will love. The neat thing about revisiting this tale, almost twenty years after I first wrote it, is that I get to address some of the questions that fans have asked me over the years: “What does this mean?” “Why does this happen the way it does?” “What would happen if —?” It’s been really satisfying and fun.

Every evening when we get back to our apartment, Becky and I relax, exhausted but happy, and enjoy this view of the sunset from our balcony. It’s not a bad gig, I know.

And did I mention our cast? Monday, I spent the day with satyrs and dryads. I really can’t tell you any more than that, but I don’t think I have ever grinned so much or tried not to laugh so much in my life. They delivered a perfect scene, and Aryan Simhadri was amazing.

As I predicted, our main trio is so incredible that it’s now very difficult for me to imagine Percy, Annabeth and Grover without seeing Walker, Leah and Aryan. They are owning these characters in the best possible way. You will see what I mean when you watch the show. If you were a doubter, you will doubt no longer. But for now, you’ll have to take my word for it . . .

In the meantime, you can get a sense for how great these kids are by watching their other work. Becky and I just finished watching The Trevor Musical on Disney+, which features Aryan. He can sing, too??  It’s a great story, plus Becky and I are monthly supporters of The Trevor Project, and we believe strongly in its mission of supporting LGBTQIA+ youth, so it’s well worth a watch!

Leah Jeffries’ most recent feature film Beast premieres Aug. 19, in which Leah plays the daughter of Idris Elba’s character as their family is stalked by the scariest alpha predator since Jaws:

And fresh off his stellar debut in The Adam Project, Walker Scobell stars with Owen Wilson in the superhero adventure Secret Headquarters, streaming now on Paramount+.  As if we needed more proof that this young man is a superstar!

In other news, Aditi Kapil and I are moving along with the script for the feature film adaptation of Daughter of the Deep and I’m feeling really great about it. Meanwhile, the book just hit 41 weeks on the New York Times bestseller list! Thanks to all my fabulous readers for following along on a sci-fi adventure that has nothing to do with Percy Jackson, and giving so much love to Ana Dakkar and the new crew of the Nautilus. 

This week, we are also expecting the latest draft of the script for The Kane Chronicles: The Red Pyramid from Diandra Pendleton-Thompson, and I can’t wait to read it! She’s done a fantastic job on everything I’ve seen so far, which makes me even more excited to get this project moving forward at Netflix.

In our “free time,” we have been watching:

Strange New Worlds – Incredible show! We love it. Classic Trek vibe, and I am totally here for Anson Mount’s Captain Pike as “Reasonable Space Dad.” 

Stranger Things – Yes, we finally caught up, but not before the ending was spoiled. Oh, well. It still hurt! Don’t you hate it when creators kill off great characters for No ReAsOn OMG it’s So UnFaIr They DidN’T dEsErve That amirit? Wow, who does that?

Grace and Frankie – I enjoy watching shows about people even older than I am. It makes me feel better. Plus, the series ending was great: perfect blend of sad and funny and heartwarming.

Black Bird – This was creepy as heck, but a compelling show about the ickiest, most chilling serial killer I can imagine. Taron Egerton and Paul Walter Hauser were both wonderful.

Ms. Marvel – I loved the graphic novels. I heard mixed reviews about the TV show, but I thought it was wonderful! Great heart, great characters, great quirky sense of humor. Now I am looking forward to Shrek-Hulk: Attorney at Law! (Wait, what do you mean, that’s not the title?)

I am reading:

The End of the World is Just the Beginning. A terribly frightening but interesting look at modern geopolitics and how the supply chain disruptions of 2021 were (perhaps) only a foretaste of what is to come. Great book, but don’t read it if you want to sleep at night or plan on existing in the next few decades. (Gulp.)

Il Nome della Rosa. I finished Umberto Eco’s masterpiece in Italian and found it riveting. Great atmosphere, compelling mystery, high body count, super proto-Holmes and Watson detectives trying to solve the case. Plus I love the Italian Middle Ages/Renaissance period of history, so it was right up my alley.

Paradise Lost. I found a used copy of John Milton’s major poems at Kestrel Books in Kitslano, here in Vancouver, and decided why not? It pairs well with Dante’s La Divina Commedia, which I am about six cantos away from finishing. Villains always get the best parts, and Milton’s Satan is no exception.

I am listening to:

Harry’s House. Harry Styles is incredibly talented. I tried him out because Stevie Nicks likes him, and Stevie is right. I think this album is even better than Fine Line. “Music for a Sushi Restaurant” reminds of Paul Simon on Graceland (that’s a compliment), “As it Was” is infectiously listenable, and “Little Freak” is just beautifully sad.

The Essential Leonard Cohen. I was late discovering Leonard Cohen, but it seemed appropriate to dive into Canada’s great singer-songwriter’s work as I was spending so much time in Vancouver. (I know he was from Montreal. I’ve seen the giant picture of him on the side of a building there!)  Wow, what a wordsmith. I also appreciate that Cohen just got better with age. That’s something all us writers aspire to. He actually pulled it off!

Red Garland: A Garland of Red. When I’m writing, I can’t listen to music with lyrics because it messes with my ability to craft words. Instead, I lean heavily on jazz. Red Garland is perfect for that mood!

How do I have time for all of that? Partly because I have now been off social media for exactly two years! As I’ve said before, that’s not a solution for everyone. But the last two years have offered me an incredible sense of relief. It’s kind of like if you do cardio for several days in a row (which I don’t do nearly enough), you sort of feel like your lung capacity has increased, and it’s just easier to breathe? That’s how it has felt. It’s pretty dramatic how much extra time I now have to do things like . . . well, create. Our social media helpers will keep posting updates, but comments will remain disabled for all posts regardless of content, and I will not be reading anything on any platform! So, talk amongst yourselves, I guess. : )

I’ll leave you all with that — Time to stretch my legs and explore the city. Last weekend, Becky and I hiked to the end of Stanley Park. We got to see the Nine O’Clock Gun, which we hear every evening, and the amazing totem poles. Not sure where we’ll end up today, but I’m sure it will be a great adventure. Keep reading, everyone!

Rick Riordan