Actor Charlie Bushnell as Luke Castellan in a trojan-style helmet and armor in "Percy Jackson and the Olympians."

A peak into the mind actor Charlie Bushnell of Disney+’s new ‘Percy Jackson’

As iconic antihero Luke Castellan, Bushnell is the guy a generation of bookworms love to hate

Charlie Bushnell plays Luke Castellan in "Percy Jackson and the Olympians."

Disney+

Words by Erica Ito

Mixed Asian Media: JoySauce is proud to present something very special—a partnership with the ultra talented team over at Mixed Asian Media. In JoySauce’s mission to cover stories from the Asian American and Pacific Islander diaspora, we’ve always considered it incredibly important to include mixed AA+PI perspectives. Since their team already has that piece on lock, we’re delighted they were willing to join forces to help us share even more fresh, funny, interesting, irreverent stories each week. Take it away, MAM!


Percy Jackson fans have been awaiting a faithful screen adaption of Rick Riordan’s mythic world for nearly 20 years now, and the brand-new Disney+ television series did not disappoint.

As a lifelong fan and self-proclaimed Percy Jackson historian, I couldn't have been more excited to see one of my favorite characters, the epic anti-hero Luke, be portrayed by the absolutely brilliant young actor, Charlie Bushnell. The following conversation with Charlie was a collaboration between Mixed Asian Media and Seaweed Brain: A Percy Jackson Podcast, the show I co-host with my genius best friend Carter Nakamoto

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.

Erica Ito: Charlie! Tell us about auditioning for this part.
Charlie Bushnell: It was an extremely stressful week at school. I had so many essays due, like a test and everything. Then I saw that an audition came in from my team, and I was like, "Oh man, I don't even know if I can do this." But I opened it and it said Percy Jackson and the Olympians. So I was like, "Okay, I'm dropping everything else and this is obviously taking top priority."

[The audition] was the scene in episode three when I give Percy the shoes. There was actually a lot more in that scene when I auditioned for it than what you actually see in the episode. Luke goes more into depth about his quest and how he was set to fail. That was really fun to explore. 

I think like a week later they had me do another tape with some notes. Then a month and a half went by and I didn't hear [anything]. As an actor, you kind of just have to brush it off your shoulder, because if you get too attached, you're going to go nuts. But one day I get a call from my team and they're like, “Oh, James Bobin and Dan Shotz and Jonathan Steinberg—they want to meet with you. They want to do a Zoom call.”

I have a Zoom call with them for like 20 minutes. We do the scene a couple times and they give me notes, and we just talk about Percy as a whole, Luke as a character, his arc, all that. And then they said, All right, thank you so much, Charlie.” 

And then a few days went by and I was at school once again. I get a text from my team and they're just like, "Charlie, we need to hop on the phone right now." I hop on the phone and [my team] is like, “You’re going to Vancouver. You got the role.”

I definitely could not focus for the rest of the day at school.

EI: I’ve heard that there was an acting coach on set who gave out binders with mythological information.
CB: Yeah, I definitely received a binder my first day on the show. It was really thoughtful of everything to do with Luke and Greek mythology. There was a whole summary of each chapter from The Lightning Thief.

Andrew McIlroy, our acting teacher, he's just the best. Probably one of the smartest people I've ever met. [All of us] would have deep conversations about our characters and how they contribute to the story. We could not have done it without him. 

I feel like Rick [Riordan] really beautifully laid out Luke's backstory, especially in the later books. We learn more about Luke's history and why he ends up doing what he does. I was able to pull a lot from that as well and my own research online. I didn't even realize that Percy Jackson podcasts existed, but once I did, me and my mom, we've been listening.

Actors Walker Scobell and Charlie Bushnell, holding a lit lantern, stand in a dark forest.

From left, Walker Scobell and Charlie Bushnell as Percy Jackson and Luke Castellan in "Percy Jackson and the Olympians."

Disney+

EI: Speaking of research, are there any antagonists or anti-heroes that you really love that maybe inspired your work?
CB: Definitely Anakin Skywalker and Killmonger. When you think about it, they have very similar stories. I think they all took a step back, really looked at how things were being run, and were just like, "Wait a minute. Something's off here." They weren't just following the herd, you know? They were questioning how things were being run, which I think is important.

