‘The Lightning Thief’ strikes again: Chryss-Connell creates, produces Percy Jackson web series

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Photo credit: Sydney Moses

Yony Marian, Camden Hodges and Willow Glenn film a scene for senior Kylie Chryss-Connell’s Percy Jackson web series. “She’s doing a million things at once” makeup artist Charlotte Hayes said of Chryss-Connell. “She’s so respectful to everybody, but she knows exactly what you need to do.”

While simultaneously applying to colleges and navigating through a virtual senior year, lifelong Percy Jackson fan Kylie Chryss-Connell has taken on another project. After years of following the hit middle-grade books by Rick Riordan, she has begun production on a web series following its plotline.

“I’ve been the absolute biggest fan of the Percy Jackson books since I was in fifth grade. It was an obsession that I thought would die out and never did,” Chryss-Connell said. “Because the series had such inaccurate and unfavorable movie adaptations, a lot of people have taken adapting the books into their own hands, and it’s given way to a lot of really creative forums, which has been super cool to experience throughout the years.”

Although Chryss-Connell has made short films in the past, the web series is her biggest endeavor to date. In the beginning of the project, Chryss-Connell said she originally expected the casting process to be “the most difficult” part of making the series.

“[Casting] ended up actually being pretty easy. I have had an overwhelming amount of [auditions], which is wonderful. I never expected that that would happen,” Chryss-Connell said. “I have ultimately ended up with a really great cast and crew. I’ve met some amazing people through this process, and we work really well together on set, and I never could have predicted the expanse of the production and how professional it would become.”

Thirteen-year-old Camden Hodges, who plays the role of Percy, is also a fan of the series. He praised Chryss-Connell’s leadership on set, and her ability to bring the cast and crew together.

“She’s really good at telling us what to do without being bossy but at the same time being very authoritative,” Hodges said.

Yony Marian, who plays sardonic satyr Grover Underwood, called being cast in the series on his birthday “the best present ever.”

“It was kind of like a dream role for me because that’s one of the only roles that I would be able to play in Percy Jackson, and it’s one of my favorite book series,” Marian said. “I think I just want people to have fun with [the series], like for other Percy Jackson fans to come out and see it.”

Chryss-Connell echoed this sentiment and hopes that her web series will provide something that she wanted as a young fan.

“My biggest hope is that other fans of the books, who never felt satisfaction from the movie adaptations, will get enjoyment and comfort and happiness from something that I’ve created and that my friends and I worked really hard on,” Chryss-Connell said. “I think my goal throughout this process has just been to create what I wanted to see six years ago.”

Hodges’ goal for the series is slightly different, and involves the official Percy Jackson series which is slated to premier on Disney Plus.

“Maybe Rick Riordan sees [our series], and is like, ‘Dang, these people are actually really good actors. Let’s cast this dude as Percy,'” Hodges said. “That’s my hope, but either way, [the series] has been really fun to do.”

Marian said everyone in the cast and crew have really “bonded” throughout production, which came to a head when they filmed scenes in the California wilderness last month.

“There was [a scene where] we’re all sitting around the campfire at the very end — it just felt like we were all really like together and like we had all grown really close,” Marian said. “Even with COVID and everything, it was still easy for us to become friends and make jokes and laugh a lot.”

Although Chryss-Connell decided to make the series before the pandemic hit, much of the production has been still impacted by COVID-19.

“Pulling off a project of this scale is already an astronomical task in terms of logistics, throw in a global pandemic and it becomes 10 times harder,” Chryss-Connell said. “I think it’s really tested my strength and my persistence. But I’ve just been working through it, and we’ve all been working really hard to make sure it’s as safe as possible. Everyone gets COVID tested, and quarantines for a couple days before each shoot.”

Despite challenges to making the series, many members of the production, including script supervisor Sydney Moses, hope that their work will make an impact on young members of the Percy Jackson fan community (or fandom).

“[Everyone here] mentioned when you were kids being part of a fandom was such a big part of who you are and I can definitely relate,” Moses said. “I just kind of hope that kids are going to see this and that they’ll love it the way we loved these things as kids.”