Inside Foundation, the Apple TV + Sci-Fi series that makes Asimov’s books richer in every way


Foundation, which premieres September 24th on Apple TV +, is finally bringing Isaac Asimov’s groundbreaking science fiction novel series to the silver screen, nearly 80 years after it was first published as a short story series. That’s a really long time, and Foundation creator David S. Goyer – best known for his multiple superhero posts, writing the Blade trilogy and Man of Steel, and creating the DC series Krypton and Constantine – is sure of it consciously.

“Any casual reader of the books will understand that it can never be a line-by-line adaptation,” Goyer told a group of reporters at a video conference last week. “Asimov wrote the books in the late 1940s [and] Early 50s. We now live in a completely different world. “

That’s an understatement. Science fiction was a male dominated sphere in Asimov’s day, with the author further contributing to this climate through his serial sexual harassment manners. In the Foundation series, women fared no better. Female characters were rare, and when they did, they were not portrayed in a flattering way. Fortunately, Foundation the TV Show does a lot in this regard, both reversing many characters and introducing new ones.

Asimov also wrote for a predominantly white Western population. Although he gave his characters exotic written names, they had vanilla-English pronunciations. A central figure in the books is the mathematician Hari Seldon – played by Jared Harris from Chernobyl, Mad Men and The Crown – who predicts the fall of a Galactic Empire. But it is not pronounced Ha-ree as it would be pronounced here. Instead, it’s just Harry, like Harry Potter.

“I asked the Asimov estate and [Foundation executive producer] Robyn Asimov, how these names should be pronounced, ”Goyer said. “His daughter said it was ‘Harry’. He wanted the names to look different, but in this case be familiar to an American or a Western audience. It’s funny that you say [it sounds like an Indian name]. You are not the first to think that Hari was pronounced “Hari”. Many think of that. “

The foundation’s feminine power

The strange spelling and pronunciation mismatch is also the case with Seldon’s sophomore / protégé Gaal Dornick – it’s not Gall, it’s Gayle. Dornick is also one of the characters whose gender was switched to Foundation. She is played by Lou Llobell, a newcomer for whom this is only her second (science fiction) project and her first big job. Llobell shares most of the screen time with Harris on Foundation, and she credits him for being open and caring about what it has to offer.

“He’s wonderful, he was so great,” added Llobell. “He’s such a good actor and such a good person and he really helped me through all the little things that I was confused about and was always open to answering my stupid question, but he also made me feel and that I have the feeling that my opinion is also important to him. So it was a really good collaboration, I think. “

Alfred Enoch as Raych Seldon, Lou Llobell as Gaal Dornick in Foundation
Photo credit: Giles Keyte / Apple

Regarding her character Dornick, Llobell recognized similarities with Harry Potter and Frodo Baggins (the hobbit protagonist from The Lord of the Rings). Llobell laughed, as she often does, and added, “Well, how I wish I had thought of that [Frodo comparison]. Basically you see a character like Gaal, she is like so many of them, like Harry. He knows nothing about this world, is thrown into it and then has to deal with everything that goes with it. “

“Gaal starts out as a small town girl who arrives in the big city and all of her hopes and all that awaits her will come true,” said Llobell of her character’s journey in Foundation season 1. “She gets into this whirlwind of a story thrown and she goes along because she really believes in mathematics. And that’s what drives them, the truth is what drives them. “

Another major character to undergo this gender reassignment process mentioned above is Salvor Hardin, a guardian of a planet called Terminus on the edge of the galaxy, where Seldon’s supporters set up a foundation to prepare for the dark ages that will follow the fall of the Empire . Hardin is played by non-binary actress Leah Harvey. Interestingly, Harvey had originally auditioned for the role of Dornick, but Goyer saw her more as Hardin.

“Since I’m not binary, I see gender as something that is nothing and everything at the same time,” said Harvey. “I’ve had experiences playing typically male Shakespeare characters, and my experience is that it doesn’t really change something that’s very nice to feel because it takes the pressure off. Playing a man or playing a woman or what does that mean. Maybe that’s just my point of view, but in my eyes I play a character who has a certain vision for himself, has ambitions, has fears, has goals. I’m just excited to portray them honestly. Whoever she may be. “

As part of the female ensemble, Foundation also brings Sacred Games star Kubbra Sait. She plays the warrior Phara Khan, who bears the title Grand Huntress for the planet Anacreon, which also exists on the periphery of the galaxy, (relatively) near Terminus. Sait is actually one of many actors of Indian or Indian descent on the new Apple TV + series, with Goyer trying to “reflect” on today’s audiences.

