Percy Jackson Showrunner Explains Changes to Medusa in Disney+ Series

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Jessica Parker Kennedy‘s portrayal of Medusa in the Disney+ series Percy Jackson and the Olympians is different from the way the character is portrayed in the original film. It’s a decision that author and creator Rick Riordan wanted to make sure happened.

Speaking to Variety, Riordan and Kennedy spoke about the version of Medusa that appears in the series, and is more in line with the Greek mythology version of the character. In Greek mythology, Medusa is a human who takes a vow of celibacy in devotion to Athena.

However, she later enters into a relationship with the god Poseidon, in which the two become sexual. While never explicitly stated, various interpretations paint the encounter as nonconsensual, something that Kennedy did tap into while playing the character.

“[Co-creator and co-showrunner Jon Steinberg] wrote a story of [Medusa] thinking that [Poseidon] was someone she could trust, and he broke that trust,” Kennedy said. “She was feeling safe, and then the situation turned unsafe,” she says. “So I chose to play that she was a victim of rape and total abandonment, not understanding why Athena would turn on her.”

Rick Riordan wanted to acknowledge the abuse of power in mythological stories

Unlike the version of Medusa that appears in the 2005 novel and 2010 film, which shows Medusa as mostly a villain who can turn people into stone, the series portrays Medusa as more of a complicated figure, with Percy’s mother (Virginia Kull) telling Percy that “not everyone who looks like a hero is a hero, and not everyone who looks like a monster is a monster” when the pair see a statue of Perseus — who Percy is named after — holding the head of Medusa.

As far as Riordan — who wrote the Percy Jackson series and co-created the series — is concerned, there are plenty of different stories centered on Greek mythological figures, but the topic of abuse of power is always present.

“There are many versions from ancient times of what happened in that temple with Medusa and Poseidon and Athena,” said Riordan. “Who’s to blame? Who’s the abuser? What’s the real story? It’s fiction, but it certainly is important to acknowledge that there is abuse involved here. Abuse of power.”

Percy Jackson and the Olympians is streaming now on Disney+.

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