Kit de Waal’s debut novel My Name is Leon (Viking) has been optioned for TV by Sir Lenny Henry’s production company, Douglas Road Productions. The comedian was inspired to purchase broadcasting rights to the book after narrating the audio book.
The novel, set in 1980s Britain, was published in June last year by Venetia Butterfield at Viking and will now be turned into a film for television. It tells the story of nine year-old Leon who, growing up as a mixed-race child in the British care system, discovers a new family where he least expects it. It was shortlisted for the Costa First Novel Award, the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award and the British Book Awards Book of the Year in the debut category. It is currently longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize and was the winner of France’s Plume de Bronze Award for fiction.
Henry said he wanted to retell de Waal’s story for the screen because “there are so many young people out there that need their voice to be heard – perhaps Leon’s story will give them the courage to speak”.
Barbara Emile, creative director of Douglas Road Productions commented: “Kit is an exciting new writing talent, bringing a unique insight to the type of diverse drama that defines the ambition of Douglas Road Productions.”
de Waal said “When I heard Lenny Henry was doing the audiobook, I crept into the recording studio to listen. He wasn’t only pitch perfect but I realised just from the way he spoke that he got it, he understood what was going on for Leon. So when he told me he was interested in bringing Leon to the screen I was absolutely delighted. There is no-one better to bring Leon to life.”
My Name is Leon was recently chosen for the for third chapter of Kingston University’s Big Read project, a scheme in which a novel is distributed for free on the first day of term to foster a sense of community among students and staff.