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Will Smith & David Oyelowo set 'Black Panther meets X-Men' project 'Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun'

The two powerhouse stars are bringing their producing powers to Netflix.

By Matthew Jackson
David Oyelowo Will Smith Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun GETTY PRESS

Acting powerhouses Will Smith and David Oyelowo are putting their respective powers as producers together for a new project at Netflix with serious appeal to both genre lovers and young viewers. Variety reports the duo's production companies, including Smith's Westbrook Studios and Oyelowo's company Yoruba Saxon, have teamed up for hot book property Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun, a genre story billed by its publisher as "Black Panther meets X-Men."

Written by British-Nigerian author Tọlá Okogwu, Onyeka — set to be released by Simon & Schuster in June — and follows a teenager who travels to her ancestral land of Nigeria after learning she's a member of a group of magic users known as Solari. With her mother's help, Onyeka enrolls in the Academy of the Sun, a special school for training Solari to wield their powers. But once she arrives in her ancestral home, Onyeka and her newfound magical community are faced with a great battle that could change everything. 

Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun PRESS

The book was partially inspired by Okogwu's experiences as a hair care instructor, and features the title character coming to terms with her thick, vibrant curls as they suddenly come to life to save a friend, activating her magical powers in the process. The book is pitched as the first installment in an ongoing series aimed at middle grade readers. 

According to Variety, writer Ola Shokunbi (The Fix) is already at work on adapting the book for Netflix, where it could easily launch a new genre franchise for the streaming giant as Okogwu works on future installments in the Onyeka series in book form. The project also marks yet another big step forward for both Smith and Oyelowo's production companies as both actors move deeper into wielding their influence to get various projects off the ground. Smith's Westbrook is coming of the dual successes of launching his own acclaimed feature film, King Richard (about the life of Richard Williams, father to tennis greats Venus and Serena Williams), and Bel-Air, a new dramatic re-imagining of the series that made him a star in the 1990s, The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Meanwhile, Oyelowo is fresh off The Water Man, his acclaimed directorial debut which he also produced, and his upcoming projects included the Sugar Ray Robinson film Sweet Thunder (in which he stars and produces) and Disney's upcoming The Rocketeer reboot

Onyeka and the Academy of the Sun arrives in book form this June.