Adam Copeland On Bringing Ares to Percy Jackson and His Dream Final Match

Matt Fowler
TV Streaming
TV Streaming Fantasy Disney

This week, the fifth episode of the new Disney+ series Percy Jackson and the Olympians, “A God Buys Us Cheeseburgers,” introduced wrestling legend Adam “Edge” Copeland as Percy’s tempestuous cousin, Ares, the God of War. In a scene not featured in Rick Riordan’s first Percy Jackson book, Ares finds the trio of young heroes – Percy, Annabeth, and Grover – trying to hoof it to California and offers them a dangerous deal. It’s at a roadside diner, in front of plates of burgers and fries, that we get a better look into Ares’ psyche – who, yes, we’ll be seeing again this season.

Fandom spoke with Copeland about taking on this towering role, playing an actual God, and also about his new era as a wrestler in All Elite Wrestling, which he made the leap over to after a Hall of Fame run in WWE – a career that already saw Copeland take an early retirement when he was told he’d never wrestle again due to a neck injury. Now in a different wrestling promotion for the first time since signing an official WWE contract back in 1997, Copeland is looking to make the most of the time he has left in the ring.

All Alite Ares

Adam Copeland rides in as Ares on Percy Jackson and the Olympians.

With roles in shows like Haven and Vikings on his resume, Copeland loves acting, and wants to do more of it, provided it can fit into both his wrestling schedule and his role as father and husband at home. When it came to his new series role, Copeland explained, “When this audition came through, I obviously knew of Percy Jackson but I didn’t know exactly how huge it was because when these books first came out I was in the full grind of wrestling all year round, and that means 250 shows a year. So it doesn’t leave a lot of time for pop culture. In a way you’re creating part of that, but you’re not really involved in anything else. When I got the audition I saw that the role was so well written and fun, and I found the comedic beats and elements in there that made it more than just a one-note, one-trick pony. And that to me was really fun, to discover that this isn’t just the ‘God of War’ and he’s going to be angry and he’s going to be explosive and all of these things. There’s more to it. He’s jealous. He’s petty. He has so many human emotions, yet he’s this God and that to me was a really cool element.”

After Copeland landed the part, he began reading all the Percy Jackson books, while his young daughters, who had been fans already, became even bigger fans. And he loves how invested they became in the streaming series even before their dad popped up as Ares. “That was one of those moments where I was like, ‘Oh, it is so much fun to be a part of this world and to see the happiness that kids get out of it.’ And I relate, because when I was growing up it was The Goonies or Stand by Me and these kind adventures that you wish you were on. That, to me, is what this book and the series feels like.”

Despite his role as Ares being a fun, doable side quest for Copeland, it was still tricky with his wrestling appearances. “For a while there, I was doing both,” he said. “It was kind of tiring because there’d be a lot of overnight flights to land just in time to do a Pay-Per-View and then I’d fly back just in time to get on the duster and pick up the sword.”

These days, Copeland knows he can’t film abroad, like he did with his years on History’s Vikings. “Vikings was a great learning curve for that,” he said of realizing he had to turn down other roles that would require that sort of time commitment away, “at least until the girls get older, because I want to be around. I want to be around for this stuff. I want to be around for Drama Club. I want to be around for Girl Scouts. But I was also very happy to be a part of [Vikings] because I love the show so much.”

Greek Gods as Heels

When Ares described the family at Mount Olympus to Percy – the scheming, the backstabbing – it sounded a lot like wrestling. “Any family invariably seems to have these different frictions,” Copeland shared, “and packs where they’ll get along here and then those ones aren’t getting along now. And these ones will get along now while those ones won’t get along. “It’s just obviously bigger because they’re Gods.”

Finding the Ares character, Copeland pulled from his longtime experience as a wrestler, playing both a babyface and heel, dredging up all the emotions. “You’re being tasked to play a God, right? The God of War. So there’s obviously things that you can pull from your wrestling personas when it comes to the God of War, because the God of War should be larger than life. He should be big in his emotions. In just the way he does everything. Well, that’s what wrestling is, because you have to emote and make your movements big in case someone is an entire football stadium away, But at the same time, be so big that you can pull back because the camera’s right there. It’s finding that balance. What I loved about how Ares was written is that he’s so flawed.”

Ares is here to kick ass and...that's it. He doesn't chew bubblegum.

Copeland added, of his Percy Jackson character, “He’s sarcastic. He’s mean. And then you see little touches sometimes, that buried down beneath all of those insecurities, there might be an okay guy in there. Maybe. Because you have to be larger than life. You have to be sort of menacing, but also come at people with friendliness every so often. But you also have to allow yourself to be outsmarted and manipulated.”

Copeland found himself hugely impressed with his young co-stars – Walker Scobell, Leah Sava Jeffries, and Aryan Simhadri – given how good they are at such a young age. “Watching the scene with Aryan when it broke down to just Ares and Grover and seeing the choices he was making, you just realize the subtleties he was using. It’s really impressive. I don’t understand how they’re able to pull off some of the scenes that they’ve been pulling off with such limited life experience at this point. Like, where are you pulling that from?”

