THE FIRST SEASON of Disney's Percy Jackson and the Olympians came to an epic conclusion this week, with the titular young hero's quest reaching its climax atop the Empire State Building. Just like the novel from which this season was adapted, Percy retrieves the stolen lightning bolt of Zeus—albeit with a lot more difficulty than originally written—and returns it to the king of the gods, averting a cataclysmic war.
But while Zeus continues to be a major character throughout the rest of Rick Riordan's hugely popular book series, it is unclear as to how much of a role he will play in subsequent seasons of the Disney+ series.
In Season 1 of Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Zeus was played by Lance Reddick, a highly accomplished screen actor known for his roles in The Wire, Lost, and the John Wickfilm franchise. Percy Jackson and the Olympians was Reddick's final television role before his sudden death from natural causes in March 2023 at the age of 60.
The season finale, entitled "The Prophecy Comes True," ended with Zeus still reigning supreme on Mount Olympus—but the show's creators commemorated the passing of the actor who played him with a title card in the end credits, that read: "In loving memory of Lance Reddick."
Lance Reddick's Percy Jackson and the Olympians tribute, explained
Speaking to Variety after the episode premiered, showrunners Jon Steinburg and Dan Shotz praised Reddick's gifts as a performer, and the gravitas he brought to such a mythic role.
"We wanted Zeus to be someone who needs to be constantly convincing himself that everything is fine and under control. That felt like it came with a little bit of theater, a little bit of projection of his own authority, but also a sense of real presence," said Steinberg. "When you take all of those ideas and start looking for a person who embodies them, they just start to look like Lance. He is so — was so regal, and able to convey so many different things at the same time. To stand on stage and do a very theatrical monologue, but feel so grounded. The population of actors who can do those things, and then also just be the sweetest person and great with the kids he’s acting with — heartbreaking is the right word. It was a perfect fit in a very hard-to-fit role, and he went way too soon."
Shotz added that it was "crushing" to lose Reddick so soon, saying: "I really connected with him personally. We continued to talk for — I think it was only four to six weeks after we wrapped [that he died]. We were talking regularly. I’m just super grateful that I got that time with him. We have to look at it and say, 'Oh my God, he got to be Zeus as one of his last roles.' It’s so perfect. I’ve spoken to his wife, and she’s so happy about this role, and him being a part of this. She reached out directly with a beautiful note about how excited she is to see him in this role. So I’m hurting, we’re all hurting. But at the same time, I cannot wait for people to see his performance."
Who could replace Lance Reddick as Zeus?
While a second season of Percy Jackson and the Olympians has yet to be confirmed by Disney, the odds are good that we'll see these characters embark on a new journey inspired by the second novel, The Sea of Monsters. But Steinberg and Shotz are uncertain how they feel about recasting the role of Zeus, who continues to appear in the source material.
"It's difficult to have two different human beings inhabit the same character. But life happens, and sometimes that’s where you are," says Steinberg. "Fortunately, we have a little bit of time. Even once the process gets started, we don’t see Zeus again for a little bit, so we’ll have a minute to try to find the right fit. It’s not ideal, but certainly, I think his mark on that role will be felt with whoever steps into his shoes. It’s a tall order for anybody to try to live up to the performance of somebody else... I don’t think anybody’s looking forward to that, to be honest, but we’ll do the best we can to make sure that you feel him in whatever that character is moving forward."
Philip Ellis is News Editor at Men's Health, covering fitness, pop culture, sex and relationships, and LGBTQ+ issues. His work has appeared in GQ, Teen Vogue, Man Repeller and MTV, and he is the author of Love & Other Scams.
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Percy Jackson and the Olympians
Percy Jackson and the Olympians is a book series written by Rick Riordan. It follows the adventures of Percy Jackson, a young demigod, as he navigates the world of Greek mythology. The series has gained significant popularity and has been adapted into a Disney+ television series.
Zeus in Percy Jackson and the Olympians
Zeus is a major character in the Percy Jackson and the Olympians book series. In the first season of the Disney+ series, Zeus was portrayed by Lance Reddick, a highly accomplished screen actor known for his roles in The Wire, Lost, and the John Wick film franchise. Unfortunately, Lance Reddick passed away in March 2023 at the age of 60.
Uncertainty about Zeus' Role in Subsequent Seasons
It is unclear how much of a role Zeus will play in subsequent seasons of the Disney+ series. The showrunners, Jon Steinburg and Dan Shotz, have expressed uncertainty about recasting the role of Zeus. They acknowledge the challenge of having two different actors portray the same character but understand that sometimes it becomes necessary due to unforeseen circumstances. They are committed to finding the right fit for the role and ensuring that Lance Reddick's mark on the character is felt.
While the second season of Percy Jackson and the Olympians has not been confirmed by Disney, it is likely that the characters will embark on a new journey inspired by the second novel, "The Sea of Monsters".
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