Erin Entrada Kelly Talks Netflix, Trust, and Her Perpetual State of Wonder

Author Erin Entrada Kelly answered SLJ's questions about her Newbery-winning middle grade novel Hello Universe being adapted into a Netflix movie.

This week, fans of Erin Entrada Kelly's 2018 Newbery Medal winning novel Hello Universe learned that it will be adapted into a movie for Netflix. SLJ emailed Kelly with a few questions about her response to the  news and any concerns she might have as Virgil, Kaori, Valencia, and Chet leave the page for the screen.

What was your first reaction? What does this mean to you?

Let's put it this way, it's been more than a year since I found out I won the Newbery, and I still haven't adjusted to that piece of news. Just about every day, I go, 'Wait, I did WHAT?' So my first reaction to this news was something like, 'Wait, who wants to do WHAT?' I'm on a delayed reaction, with the potential to be in a perpetual state of wonder.

Have you spoken to other authors who had their work adapted for Netflix, or did you before you agreed to the deal?

I haven't spoken to other authors in similar situations, but it wasn't a difficult decision for me. I'm supported by people I trust—namely, my literary agent, Sara Crowe, and my film agent, Jason Dravis. I'm confident they wouldn't steer me wrong. After I talked with the production team involved, I knew it was an incredible opportunity.

Do you worry at all about what will become of your characters? Do you know how much say you will have over the script?

I'm not worried. I trust the people involved. Not just my agents, but the team at Significant Productions, which includes Forest Whitaker and Nina Yang Bongiovi, and the screenwriter, Michael Golamco, a fellow Filipino-American. 

Every person involved, including the executives at Netflix, are dedicated to authentic representation of marginalized voices, and they're all champions of the book, with incredible understanding of the characters. They trust me as the creator of the source material and I trust them as the authorities on movie-making. We all understand that print and screen are two very different mediums with their own expectations, challenges, and gifts.

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Kara Yorio

Kara Yorio (kyorio@mediasourceinc.com, @karayorio) is news editor at School Library Journal.

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