Exclusive: ‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians’ Star Charlie Bushnell Doesn't Think Luke is a Villain (2024)

Charlie Bushnell is grateful for everyone who has kept the biggest secret in Percy Jackson and the Olympians, even if it's been known for years. Even longtime fans have been working hard to make sure that new viewers would get to experience the season 1 finale on their own terms. And now the keeper of the show's biggest twist is ready to talk about everything that went down, including some changes that even book readers didn't see coming.

Cosmopolitan chatted with the actor about the show's epic finale, Luke's big reveal, that music pick he revealed earlier, and what he hopes is next in a possible season 2.

Now that we've reached the end, how has it been seeing everyone's reactions to the series?

It's been so much fun seeing reactions to each episode. And I'm so glad people seem to be enjoying it, which is all you can ever ask for. It's fun to see people theorize about who they think is the traitor. I've seen some some pretty crazy theories. I love how as a collective, the fandom has basically tried to stray away from the fact that Luke is the one in the end. I've seen people be like, I think Luke might be the traitor. And then people are like, What? No way! Luke and Percy are tight.

I'm such a fan of the show, just watching each week, because I wasn't there for a lot of the scenes so watching them come to life for the first time has been such a fun experience for me as well. The fandom is just amazing and the fans are incredible. We're so grateful for all the support.

Even for fans of the books, the ending is different this time. Instead of Luke poisoning Percy with a scorpion, he unexpectedly tries to connect with Percy. How was it playing it differently?

I remember reading that scene in the book and it's such a powerful scene is so good. I could not wait to film this. There have been little changes throughout the show, which I think have served the story in many ways. It's more exciting in many ways. In the book, I kind of summon this scorpion, and then I say my grand plan and then I basically tell him that he's not going to be a part of it because I'm about to kill him.

But I liked how in the show, Luke tries to recruit Percy in this. I think it will make people more empathetic towards Luke as a character and understand where he's coming from. And make him less of a villain because I don't see Luke as a villain. I think he's extremely complex and his feelings especially towards the gods are very valid. Maybe not his actions, he could have gone about things a little differently. But I think it works for the show and people are hopefully really gonna enjoy it.

Watch 'Percy Jackson and the Olympians' on Disney+

Exclusive: ‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians’ Star Charlie Bushnell Doesn't Think Luke is a Villain (1)

Watch 'Percy Jackson and the Olympians' on Disney+

There's more emotion in that scene, especially since Annabeth is also there witnessing it all through her own eyes versus her discovering it later.

I'm really glad that they added that in as well. Annabeth being there in the first place kind of tells us that she had suspicions about Luke. She must have seen this coming. I think the moment where she might have clocked it was when they're on the train and they say, We know who the Lightning Thief is. Luke even says it himself earlier on in the show. Annabeth is always six steps ahead of everyone else.

Leah Sava Jeffries is so talented and just amazing. But getting to explore that was was really fun. It serves their relationship much better. There wasn't even much said between them. The look that they share says it all. It's so powerful and it's heartbreaking. Whatever trust that was there between them is now shattered. Annabeth was just so hurt in that moment that I think she was even willing to possibly kill Luke. He knew there was no explaining this and it did not look good for him. He was about to end Percy's life. And so they both just knew it was kind of over and he had to get out of there.

It's at that moment where it really felt like Percy and Luke were two sides of the same coin. They both have reasons to not trust the gods, yet they set off on their own different paths based on their ideals.

I think Luke and Percy do share a lot of similarities. Their outlooks on life and the gods are very similar in many ways. That's why Luke does try to recruit Percy in that moment, because he senses that. He feels that like him and Percy are kind of on the same page a little bit. But Percy is sort of new to this world. Percy is still holding on to hope. And the fact that Percy actually did get to meet his dad right before played a huge part as well. Maybe if he didn't get to meet Poseidon, who knows what would have happened?

Luke has been immersed in this world his whole life sees nothing positive about it. He feels it's time for a change and that the world would just be a much better place under the rule of Kronos. Also, the fact that Percy also had his mother growing up where as Luke's essentially went mad because she tried to become the host of the Oracle. Luke has been alone his whole life and felt just abandoned. He's wanted nothing more than kind of to be loved and to have a family, but he just never did have that. He had it with Thalia and Annabeth a little bit. But the big factor was that Percy grew up with at least one parent who loved and cared about him. I think that ultimately was the deciding factor of the two different directions they went on.

Exclusive: ‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians’ Star Charlie Bushnell Doesn't Think Luke is a Villain (2)

You recently said that your go-to song for Luke was Swan Lake's Op. 20, Act 2. What would it be now looking ahead to season 2?

I haven't really given that much thought. I think I'm honestly going to continue on with with Swan Lake. That song just perfectly fits Luke in so many different ways, his overall arc as a character and kind of what he's feeling internally.

Classical really does sort of fit Luke and I'm gonna I'm gonna do more research. This playlist popped up on my YouTube one day. Like a 19th century villain playlist and I think that's possibly where I like heard the Swan Lake song. So I think I'm going to explore more like classical music for him, for sure.

Does this make you want to take more villain or darker roles?

I'm still very much open to the to the villain to the villainy roles. I don't know if I see him as like a villain necessarily, but I think villains in general are super interesting characters to play. In their mind, they're not the villain. As an actor it's really fun to play a villain because there's just so much to explore and like a lot of research to do. They're very complex.

What is the biggest thing you've taken away from this experience so far?

I learned this as well working on my very first show, Diary of a Future President, just how much of a team effort it truly is to bring these stories to life. There's so much literal blood sweat and tears that goes into it from all departments—cast, crew, camera operators, lighting, makeup, hair, wardrobe, set design, everything. Everyone is just giving their all.

You only see the the final product in the end, which is essentially just like the actors on screen but everyone gives it their all. We just love our our crew so much and working with everyone on the set was just amazing. We could not have asked for a better group of people to work with.

Exclusive: ‘Percy Jackson and the Olympians’ Star Charlie Bushnell Doesn't Think Luke is a Villain (2024)
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