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MSU alumnus Aaron Foley's 'Boys Come First' book adapting into TV show

September 14, 2023
Aaron Foley courtesy photo PC: Paul Jones III
Aaron Foley courtesy photo PC: Paul Jones III

In May 2022, Michigan State University and State News alumnus Aaron Foley debuted his book "Boys Come First," a novel exploring the lives of three gay friends from Detroit. Now, the book has reaching new heights, after Amazon bought its rights with the intention of adapting it into a TV series. 

Foley said this development came about in a "perfect storm."

The book's publisher is represented by an agency, which houses its own production company. An employee of said agency happened to represent an Emmy nominated show-runner who was looking for new opportunities.

“All three happened at the same time — my book was being shopped around the production company, and it (landing) on their desk,” Foley said. “They were like, 'Oh this guy could be it,'... then I got like an email saying, 'Can you join us right away,' and I did. They were like, 'Amazon is interested in buying the rights to the book and turning it into a show,' and I was just kind of blown away."

Foley signed the contract in December 2022, and the deal was officially announced in March of this year. He even met with the show-runner and showed him around the Detroit area, where the book is based.

Not far after the wheels began to turn, however, the Writers Guild of America went on a strike in May. While the writers can still write, they cannot present a script, in Foley’s case.

"It did, you know, kill a little bit of momentum and raise a lot of anxiety," Foley said. "I was talking with the guy... and we were both like, 'When is this going to be over, when's it going to be over? When is it going to end fairly for everyone,' right?"

Foley said Amazon has adopted a 24 month-period where their employees are required to work on the show. For every month the strike continues, that month is added on to Amazon's period.

Foley called this was a "saving grace" for the show. While there is no exact timetable on when the show will be finished, he said, this will ensure that it does not become stale or lost in production.

Though unsure of what his actual role will be when the show comes together — whether that be "sitting back and collecting a check" or advising character developments — Foley wants to make sure that Detroit is represented in full. 

Book to TV adaptations are not always well received by fans of the book because TV shows often fail to paint the whole picture, he said. 

"There's always going to be anxiety, I think, with every book to screen adaptation," Foley said. "I've never seen an adaptation that was 100% faithful to the book … I'm fully prepared for that to happen, I don't expect anything less, but, you know that's just a part of the process. I think ... while I do have anxiety over it, I do trust the folks that are adapting it."

Foley said the main goal of the series is to lean on the book and provide meaningful representation of Black gay men, a community very rarely represented not just in literature, but also in film and television. 

"I'm definitely excited about the opportunity to have that kind of representation because a lot of people in my circle have been waiting for it," Foley said. "I'm not saying that I'm supposed to be the messenger for it, but I think ... people have been waiting for something like this."

He also hopes that this opens up opportunities for other people in the industry.

"I'm prepared to be kind of ... a leader, yes,” Foley said. “Be a spokesperson, be a representative, no ... My one hope is that this opens the door. I welcome the fact that (the show) kind of helped push open the door, but ...  it should not end with me … I shouldn’t have to carry it all, right? I want other people to be getting the opportunity to kind of walk with me, and walk in front of me; walk behind me; walk alongside me."

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