Kit de Waal’s internationally bestselling debut novel My Name is Leon optioned for TV by Sir Lenny Henry’s production company

Kit De Waal
Kit de Waal photo by Justine Stoddart

The prize-winning, internationally bestselling novel My Name is Leon is set to be turned into a film for television.  The broadcast­­ rights to Kit de Waal’s debut novel, published in June 2016 by Venetia Butterfield at Viking, were acquired by Henry’s production company, Douglas Road Productions.

Set in 1980s Britain, My Name is Leon tells the uplifting story of nine year-old Leon discovering a new family where he least expects it. It was described by Mariella Frostrup at BBC Radio 4 as ‘a great read ... harks back to the likes of Scout in To Kill a Mockingbird’ and by the Observer as ‘startlingly funny … balances the gritty with the feel good’. 

My Name is Leon has been 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.

Whilst recording the audio book, Henry rang his colleagues at Douglas Road and said “I’m reading this  novel called My Name is Leon and it’s stealing my heart and refusing to give it back!”  He wanted  to retell Leon­­’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 has said, “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.” 

Kit de Waal has 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.”

Kit was born in Birmingham to an Irish mother, who was a foster carer, and a Caribbean father. She worked for fifteen years in criminal and family law, was a magistrate for several years and sits on adoption panels. She has advised Social Services on the care of foster children, and has written training manuals on adoption and foster care. Kit’s writing has received numerous awards including the Bridport Flash Fiction Prize 2014 and 2015 and the SI Leeds Literary Reader's Choice Prize 2014. She was chosen as one of the Observer’s New Faces of Fiction in 2016. She has two children.

Established by Lenny Henry and BAFTA-winning producer Barbara Emile, Douglas Road is a UK based production company focusing on creating and producing ground-breaking television across drama, comedy and factual genres. Douglas Road is part of Endemol Shine Group.

Kit de Waal has been helping with Penguin Random House's WriteNow scheme to find, mentor and publish new writers from communities under-represented on the nation’s bookshelves. You can find out more here.

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