From the foundation to the Kota factory, which can be seen in September

“We envisioned a distant future 25,000 years from now, where none of the present nations we know of exist and the earth may not even exist,” Goyer added. “Knowing the global reach of Apple and the audience that the show would consume, it was really important to me that, unlike in the late 40s or early 50s when Asimov first wrote, it was important to me, that the characters on the show reflected today’s audience.

“So we had a global talent search. We cast in Tokyo, we cast in Mumbai, we cast in Cape Town, we cast in Portugal, we cast in Berlin. All over. And I really wanted to include actors from all over the world to make the show feel as diverse and global as possible. By the way, Kubbra is great on the show. “


Emotions in the foundation

In addition to the changes necessary to update the story for the time, the Apple TV + adaptation also needed additions. After all, the books have little action, little emotion and little drama, as the Foundation team found in several interviews. In addition, Foundation events span hundreds of years, making it difficult to follow a single character.

“I understood very well why the Foundation confused people beforehand who were trying to make a show out of it because it was tight,” said Harris. “And it’s essentially philosophical in nature, there are conversations in these books that go on for 30 pages. It’s not inherently dramatic. Plus, Asimov does this thing where big events that he casually talks about take place off-screen. Like the collapse of the empire. That is only mentioned in two lines. “

“In many books on philosophy, on ideas, on dialectics, most of the action inevitably takes place off-screen or between centers,” Goyer added. “Television is a visual medium. Of course we wanted to dramatize these events. But most of all I wanted to do it emotionally. The books are not particularly emotional. So I had to find ways that the characters would embody the philosophy and themes Asimov worked with. “

Part of that emotional approach was figuring out if a character could survive a thousand years, Goyer explained. This led him to invent a backstory for Cleon, the emperor of the galaxy, who appears briefly in the books. On the Apple TV + show, Cleon the First is starting a genetic dynasty. By creating clones of himself, he envisions that he can rule forever – and leave his mark on the galaxy. There are three cleons living at any given time: the youngest Dawn, the middle ruler Day, and the oldest Dusk.

“Although Cassie Bilton (Dawn), Lee Pace (Day) and Terrence Mann (Dusk) have played different characters across generations and possibly different seasons, the audience sees the same face as the Empire. And that was a start for me, ”added Goyer.

Pace – known to Marvel fans as Ronan the Accuser from Guardians of the Galaxy – who played Brother Day on the Apple TV + series, said he looked at all sorts of previous emperors to influence his performance, from the Roman emperors ( who inspired Asimov) to the Incas to the Chinese dynasties.

Foundation and location

For the Foundation’s actors, emotions have been helped by being there, rather than relying excessively on computer generated imagery (CGI). The Apple TV + show was filmed all over the world, from Iceland, Germany, Malta and the Canary Islands.

“The scope is so big you might think we’re standing in front of a green screen with this huge landscape projected behind us,” said Harvey. “But no, we’ve been to these incredible places, in some places right next to a volcano, a living volcano in Iceland. It wasn’t too difficult to imagine that I was on another planet, because Iceland is often described by some as a place that feels like another planet. “

Foundation Apple Series Leah Harvey Salvor Hardin Foundation Series Apple TV Plus

Leah Harvey as Salvor Hardin in Foundation
Photo credit: Giles Keyte / Apple

Harris intervened: “For this David and the production decided that it should be as authentic as possible. We traveled to five or six different countries to represent the different planets and the places we were in, or we worked with fully-to-scale sets.

“Even if you looked out the window, say on the spaceships, you weren’t looking at a green screen. You developed a method of representing what you would be looking at, so you looked at something. It helped a lot and made you feel like you had a tactile relationship with the world you are in. That is enormously helpful as an actor. “

For Llobell, Foundation is the project of a lifetime. She said, “Living your whole life thinking that you want to do something and your family believes you can do it and you have doubts and it’s a struggle and then to get a role like this, which has a role of a. is lifetime safe. And be afraid, but then get through it, and now we see the end product. I’m so excited to be honest, I’ve waited two years. I think it’ll be a pub moment forever. “

Fans of the foundation books have been waiting much longer. After several false starts, the galactic and centuries-old history is beamed directly into our living room. Goyer believes that this is the main difference in this attempt from Apple TV +, as most of the previous attempts have attempted to adapt Foundation as a film.

“I was given the opportunity to adapt Foundation twice before my career, and I passed it on because I felt it couldn’t be condensed into two and a half hours. Or even three films, ”said Goyer. “But with the advent of these big series of novels that we see on the stream, I’ve had a feeling for the past five or six years that it might be possible. I think the medium and the audience evolved into a place where the Foundation could adapt. “


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