‘Boy Swallows Universe’ Netflix Series: Everything We Know So Far

A rundown of what we know so far about the new Netflix Aussie series, Boy Swallows Universe.

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Boy Swallows Universe Netflix Series

Picture: Netflix

One of Netflix Australia’s first big scripted shows in 2024 will be Boy Swallows Universe, a drama based on the Trent Dalton book of the same name. Here’s everything you need to know about the Netflix series now confirmed to premiere in January 2024.

The show has been brought to Netflix by Dalton and actor and producer Joel Edgerton, who most recently appeared in Disney’s Obi-Wan Kenobi and Troy Lum of Brouhaha Entertainment. Edgerton is also set to star in the Netflix Original movie The Stranger, which debuted in October 2022.

The scripts were written by acclaimed screenwriter John Collee (Master and Commander, Hotel Mumbai, Happy Feet). Some episodes will be directed by Emmy nominee Bharat Nalluri (The 100, Shantaram, The Orchard) with other directors on the series, including Jocelyn Moorhouse and Kim Mordaunt.

The project was first unveiled for Netflix back in March 2022, although the project has been in development for over three years, with Anonymous Content, Chapter One, and Hopscotch winning the auction to adapt the book back in May 2019.

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Pictured: Joel Edgerton

Que Minh Luu, Netflix Director of Content in Australia and New Zealand, commented in a press release:

Boy Swallows Universe is truly something special, and it’s an enormous privilege to partner with Trent Dalton, Joel Edgerton and Brouhaha Entertainment in bringing this genuinely iconic Australian story to Netflix. As Australians we know how much investing in local content matters. Boy Swallows Universe is a major milestone in our mission to unearth uniquely local stories that bring joy and connection in unexpected ways to our audiences here at home, and throughout the world.” 

Executive producers are Troy Lum (The Water Diviner, Saving Mr Banks, Mao’s Last Dancer), Andrew Mason (The Matrix, The Water Diviner), Sophie Gardiner (Howard’s End, Chimerica), Kerry Roberts (Foe, Boy Erased) and Joel Edgerton (The Great Gatsby, Bright, The King).

Before we dig into what else you need to know, Netflix ANZ shared the first teaser trailer for the series in November 2023, following a behind-the-scenes teaser shared in February 2023.

What’s the plot of Boy Swallows Universe?

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As mentioned above, Netflix’s Boy Swallows Universe will be based on Trent Dalton’s 2018 book of the same name.

Here’s the story synopsis for Boy Swallows Universe:

Brisbane, 1983: A lost father, a mute brother, a mum in jail, a heroin dealer for a stepfather and a notorious crime for a babysitter. It’s not as if Eli’s life isn’t complicated enough already. He’s just trying to follow his heart, learning what it takes to be a good man, but life just keeps throwing obstacles in the way – not least of which is Tytus Broz, legendary Brisbane drug dealer. But if Eli’s life is about to get a whole lot more serious. He’s about to fall in love. And, oh yeah, he has to break into Boggo Road Gaol on Christmas Day, to save his mum.

A story of brotherhood, true love and the most unlikely of friendships.

Here’s another synopsis, now for the Netflix series:

Eli Bell’s life is complicated. His father is lost, his mother is in jail, and his stepdad is a heroin dealer. The most steadfast adult in Eli’s life is Slim—a notorious felon and national record-holder for successful prison escapes—who watches over Eli and August, his silent genius of an older brother. Exiled far from the rest of the world in Darra, a neglected suburb populated by Polish and Vietnamese refugees, this twelve-year-old boy with an old soul and an adult mind is just trying to follow his heart, learn what it takes to be a good man, and train for a glamorous career in journalism. Life, however, insists on throwing obstacles in Eli’s path—most notably Tytus Broz, Brisbane’s legendary drug dealer. But the real trouble lies ahead. Eli is about to fall in love, face off against truly bad guys, and fight to save his mother from a certain doom—all before starting high school.

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Boy Swallows Universe S1. (L to R) Travis Fimmel as Lyle Orlik, Phoebe Tonkin as Frances Bell, Lee Halley as Gus Bell in Boy Swallows Universe S1. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

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Boy Swallows Universe S1. Phoebe Tonkin as Frances Bell in Boy Swallows Universe S1. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

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Boy Swallows Universe S1. Felix Cameron as Eli Bell in Boy Swallows Universe S1. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

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Boy Swallows Universe S1. Sophie Wilde as Caitlyn Spies in Boy Swallows Universe S1. Cr. Courtesy of Netflix © 2023

Who is cast in Boy Swallows Universe?

The cast for the adaptation was unveiled over the summer of 2022 ahead of the filming start.

Among the cast includes:

  • Travis Fimmel (Warcraft) as Lyle Orlik
  • Phoebe Tonkin (Tomorrow, When the War Began) as Frances Bell
  • Simon Baker (Margin Call) as Robert Bell
  • Anthony LaPaglia (Without a Trace)
  • Felix Cameron (Penguin Bloom) as Young Eli
  • Lee Halley (Riff Raff) as Gus Bell
  • Drew Matthews as Tich
  • Zachary Wan as Darren Dang
  • Eloise Rothfield as Shelly Huffman
  • Millie Donaldson as Shelly Huffman (Older)
  • HaiHa Le as Bich Dang
  • Sophie Wilde as Caitlyn Spies
Boy Swallows Universe Cast Grid Netflix

Cast grid for Boy Swallows Universe

How many episodes will be in Boy Swallows Universe?

When it was first unveiled, Netflix stated that Boy Swallows Universe would feature eight one-hour episodes. We’ve since learned that it’s been cut down to seven episodes.

What’s the production status of Boy Swallows Universe?

We got word on August 21, 2022, that filming had started and had concluded by December 2022. Filming took place in Brisbane, Australia, according to Production Weekly. Per Business News Australia, “the production is expected to inject around $33 million into the Queensland economy and create approximately 185 jobs for cast and crew, in addition to roughly 2,500 extras.”

A few behind-the-scenes pictures were shared on the production of the 8-episode series:

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Behind the scenes on Boy Swallows Universe

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Behind the scenes on Boy Swallows Universe

What’s the Netflix release date for Boy Swallows Universe?

Netflix officially confirmed our earlier reporting on the release date for Boy Swallows Universe. The series will touch down in full on January 11th, 2024.

Are you looking forward to Boy Swallows Universe on Netflix? Let us know in the comments.

Written by

Tigran is our resident previews writer. He works on collecting everything known about upcoming Netflix Original projects and also is editor-in-chief of Redanian Intelligence. Resides in France.