Actor Omar Epps Unpacks His Latest Dystopian Sci-Fi Novel In Exclusive Interview
This week, NAACP-award-winning actor, rapper, and producer Omar Epps joined BLACK ENTERPRISE‘s The New Norm With Selena Hill to discuss his new young adult sci-fi novel, Nubia: The Reckoning.
Co-written with author Clarence A. Hanes, the book follows three teens struggling to navigate a futuristic New York City after being displaced from their African homeland. This is Epps’ third novel; the actor previously published the series’ first installment, Nubia: The Awakening, as well as an autobiography, From Fatherless to Fatherhood, which chronicled his journey into stardom and his complex relationship with fatherhood.
The concept of the Nubia series has been an idea of Epps’ for over a decade.
“I consider myself the consummate creative. I just sort of [followed] my ambition and this story just kept speaking to me. I just started, you know, working away,” Epps shared.
He added, “The original idea was, you know, we live in such a tumultuous world, and I was just wondering one day, well, what if love itself was illegal and just like, what would the world look like?”
The story takes place in New York City, which Epps himself hails from. He discussed the importance of this detail with Hill, saying, “I’m a native New Yorker, born and raised and, for me, imagining a different geological design of the world, it was just natural for me. It had to be in New York because I know that state like the back of my hand, right? So, you know, I let my imagination take me, but it had to be a place familiar to me.”
Nubia: The Reckoning is as entertaining as it is reflective of society, highlighting some of the more pressing issues that we’ve witnessed in recent years. Epps revealed that the story was intended to explore the struggles of adolescence.
“It was important to me to tell the story through the eyes of a developing mind, you know. And that’s that age right there – 13 through like 17,” he stated.
He continued, “You know we’ve all been that age or when you are of that age, you think you know it all, but you don’t. But in the back of your mind, you know you don’t. But you think that all the older people are kind of dumb. But that’s kind of that age where our ideologies are really shaped and formed, right?”
In line with the mission to shine a light on societal concerns, the book also examines the role of climate change. Epps discussed why he made this subject a central aspect of the story’s plot.
“It takes place 100 years from now. The story in the book does, but it felt so important to make that immediate parallel, something that this young reader of now could be like, ‘Well, hey, that’s happening right outside my window,'” he said. “So that’s when they take that emotional journey that the infighting as you described. They start to really focus in on what the resolutions look like because the world will be here long after we’re gone. It’s just, what will the world be like?”
If the positive public reception is any indication, this book may very well be adapted into a film or television show.
“I mean, as people keep reading the books — and the feedback from the young people has honestly been mind-blowing, it’s been amazing — it’s just about spreading the word that the books are out there. And I think as people really make that emotional investment into the story and into the characters, it’s only natural that, you know, we keep the Nubia world evolving, and I definitely have ideas for film and television and animation and a few other things,” Epps said.
Ultimately, however, he hopes that this novel will encourage young people to think critically about some of our world’s pressing issues and to not only acknowledge but take pride in their culture.
“I think one of the main themes I want the reader to take away is the idea of unity and exploring the levels of unity, because we’ve been unified in some shape, fashion, or form throughout all of history. And right now, especially right now, specifically in America, everything seems very divided along a multitude of issues. But there once was a time where we could agree to disagree, and there was even a better time where people wanted to learn,” he said.
“I want the reader to take away as well as the idea of heritage. Knowing from when you came in your bloodline is supremely important because I think it informs not only your current footsteps but the path that you will set forth for those coming after you,” he continued. “Especially as you know, a Black person, there was a point in history where our literal history was stolen from us, you know: our native tongue, the way we worshiped, the foods we ate, and all of this. But somehow, through our heroes, our griots, you know, we kept our history going through the form of song, through the form of dance, through all of these things. But we truly as a people know how to make lemonade out of lemons, you know, so giving the reader that sense of cultural pride was very important to me.”
Watch the full interview with Omar Epps on The New Norm below.
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