Exclusive: ‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians’ Star Virginia Kull on Bringing a New Sally Jackson to Life (2024)

Sally Jackson is finally back! The Percy Jackson and the Olympians season 1 finale gave fans a big reunion between the demigod and his mother after she was successfully rescued from Hades on his wild journey that ended on Olympus. And Virginia Kull's performance as Sally has been one that fans can't get enough of, especially as they learned more of her backstory through surprise flashbacks that have sparked many freak outs on Reddit and X (formerly Twitter).

Cosmopolitan caught up with Virginia Kull right before the big finale to chat all about bringing new sides of Sally Jackson to life, getting to work with two kinds of Percy's, and how this role has helped her look at a new side of parenting.

How has it been seeing the fan reaction to everything so far?

It's been really exciting. I'm a little insulated from the global public response in that I don't have any social media. I'm like not in the cool kids club. So I'm kind of out of the fray as far as that's concerned. But I know that it's having an impact in that I'm getting text messages from friends I haven't talked to in 20 years with pictures of their now kiddos bundled up on the couch, with my big silly face on the screen, watching the story unfold. And it's been fun to reconnect with dear friends that I haven't talked to in a million years and to know that they're being entertained and their kids are delighted.

I remember you saying that your godson is actually the reason why you took the job.

He was my date for our premiere in New York. He came in his Camp Half-Blood shirt underneath his tuxedo coat with a sharpie and insisted that every cast member there sign. Walker Scobell, Aryan Simhadri, and Lea Sava Jeffries took such beautiful care of him. It was so special for me to see this kid I love be so wrapped up and loved by everyone. They are the kindest, most generous, lovely, decent, fun human beings. They're really, really special kids.

It's so sad cause we don't see Sally interact with them as much this season, obviously.

Unfortunately, I never had a scene with Leah. It kills me because she's nailing it. I think she's so good. She's so fun. She's so charming. But that's one of the plus sides of not getting scenes with an actor—is that you get to watch it as just a fan with fresh eyes and just be delighted by what you're seeing. And that's certainly been the case with her.

Going back to the beginning, one of the biggest topics that fans have been talking about is some of the changes that were made to Sally's character, particularly in her relationship with Gabe. She's still in an abusive relationship, but she stands her ground more than in the books.

Candidly, in my initial audition, we were only given the sides and one of them was the scene where I was kind of having a back and forth with Gabe where I'm taking the car. I had no context for what was going on because I didn't know the stories at all at that point. I played it very much in the way that you see in the in the final product. And Dan Shotz, one of our showrunners, told me that that was refreshing to see a Sally that didn't tremble because so many people had played it that way. And now having read the books, I realized, Oh, wow, it was a very abusive relationship. Dan and Johnathan E. Steinberg and Rick Riordan made some adjustments.

It's been 20 plus years since it originally came out and one of their purposeful departures from the original canon is that that relationship wasn't abusive in the way Rick originally wrote it. She's got fight in her. It's not a relationship of love. I still firmly believe that he is Smelly Gabe gay and she is purposefully partnered up with this man for the sole purpose of protecting her kid. But it was something that was important to the creators and I was happy and game to play with it.

Exclusive: ‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians’ Star Virginia Kull on Bringing a New Sally Jackson to Life (2)

The Percy-Sally relationship is so important because we don't get to see a lot of positive mother-son relationships on TV. But you didn't just have to build it with just one actor, you had to build it with two.

The pilot took a while to shoot. There were just so many complicated sequences. We had so many stunt rehearsals and a lot of time was spent in that Camaro, doing that car chase scene, wearing jeans in the rain, yelling over the sounds of wind and thunder. So you get close to the actors you're working with because the crew is not going to come in and get wet. So it's just me and Walker standing in the rain for hours and hours, day after day. And he's magic. He's magic on-screen and off. I adore him. I adore his family. I trust that they are doing all the things to keep him safe and shielded and protected and supported through this whole process. I told someone else that he's like my favorite kind of kid. My own son is like this, he's got a twinkle in his eye where it's like he's kind of up to no good. There's some mischief going on here and it keeps you on your toes. But then I didn't get to work with Walker again until the finale.

Because the rest was with sweet Azriel Dalman who's also just wonderful and such a professional. Azriel has brown eyes and Walker has blue. And I thought, How is this gonna work? I guess we're just going to spend a lot of money in post-production changing his eye color. No that kid goes from set to set with literally a suitcase of contacts in every single color of the rainbow. He just pops those suckers in and he is on his mark ready to shoot. I kept thinking when I was seven years old I was out in the woods making mudpies and running around. But having all that time away from Walker meant that our reunion in episode 8 was both meaningful for the characters but also really meaningful for the actors. I met Walker when he was 12. And it's really interesting because you and I don't change much, but Walker's face was totally new to me after six or seven months. And he's taller!

Exclusive: ‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians’ Star Virginia Kull on Bringing a New Sally Jackson to Life (3)

That's what the internet keeps pointing out!

And skill wise he has grown! We had an extraordinary acting coach for the kids, Andrew McIlroy. He actually plays the school administrator seen in episode seven. It's great to see what Aryan does in episode three to what Walker and Leah are doing in that tunnel of love stuff and, oh my gosh, their goodbye with a Hephaestus. It's just extraordinary to see how they've grown. I'm just so proud of all of them.

I also need to ask you about that Sally and Poseidon scene in the diner, because it was such a surprise to the fans and also added a lot of depth to their relationships as well.

