Kelly’s 2018 Newbery Award-winning novel will be adapted by fellow Fil-Am writer Michael Golamco
“HELLO, Universe,” the 2018 Newbery Award winner and New York Times bestseller by Filipina American writer Erin Entrada Kelly is about to be adapted into a family film on Netflix, the streaming service announced on Wednesday, May 22.
“Hello, Universe” tells the heartening story of a middle school Filipino boy named Virgil Salinas who ends up at the bottom of a well because of the antics of a school bully named Chet Bullens. This leads to a search for Virgil by a fellow middle schoolers: self-proclaimed psychic Kaori Tanaka and Virgil’s crush Valencia Somerset, a deaf girl.
The story is told through the perspectives of these four characters and explores themes of friendship, bravery and social isolation as each character navigates their own journey through the confusing period of adolescence.
As of press time, there have been no announcements on who will be directing the adaption or actors who have been casted, but given the diversity of the characters (e.g. Virgil is a Filipino American boy) it’s likely the cast will feature young actors of color.
In a 2018 interview with the National Endowment for the Arts’ Art Works Blog, Kelly wrote that diversity is “something that I’m aware of, but I’d never want to force some kind of character into a book unless it makes sense to the story.”
As a young Filipina American who grew up in Louisiana, Kelly has said she was the only Filipino kid in her community, which brought forth feelings of isolation that mirror the themes in her writing. As an adult, Kelly wrote a collection of short stories of characters (all of whom were from the ages 8 to 12) who also felt invisible as a way to help kids feel seen and heard.
“I think it’s really important for people to be introduced to many different cultures, and unfortunately, I mean, the tide is changing a little bit, but Filipino culture isn’t something that’s necessarily prevalent in western literature, especially for kids,” Kelly said.
The Netflix adaptation will be penned by Filipino-American screenwriter and playwright Michael Golamco (“Always Be My Maybe”) and will be produced by Forest Whitaker and Nina Yang Bongiovi of Significant Productions.