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Daniel Kaluuya Books Netflix Adaptation of Time-Bending Sci-Fi Novel ‘The Upper World’

The busy actor adds British-Nigerian Femi Fadugba’s time-traveling debut novel to his slate of upcoming projects.


Daniel Kaluuya

Vianney Le Caer/Invision/AP

Academy Award nominee Daniel Kaluuya has teamed up with Netflix for a feature film adaptation of British-Nigerian physicist-turned-author Femi Fadugba’s debut novel, “The Upper World,” the first in a planned series of novels that will be published by Penguin UK and HarperCollins US in mid-2021 and early 2022, respectively. Kaluuya will both star in and produce “The Upper World,” which, based on Fadugba’s background and stated intent, suggests a sci-fi story that might be more profound than the average.

“You may not know his name, but once you’ve read ‘The Upper World’ you won’t be able to forget it,” said Tendo Nagenda, Vice President, Netflix Films, in a press statement. “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. However, through staggeringly skilled storytelling, I was taken on a mind-and-heart altering adventure through the book’s characters and experiences.”

Netflix summarizes the plot as follows: “In ‘The Upper World,’ Esso 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.”

“I explain [Esso’s] powers using physics, meaning the audience gets to uncover new concepts alongside Esso, whose life literally depends on them,” said Fadugba, whose ultimate goal is to incorporate the physics of time travel into the story of a kid from South London. “With Netflix bringing the film adaptation to audiences around the world, I’m excited about the impact the story can have.”

Currently living between Peckham and Baltimore, Fadugba has a Master’s from Oxford University, where he published in Quantum Physics, and was a Thouron scholar at University of Pennsylvania. He previously worked in consulting and in solar energy.

Producer Eric Newman brought Fadugba’s book to Netflix.

Kaluuya, who will next be seen playing Fred Hampton in Shaka King’s “Judas and the Black Messiah,” will produce “The Upper World” alongside Screen Arcade’s Eric Newman and Bryan Unkeless through their first-look deal at Netflix. Fadugba will executive-produce. The rights deal with Netflix was brokered by Claire Wilson of the RCW Literary Agency.

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