Interview: Dior Goodjohn on Fighting Percy Jackson and Bringing the Daughter of Ares to Life

Last month, the megahit book series Percy Jackson and the Olympians got a true adaptation as a Disney+ show. Just like the novels, the series has also proven to be a hit, with the cast of the show garnering praise for bringing these beloved characters off the page and onto the screen.  One such cast member is Dior Goodjohn, who plays Clarisse— the daughter of Ares and Camp Halfblood’s resident bully (at least at first).

Recently, we had a chance to chat with Goodjohn about her experience working on the show, her prior knowledge of the books, and more.

Laughing Place: You don't give off daughter of Aries vibes when you do this kind of thing, so it's a pleasure to meet you. I'm a lot less intimidated than I was coming into this.

Dior Goodjohn: Good. That's the objective.

LP: Just to start off with, you're part of this big successful show, but did you have any experience with the world of Percy Jackson before you were cast?

DG: Yeah, my older cousins were like 12, 13 when the books originally came out. I think I was probably five or six. They're my older cousins so monkey see monkey do. I was obsessed with them. I wanted to do everything that they did. However, I was never an avid reader. I was always into just performing and singing and dancing and doing all of the things and such, but I knew a lot about the fandom just because they would never shut up about it. I was familiar with it.

Then the audition came in and as soon as the audition came in, I dove super, super deep into the fandom of it all. When the audition came in, I remember reading the fundamental scenes that Clarisse had in the book. I remember doing that. Then I dove really, really deep into the fandom. I was all over Reddit, all over Quora, all over Twitter, all over wikiHow, all over Riordan Wiki fan page, we dove super deep. I would say it all happened just the right way.

LP: That's perfect. So you got engaged with the fandom at that part of the process, and everyone I've spoken to thinks you just bring a lot to the character and you bring that character to life. What's it been like to get to see on the positive side what the fans have thought of your take on Clarisse?

DG: It's very rewarding. It's super rewarding, and I'm just as excited and surprised and happy as they are. Whenever I see their thing being like, "Oh my God, she…." I'm like, "Oh my God, really?" I'm like, "You guys like what I did? Yay."

LP: You talked about growing up being passionate about performing and dancing and all that, but here you have some combat. What was it like getting prepared to not just fight, but have to fight with confidence?

DG: It was so fun. Our stunt team is absolutely amazing. Oh my gosh. One of my favorite people, part of the stunt team, one my stunt double Nilo and two, there's a girl named Cassandra. Oh my God, they're my favorite. They're so fun. It was honestly pretty awesome stunt training. They made it really easy for me to look like a total boss. When they gave me my choreography and then I did it, I felt like a boss and they were like, "You looked good." I was like, "This is going to be great." Yeah, it was really fun and really amazing.

LP: You do look like a boss. How did Walker [Scobell (Percy Jackson)] take having to fight you in this way?

DG: Walker took it well. Walker and I, funnily enough, I mean, I don't know, I got to, maybe he'll tell his version of the story somewhere else, but I feel like Walker and I didn't get close until after the fight scene, which made it a little bit awkward because I was like, we hadn't developed a real banter or relationship yet. I was just being so mean and so in between scenes I'd be like, "So, like, how did..? It was a little bit funny and awkward for me because I was like, "Man, I don't want him to think that I'm really mean like this." It was good. I think he took it very well and did great.

LP: Well, now that you got to live in Clarisse’s skin after doing this big deep dive for a bit, what does that character now mean to you as the daughter of Aries, demi-God?

DG: She is a sweet, misunderstood girl. That's what she is to me. When I think about Clarisse, I think of her and then her wounded inner child, and I just want to hold her and hug her and tell her that it's okay. She means so much to me and I've done so much work on her and becoming her and knowing her story fully and getting into her brain that she just holds a special place in my heart and a special corner in my mind, and she always will forever.

LP:  Do you have any ongoing water trauma?

DG: Me personally, I didn't get too much with the water as much as… Oh my God, I wanted to do my own stunt for the “I Become Supreme Lord of the Bathroom” episode so bad. They wouldn't let me. They were like, "No, it's not happening. We're going to get a professional to get cabled by water." I was like, "But why not me?" Anyways, yeah, so I don't have any water trauma personally. I know Leah [Jeffries (Annabeth Chase)] does. She's still deaf in one ear.

LP: You talked about how you fall in love with Clarisse. Have you researched at all about how your character continues on with this series in that Sea of Monsters she takes a more prominent role. Without saying, we don't know what the future is, but would you be excited to do that?

DG: Don't know what the future holds, but we do know what the future holds. Yeah, no, I am so excited. Her arc was one of the things that drew me to her when I first started auditioning. That's what made me want it so bad because I feel like you've seen the anti-hero become the hero many times, but I don't think, I feel like it's never been done in this way and in such a tasteful way. I feel like she has such a beautiful arc and it has all the room to be written and performed so tastefully and so beautifully, and I'm just so excited. I'm so excited. I'm actually geeking out and losing my mind, but I'm cautiously optimistic about the future. I'm so crazy excited to see how this goes.

LP: What have your cousins' reactions been?

DG: I got a call, well, I didn't get a call, I found out that they absolutely lost their mind. They were like, "Percy Jackson, this is insane. Her life is about to change. I don't think any of you guys understand, blah, blah, blah, blah." I was like, "Ha ha, yeah, sure, my life is going to change whatever." I didn't understand what I was getting into. I knew, but I didn't really know.

LP: You talked about how you got engaged with the fandom. This is not a role that will be forgotten because of the passion people have around it. You'll always be part of someone's childhood. Now that you've gotten into the fandom, can you talk a little bit about how you've come to appreciate the work that Rick and Becky [Riordan] have created here?

DG: It's so beautiful. It's such a beautiful story and it's done so well. I personally was never an escapism fantasy girl. After reading Percy, I understand it and I understand how important it is and why we need it and how many people this book has probably healed. I remember I was going through a really rough era in my life in between shooting Percy, and I remember one day being like, there was so much going on and I was like, "I just need to chill out. I need to really take my mind off it and really just escape and just chill out." I immediately reached for the book. That was my first time reaching for it in another sense of it being something other than work. It was just, I have a way deeper appreciation for it after that moment specifically as well.

LP: What do you think that this experience is going to give you that you can take into your ongoing career, which obviously you've established yourself amazingly with this title and your other work, but what did you learn from this specific experience, which is unique in that it's a franchise, big, Disney+ top banner show that there's not a lot of shows like this? There's not a lot of big budget action adventure shows out there.

DG: I think that a couple of the bigger things that I've learned is that a strong chain makes a strong machine, and it definitely translates 100%. I've always made an effort to try and make sure that my castmates and I have a good rapport and banter in that we all really do care about each other. With Percy, it really, really is emphasized. I think another thing that I was talking about earlier as well is the notion that you got to go for it 100% or there's no point in doing it. So really just not being afraid to look absolutely insane or crazy and just go for it 150% when it comes to going full out in scenes and things and such like that.

LP: Finally, just to wrap up, what do you hope fans take away from not just your performance, but just the existence of this out in the universe?

DG: I just hope that it speaks to them in the way that they've been hoping and praying that it would, since the movies came out. I'm just really hoping that we all made them happy and gave them what they wanted and that they can finally identify 100% fully with their characters now seeing and hearing it like really a tangible thing. Yeah.

LP: Well, thanks so much. Congratulations. We can't wait to see more of you in the world of Percy Jackson and the Olympians.

DG: Thank you.

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