Of course, Copeland loves the scene since it’s able to give Ares a few extra layers not found in the first Percy Jackson book. “It makes the fight coming at the end season mean so much more. Because now you’ve heard more from this guy and you realize where some of these things are coming from. Maybe there’s even a little bit of understanding as to why this guy is the way he is. Why he’s a bully, why he’s doing all of these things.”

I am Edge… No More

We think we know him! It's Adam Copeland in AEW.

For decades, Copeland went by the WWE ring name Edge, winning multiple world titles while crafting memorable feuds with the likes of John Cena, Randy Orton, and The Undertaker. Now, new to AEW as of this past October, Copeland walks to the ring with both fanfare… and his real name. “It’s definitely different,” Copeland said with a laugh. “It’s different to see [my name] on a t-shirt. I’m sure it will be different to see it in Walmart on an action figure. But I’ve always introduced myself as Adam. Edge was a character I played, just like the version of Adam Copeland that you see in AEW is a character. It’s closer to the real person. No question about it.”

Copeland felt this all was a natural evolution though, remarking, “That happened, mostly, with my coming back at the Royal Rumble and portraying Edge. That was the closest to Adam Copeland that character had been just because of the real story behind it. Everyone knows. So there are a lot of elements of truth and reality to what I do now just because of the backstory. So it’s a little strange, but again, if I meet somebody I don’t say ‘Edge, nice to meet you.’”

In October, Adam Copeland tweeted this photo with his fellow members of what he calls the "Broken Neck Club," Bryan Danielson and Saraya

The backstory, of course, is Copeland being told he’d never wrestle again back in 2011, forcing him into an early retirement. And he’s not the first wrestler to come back from this type of devastating news. Back in October, a picture surfaced from AEW featuring Copeland, Bryan Danielson, and Saraya, all of whom had put wrestling behind them at one point, due to career-threatening injuries. All three are currently active wrestlers in AEW. “With Saraya, in particular, anytime you have neck issues I feel like there’s this small almost-family that’s, like, the Broken Neck Club. And if you’re experiencing something, you have an outlet. You have a sounding board to go to.”

Regarding taking that photo, Copeland recalled, “It was actually Saraya who realized that day that the three of us had so much in common, because we’re all in the ring just kind of talking separately to different people before the show. And she goes ‘We gotta get a picture because we were all told we’ll never do this again and get here we are doing it.’ And it hadn’t dawned on me, honestly, until that point just because you get so into the mindset of ‘The show’s tonight, we’re live!’ And I think that moment allowed us to take a step back for a second and kind of celebrate what it is that we all accomplished by being stubborn.”

AEW: The Final Chapter?

Copeland shocked many fans when he arrived in AEW, as many assumed he was a WWE “lifer.” The 50-year-old Copeland explained that part of this big change was being realistic about how much time he has remaining as an active wrestler. “I know the wrestling window is closing more and more every day and that’s another one of the reasons why I went to AEW. Because I thought I could get more out of myself in the small amount of time I have left.”

His first few months in AEW have been spent feuding with his real life best friend of 40 years, Christian Cage, something that Copeland feels is exciting to explore after their history both in and out of the ring, which included notable medical issues for both. “We both thought it would never happen,” Copeland said. “We were both told we would never do this again. And yet here we are and being able to create together at this stage, after we’ve both lived a very, very full life. You can pull from those experiences and bring that to your character.”

Despite Copeland's rage he's still gotta beat Christian Cage.

He added, “I realize now when I see certain actors and I see some of their experience on their face and it makes me listen to them more. The other day we were watching Night at the Museum with the girls and when Robin Williams would come on, there was a gravity to what he was saying. He’s playing Teddy Roosevelt, of course, and you could see in his eyes that he lived. And he’d been through some things. And that’s where I feel like Christian and I are at now. We’ve both been through some trials. And now we bring that to the table with us. It’s super fun.”

Over a decade ago, when the world thought Copeland would never wrestle again, he was inducted into the WWE Hall of Fame. But now that he’s out of retirement that particular landmark no longer marks the end of his career. Asked how he thinks his wrestling run should end now, Copeland replied, “It’s changed already a few times, because if you had told me in 2011, I would have liked that it was Christian that retired me. Well, now we’re getting to do this so that doesn’t feel like it’s the right way to go.”

Rather than focus on a possible final opponent, Copeland, who grew up as a huge wrestling fan in Canada, said that when he imagines a perfect final match one day, “More than anything, it’s the where. And for me, I would love to do a show at Maple Leaf Gardens. It’s still there. It’s a little different now and the seating capacity isn’t what it was, but for me, who cares? That’s where we went and first saw wrestling live. That’s where I first experienced this thing that I’ve fallen in love with. It just hit every pleasure center that was in my little 10-year-old brain. So to be able to do it there, man, I don’t think I can top that.”

Matt Fowler