When it was announced that Disney was giving a second life to the onscreen adaptation of Percy Jackson with the TV series Percy Jackson and the Olympians, fans of the book series were naturally sceptical. The movie franchise (2010-2013) based on Rick Riordan’s bestselling novels has always elicited mixed reactions from fans who felt the movies did not do justice to the source material. The pressure to deliver a series that remained faithful to the fantastic worldbuilding of the novels and captured the imagination of loyal fans was intense, especially on the representation of the lead trio Percy, Annabeth, and Grover.
Actor Aryan Simhadri found himself in a special position, as someone who was a fan of the series and was playing Grover, a major character in the TV adaptation.
“There was a little pressure when we first started working on this project, but it was mostly the pressure we put on ourselves,” he says, as he sits down for a chat with HELLO!, “We wanted to make something we would want to watch as fans of the show. I think that the pressure we got from the fanbase was more motivation than anything because they’re all so supportive and we wanted to give them the adaptation that they deserve.”
The 17-year-old Indian American actor is, therefore, incredibly moved and excited by the rave reception the show has been getting. “It’s been amazing. I went to Rick’s book signing recently with a friend and I made a bet with her that nobody there would recognise me but there was a whole line of people who wanted to meet me. One fan got a picture clicked with me and her hands were shaking. It has been incredible.”
Even though Grover has now become synonymous with Aryan for fans, the actor had to go through a rigorous audition process to land the role. “I was originally in New York working on a different project when I got the audition. Grover is such an iconic character that I honestly didn’t think I was going to get it, but I submitted a tape anyway, just to see what would happen. I ended up getting a callback after I had left New York, and it had been three months by that point, so I figured they had forgotten about me. I kept going through the rounds and I eventually got to the chemistry reads, where I met Walker (Scobell, who plays Percy) and Leah (Jeffries, who plays Annabeth), and I was blown away by them. I got the call saying I booked it maybe a month later. After that call, me and my mom just ran around the house freaking out for the rest of the day.”
For those who haven’t read the books, the story follows Percy, whose life gets upside down when he discovers that he is the son of Poseidon and has divine powers that he must use to save his mother and restore order in Olympus. He does so with the help of his friends and fellow divine creatures Annabeth, the daughter of Athena, and Grover, a half-man and half-goat creature known as satyr.
“I spent a month learning how to walk like a goat,” says Aryan, leaving me with no choice but to ask “How does one do that?!”
The actor laughs and elaborates, “During our month of prep and the filming of the first episode, I worked with this incredible movement coach named Rod Fransham who taught me what a goat’s legs look like and how they’re built, and how they’re supposed to walk. We also had a few hiccups with figuring out the ears, because either the glue ran out so we had to use a different one that didn’t work as well, or the ears came in wrong and we had to make do with spares from last month’s set. By the time we started filming episode four or five, I think we had a pretty solid routine set in place for it, though, and everything was smooth after that.”
One of the best things to come out of the show is the lead trio’s chemistry with each other, both on-screen and off-screen. The friendship was instant, says Aryan, and it became one of the best parts of filming the action-filled show. He also credits his co-stars and the show’s incredible roster of cast and crew for motivating him every single day to do better.
In between filling out college applications and watching shows like Beef and The Bear (both of which he recommends to our readers after checking repeatedly that we don’t have 10-year-olds coming to HELLO!’s website), the actor harbours dreams of playing Spiderman one day and just enjoy every single day he gets to do what he does. “I just love acting,” he says simply.
Before we let him go, we had to ask if we’re getting a second season of the show. While he remains tight-lipped about the future of the show, he does tease a potential sequence where Grover gets to wear a wedding dress and talk in a falsetto when we alter our question to ask him if there’s something he’s looking forward to film the most. In the second book, the satyr pretended to be a female cyclops in a wedding dress to escape another cyclops who was chasing him. Is that a confirmation, we ask. “I’d really like to keep this job so I can’t confirm anything!” he says, before signing off.
Percy Jackson and the Olympians is streaming on Disney+ Hotstar.