Deadline has learned that Michael Lewis’ latest book The Fifth Risk has been acquired by Barack and Michelle Obama under their Netflix production deal for a possible series aimed to help people better understand the inner workings of the government.
We understand that the Obamas are exploring projects but nothing specifically has yet gotten a greenlight. Lewis will reveal the news about the Obamas optioning The Fifth Risk on Katie Couric’s Thursday podcast.
The Fifth Risk, which hit shelves on Oct. 2 from W.W. Norton, follows the chaos and mismanagement that ensued in the departments of Energy, Agriculture and Commerce in the handoff from President Barack Obama to President Donald Trump. Lewis spoke with a number of federal workers from the Obama administration who worked in the Departments of Energy, Agriculture and Commerce. The previous administration created briefing books for the next staff, but those who showed up on behalf of the new administration were greatly unqualified and far and few between.
One interview in the book is with John MacWilliams, who served as the Energy Department’s first-ever chief risk officer. He conveys his worries that any shortchanging in the department under Trump could lead to a nuclear-weapons accident, a potential conflict with North Korea or Iran, or an attack on the U.S. electrical grid. Any cuts in the Department of Agriculture would impact critical anti-poverty programs like school lunches and food stamps. Meanwhile the Commerce department may not have enough staff to conduct the census properly. Lewis speaks to the unsung heroes and the linchpins of the system and learns what keeps them up at night; those public servants whose knowledge, dedication, and proactivity keep the machinery running.
Lewis told Couric The Fifth Risk and potential series is “a civics lesson…I did three departments, because it would be the work of many lifetimes to do the whole government, but you could do this in a fun way across the entire government.”
Lewis’ books have been adapted into movies that have been nominated for a slew of Oscars (Moneyball with six noms) and won many as well: The Big Short won best screenplay while The Blind Side landed a best actress Oscar for Sandra Bullock.
Lewis is already in the Netflix camp: The streaming service snapped up his Wall Street reformers book Flash Boys which Ben Jacoby is adapting. Deadline exclusively reported that news back in May.
Neither Netflix nor the Obamas’ PR team provided comment on development of The Fifth Risk.