The YA novel is the first in a planned series of novels. It’s set to be released in the UK via, Penguin UK, in 2021, as well as in the U.S., through HarperCollins, early 2022.
Set in Peckham, London, the story follows Esso, who is caught in a deadly feud and on the verge of expulsion when he realizes he has an unexpected gift: access to a world where he can see glimpses of the past and the future. A generation away, Rhia is walking to football practice in 2035, unaware that the mysterious stranger she’s about to meet desperately needs her help to avert a bullet fired fifteen years ago.
Eric Newman, who brought the book to Netflix, is producing alongside Screen Arcade partner Bryan Unkeless, through their first-look deal at Netflix, and Kaluuya. Fadugba serving as executive producer.
“Femi Fadugba. You may not know his name, but once you’ve read The Upper World you won’t be able to forget it. That’s what happened to me after producer Eric Newman introduced me to the book. I can count on one hand the times I’ve connected with a novel so viscerally. It’s a rare feeling, made even more special when you also have the opportunity to bring such a story to life on film,” said Tendo Nagenda, VP of Netflix Films.
“Films can impact and expand the way people see and experience life. The Upper World will be one of those films. I’m neither from the place nor “time” depicted in the pages of the debut novel of physicist-turned-author Femi Fadugba. However, through staggeringly skilled storytelling, I was taken on a mind-and-heart altering adventure through the book’s characters and experiences.”
Fadugba has a master’s from Oxford University where he published in Quantum Physics and was a Thouron Scholar at UPenn. The Togo-born British-Nigerian has previously written for the Financial Times and Huffington Post. CAA, which reps Fadugba along with Claire Wilson of the RCW Literary Agency, brokered the rights deal with the streamer.
“With Netflix bringing the film adaptation to audiences around the world, I’m excited about the impact the story can have,” said Fadugba. “I’d love to one day see teachers putting the book on their summer reading lists. I’d love to help create a world where when people talk about the new Cardi B, Giggs or C.S song, they mention the ideas in The Upper World as part of the culture as well.”
Kaluuya made a big splash with his breakout role in Jordan Peele’s Get Out, a performance that led to an Oscar nomination, and has since starred in films like Widows, Queen & Slim, and ceiling shattering blockbuster, Black Panther. He’ll next be seen opposite Martin Sheen and LaKeith Stanfield in the drama, Judas and the Black Messiah. Kaluuya is repped by CAA and Management 360.