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Daniel Kaluuya To Star In Netflix Adaptation Of Femi Fadugba’s Novel “The Upper World”

Daniel Kaluuya and Femi Fadugba | Image: AP – Netflix

Daniel Kaluuya is set to produce and star in the Netflix adaptation of “The Upper World”, the debut novel of Togo-born British-Nigerian writer Femi Fadugba.

Oscar nominee Kaluuya will play Esso, the lead figure in the time-travelling young adult fiction. “The Upper World” is the first in a planned series of novels.

“The Upper World” follows the story of 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 15 years ago.

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In a statement published on Variety, Netflix Film’s vice president Tendo Nagenda:

“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. 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.”

Nagenda continued: “I’m very fortunate to be able to work with some of the most seasoned industry veterans, but I also want to discover new voices and foster a new generation of talent. To take a chance on fresh voices like Femi who have a unique perspective and tell an unexpected story filled with exhilarating energy, wit and mind-expanding physics.”

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, Deadline reports.

Speaking about the inspiration for the novel, Fadugba said:

“When I was at university, I wrote a quantum physics paper that got published in the same journal that Einstein shared many of his famous ideas in. It led to me receiving a national award and the unforgettable opportunity to make a speech at the House of Commons.

“On the same night as the speech, I came home to Peckham, where blue and white tape fenced off a crime scene on the estate. A kid had been stabbed. He was 15, tops. A 20-minute bus ride was all that separated those two completely different worlds. But throughout my life, I’ve also lived in places like Kigali, Somerset, Oxford and Philadelphia, which has always made me wonder: how do I reconcile these contrasting environments I grew up in with each other? And how do I make some of the tough questions in life ‘add up’ the way they do in these equations?

“Then one day, came a mad realization – that I could combine the story of a kid from South London with the physics of time travel. And maybe even make it gripping enough that the nerds, the hustlers, the jocks (and the rest of us in between) would all want to read it. And would all get it,” he concluded.

Fadugba has a Master’s from Oxford University where he published in Quantum Physics and was a Thouron scholar at UPenn. He previously worked in consulting and in solar energy and has written for the Financial Times and Huffington Post.

“With Netflix bringing the film adaptation to audiences around the world, I’m excited about the impact the story can have. 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,” Fadugba said.

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