New Book Answers the Question, "What if Harry Potter went to an HBCU in the South?"

Photo: Chris Pizzello (AP)
Photo: Chris Pizzello (AP)

“What if Harry Potter went to an HBCU in the South?” When LaDarrion Williams posed this question on Twitter back in 2020, he had no idea that it would completely change the trajectory of his career. But in a recent interview with the AP, Williams talks about the tweet that turned into a three-book deal.

The playwright, screenwriter and filmmaker wanted to start a conversation about the lack of diversity in the fantasy space. And the overwhelming response he got to his tweet sent him on a path to develop his idea into something bigger.

Williams said he originally wrote the story as a TV pilot. And after receiving donations from as far away as New Zealand, he snuck onto the campus of UCLA to shoot a short film. But to his surprise, the studios weren’t biting.

“I thought I had it all. I thought I had the viral tweet, the short film, I had the script, I had the idea. I thought Hollywood was going to give me a multimillion-dollar offer. I was humbled very quickly with that. No calls were coming. I struggled to get meetings with different production companies and showrunners and studios. Nobody wanted to meet with me. I was really confused and fell into a deep depression,” he said.

Feeling like he’d failed himself and everyone who supported his project, Williams was ready to give up until a friend suggested he turn his idea into a book. He did, but the offers still weren’t rolling in – that is, until he got a call in January 2023 that changed everything.

“I was driving for Uber, and I got a call from my agent who said we got a three-book deal,” he said.

“Blood at the Root,” the first book in the series dropped May 7. It introduces readers to Malik, a 17-year-old from Alabama with magical powers who gets accepted into Caiman University, a magical HBCU. Williams says he was very intentional about making sure his main character was a Black male with a softer side.

“I want people to get to know him. The way he speaks, the way he thinks,” he said. “He extends the love he didn’t have as a child to his foster brother. I wanted to create all of that through the lens of magic.”

While Williams is looking forward to sharing his book series with the world, he hasn’t ruled out the idea of bringing his story to the big screen.

“I want to recreate that moment when “Black Panther” dropped, and everybody was just buzzing about it. I want to do that for television. I want that for Black kids,” he said.

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