EI: What do you think about Luke's personal beef with his dad, versus his broader belief that the gods are running the world in a way that's not fair, and how those two things are playing different roles in his motivations?
CB: [His feelings towards his dad, Hermes] definitely cloud his judgment a little bit. In my opinion, Luke's feelings towards the gods as a whole are completely justified. The truth is they're not the best parents, you know? So I think Luke is completely justified in how he's feeling. I don't know if his actions were necessarily justified. 

I think all he wanted was family and to be loved. Even when he asked for Hermes's help, [his dad] was never there, and obviously his mom went mad, so he just felt so alone his whole life. He finally found [family] with Thalia and Annabeth, and then Thalia was taken from him. And so everything in Luke's being was just like, "This is not right."

I think he truly believes that the world will just be a better place under Kronos’ rule. And I think he will do whatever he can in his power to make that happen.

Actors Leah Jeffries and Charlie Bushnell stand together in a wooden cabin, in orange "Camp Half-Blood" t-shirts.

From left, Leah Jeffries and Charlie Bushnell as found siblings Annabeth Chase and Luke Castellan in "Percy Jackson and the Olympians."

Disney+

EI: Something we've been talking about a lot is why each of these characters aren’t going with Luke. In an alternate universe, who is on the precipice of joining him and hopping on the Princess Andromeda?
CB: Oh man, that's a good question. 

Honestly, Percy. I think he also questions the gods sometimes. There were many factors that made Percy not join Luke. I think Percy was still holding on to hope, [with] Annabeth keeping him in check ‘cause Annabeth is very dutiful to the gods. But I think if Percy and Luke had more time to really discuss things…I think there could have been a good chance.

I think [of] that line in the prophecy, “You will be betrayed by one who calls you a friend.” Luke is that person. And Percy's fatal flaw is loyalty, right? So maybe in that moment he's like, “Oh my God. He's not my friend. What's going on here?”

EI: We were wondering how you reacted when you first saw those finale pages and the differences from the books?
CB: I was definitely a little nervous reading it, just because I know how big of a moment that is in the books, especially with the scorpion and all that. Reading it, I was like, "Oh, man, the diehard fans of the books, I don't know how they're gonna feel about this."

For a TV show, I think the change works. Because also in the book, Luke is like, “There's a new goal. You're not going to be a part of it.” But in the show, he's trying to recruit Percy, which I think can make people more empathetic towards Luke. 

But also, the sword fight works better cinematically. And it's more exciting, I think, than just a scorpion appearing.

Actors Charlie Bushnell and Walker Scobell, in orange "Camp Half-Blood" t-shirts, sit on a rock facing each other, in a forest, surrounded by dead leaves on the ground.

From left, Charlie Bushnell and Walker Scobell as Luke Castellan and Percy Jackson have a heart-to-heart in "Percy Jackson and the Olympians."

Disney+

EI: How many days of rehearsal did you have for that [finale] sequence?
CB: Yeah, we basically filmed the training scene as well, not back to back, but like a day or two before starting the final scene. So we were learning those simultaneously. I have some really cool behind-the-scenes footage of us training with Walker. I think there's a video of us doing that final fight to the Pirates of the Caribbean music. 

That was so much fun. The stunt team is incredible. Couldn't have done it without them.

EI: I think a reason why I really enjoyed these books is because of the “half-blood” of it all. In mixed-identity literature, there's often this theme of straddling two worlds, or being a part of multiple identities, multiple cultures, maybe not fitting into any of those places, or maybe fitting into all of them. All that said, how does it feel to bring yourself and Charlie into the role of Luke?
CB: It feels good. I once had an acting teacher who said you have to bring a little bit of yourself into every role you play. And I think that's one thing that I really respect about Rick's decision. He really looked beyond just physical appearance. When I got the audition for Luke, it didn't have any physical description of the character, and I really respect that. He just chose whoever he believed brought the essence and the soul of the character to life.

And that's, in the end, what matters the most, you know?

Published on March 18, 2024

Words by Erica Ito

Born and raised on the east side of O’ahu, Erica learned about improv comedy in seventh grade, and has been a public menace ever since. She holds a BFA in musical theater from the University of Michigan and can be found yelling about coming-of-age love stories, pop culture, and mythology with her genius co-host/best friend on their podcast Seaweed Brain. Check her out @SeaweedBrainPodcast and www.ericaito.com.