Before I got the script for seven, I found out that I was going to have to be in Vancouver away from my family on Thanksgiving shooting, because Thanksgiving is a different day in Canada. I initially, truthfully, was a little perturbed. But then I read it and I saw those scenes and I thought, If you want me to shoot on Christmas, I'll be there. I've been a fan of Toby Stephens for years. His Rochester in Jane Eyre...I mean, come on! He's tremendously talented. John and Dan both vouched for him having worked together on Black Sails for so many years, so I knew I was going to be in good hands.

Toby was a dream to work with. And Anders Engström, our director of that episode, was so so important because it's not immediately evident from the way you're viewing it at the final version, but the entire scene of us at the bar is played not looking at each other. Side by side, shoulder to shoulder, but we never turn to glimpse at the other person. And what that did for both of us emotionally and energy wise was make the longing to connect with each other so much more evident and charged. There was like a pulsating energy. And it was really exciting to get to shoot that way and just such a cool tactic and idea. Even when Sally lights the match and puts it in the half spent ice cream sundae. It's so weird and beautiful. And kind of sad and kind of funny. I just loved it!

It's also fascinating to see another side of Sally's story. especially since everything is from Percy's point of view in the books.

I was excited from just reading it and her talking to her person, her co-parent, saying things like, I am failing. And, of course, she said that. I have said that in my own life. I don't know any human being on this planet that has not felt like that at some point, particularly if you're a parent, no matter how good of a job you're doing. So to see Sally—who in the books is so full of life, and so protective of her son, and so warm, and so joy filled—in a moment where she's not is really brave and bold...I think it's a gift to our audience, particularly to the parents of the kiddos that are sitting on the couch watching this or maybe the original fans that are now coming back to it with like 20 years of life under their belt and going like, Wow. Life is hard. Parenting is hard. What's important is to not be perfect, but to say, I'm so sorry. I need help.

Obviously we'll see more of Sally in future seasons, but do you hope to get more moments like this in the future? I mean, Toby said there's potential for a prequel series even.

They'd need to cast younger versions if they go that route!

There is so much there. I mean, it's always nice to be employed, especially after COVID and a strike. It's really nice to have a job where you're going to a set with people you respect and people that you enjoy. That doesn't always happen, but it's certainly the case with this. I mean, I've read and love the books. I know that Sally is part of Percy's story for the long haul. And so I would expect her to be involved with any future as far as that is concerned. But I do think that we've learned from episode seven that with an adaptation there are ways to be additive. There are ways to deepen and enrich the story being told. And I am definitely game to take part if they will have me.

Watch 'Percy Jackson and the Olympians' on Disney+

Insights, advice, suggestions, feedback and comments from experts

Percy Jackson and the Olympians Season 1 Finale: Sally Jackson's Reunion and Backstory

The Percy Jackson and the Olympians Season 1 finale gave fans a big reunion between the demigod Percy Jackson and his mother Sally Jackson. Sally was successfully rescued from Hades on Percy's wild journey that ended on Olympus. Fans have been particularly impressed with Virginia Kull's performance as Sally and the surprise flashbacks that revealed more about her backstory. The fan reaction to the show has been exciting, with people reaching out to Virginia Kull and sharing their enjoyment of the series [[1]].

Changes to Sally's Character and Relationship with Gabe

One of the biggest topics of discussion among fans is the changes made to Sally's character, particularly in her relationship with Gabe. In the books, Sally is in an abusive relationship with Gabe, but in the TV adaptation, she stands her ground more and shows more strength. Virginia Kull initially auditioned for the role without knowing the full context of the story and played the scene with Gabe in a way that showed Sally's resilience. The showrunners made intentional departures from the original canon to portray Sally as a strong character who is partnered with Gabe for the sole purpose of protecting her son Percy [[2]].

Building the Mother-Son Relationship with Two Actors

Virginia Kull had to build the mother-son relationship with two actors, Walker Scobell (young Percy) and Azriel Dalman (teenage Percy). The pilot episode took a while to shoot, and Virginia spent a lot of time with Walker, who plays young Percy. She formed a close bond with him and his family and was impressed by his talent and professionalism. Due to the time gap between shooting, their reunion in episode 8 was meaningful for both the characters and the actors. Virginia also praised the growth and skill development of the young actors throughout the series [[3]].

Sally and Poseidon Scene in the Diner

The scene between Sally and Poseidon in the diner was a surprise to fans and added depth to their relationship. Virginia Kull was initially hesitant about shooting on Thanksgiving, but after reading the script and seeing the scenes, she was excited to work with Toby Stephens, who plays Poseidon. The director, Anders Engström, used a unique approach for the scene, with Sally and Poseidon not looking at each other but standing side by side. This created a longing to connect with each other and added a pulsating energy to the scene. Virginia loved the unconventional and emotional aspects of the scene [[4]].

Sally's Story and Parenthood

Virginia Kull found it fascinating to explore a different side of Sally's story, especially since the books are primarily from Percy's point of view. She appreciated the opportunity to portray Sally in a moment of vulnerability and to show that even strong characters like Sally can struggle and feel like they're failing. Virginia believes that this portrayal can resonate with parents and viewers who understand the challenges of parenting and the importance of acknowledging imperfections and seeking help when needed [[5]].

Future Seasons and Sally's Involvement

While there is potential for future seasons and even a prequel series, Virginia Kull hopes to continue being involved in the show as Sally Jackson. She recognizes that Sally is an integral part of Percy's story and expects her character to be involved in any future adaptations. Virginia is also open to exploring ways to deepen and enrich the story, as demonstrated in episode seven, and is excited to continue working with the talented cast and crew [[6]].

Note: The information provided above is based on the search results and does not include personal opinions or additional information beyond what is mentioned in the article.

Exclusive: ‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians’ Star Virginia Kull on Bringing a New Sally Jackson to Life (2024)
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