Apple TV + Foundation takes the vast universe created by sci-fi great Isaac Asimov and tries to anchor it in humanity. Concretely, through the eyes of its narrator, Gaal Dornick (Lou Llobell). Gaal is a secondary character in the Foundation books, known as the biographer of Hari Seldon (Jared Harris). Here, she is a key player in the genesis of the Foundation on Terminus. His actions change the fate of the universe, and his romance with Hari’s son Raych (Alfred Enoch) potentially jeopardizes Seldon’s grand plans.
Located far into the future, Foundation follows what happens when esteemed mathematician Hari Seldon claims he can predict a calamitous future for the Galactic Empire using a new branch of philosophy. Understandably, the powers that be – represented by Lee Pace’s cloned Emperor – bristle at this forecast of doom. Gaal Dornick appears to be the only spirit in the galaxy with the intelligence to confirm or deny Seldon’s calculations. Under enormous political pressure, Gaal decides to side with Hari. The two, and their followers, are exiled to Terminus to start a “Foundation” of human knowledge in case Seldon’s predictions are true. However, things take a turn for the worse on the way to the distant world, and Gaal finds herself strayed from her path.
But how does it feel to play Gaal Dornick, the human being? Decision maker caught up Foundation star Lou Llobell ahead of the show’s premiere to talk about all things Gaal. Llobell exclaimed how her chemist father helped her with her audition, working with co-stars Jared Harris and Alfred Enoch, and coveting her Foundation wardrobe. Oh yeah, what about everything Gaal does with swimming? No sweat for Lou Llobellâ¦
DECISION MAKER: obviously Foundation is based on the work of Issac Asimov. How well did you know Asimov before you took on this role, and once you got hooked, what sort of was the one thing about Gaal that you really wanted to pull off the books and capture on screen?
LOU LLOBELL: Yes, I had never read the books before I got this role, but I knew my dad was a huge fan. When he heard I was auditioning he was so excited. He said to me: “Me and Asimov have the same doctorate”, and he helped me with the hearing and with all the calculations andâ¦ everything. So it was really, really exciting.
And then you asked about Gaal and my characterâ¦ I really liked her from the start. I think she’s super relatable. I don’t even think I realized when I first read my audition slides that it was Foundation and that it was a huge science fiction. Like, I read it as a human being and it was so wonderful to see. I think it really reflects and it’s so important that you have real characters with important stories that we can all relate to in something that takes place so many years in the future.
Yeah, one thing I love about Gaal is that she’s so focused on math, and she makes math the coolest, rebellious thing –
What you wouldn’t normally think of! What was it like bringing math to life in the story, and also playing a character who, you know, what defines her is her fierce intelligence?
Of course, I mean, I think it’s also understanding what math stands for, and what it means to these groups of people that it predicts their future and what’s going to happen to them. And how do we protect people and use math, you know the logic and … all that stuff and science to make the world a little better. Or, to save, you know, mankind.
I think seeing it as a tool that way, rather than just seeing it as “math” was probably the way to overcome that. [laughs] But I think it was amazing, because it’s really so important and it was really a prop. It wasn’t just an idea, it was a realâ¦ almost tangible aspect of the storytelling.
Gaal’s story is so heartbreaking to me, someone who you know grew up loving knowledge and receiving that encouragement. What was it like sort of struggling with this idea that she came from this hyper-religious society, and that she literally had to not only leave her house but, you know, her parents to seek a better life for her- same ?
Yeah, I mean looking for a better life for herself and following the truth is really what she’s done. And, as you say, she had to do it. It wasn’t something she was chasing because she wanted bigger and better things, she just had motivation in herself. She just knew that this was not the place to be and that it was not the right thing to do. And the filmingâ¦ all the stuff from her past was my favorite episodes and some of my favorite scenes because it just shows what she had to do and sacrifice herself to get to where she was.
I think Gaal and Hari’s relationship is so fascinating because it starts where he’s this father figure who sort of is, seemingly taking her out of her oppressive home, but then he sort of condemns her with the trial, then later when he comes back on the shipâ¦ It’s extremely complicated and you have to play a lot of different dynamics. What was it like working with Jared on this, and ultimately, what do you think Gaal really wants or needs from Hari?
I think she really wants and needs his advice. I think she really, really wants to trust him, and she really believes in what he stands for and what he’s created, and I think that’s what drives her and that’s what makes her. made stay and work with him and try andâ¦ you know, understand all of that with him.
And it was just such a great experience working with Jared. I think, drawing parallels, like [laughs] all of this being new to me and working with someone so experienced was quite nice, having this with me doing Gaal and Hari worked and was helpful. But I think their relationship is pretty amazing, and the way it evolves is also how a relationship with anyone you admire could evolve if you meet them. You know, I think it’s so important to see the flaws as well as all the rest of these characters.
Another relationship that I love is the one between Gaal and Raych which I think is that sweet, bittersweet romance. How did you feel about this relationship and what was it like working with Alfred on set?
Uh, it’s pretty wonderful working with Alfie – [laughs] – he was so tall. I will say he’s so experienced too, it was so wonderful and he made it all easy and he’s so, so brilliant at his job. And that relationship, I think, made for such a complete version of Gaal. I think she might seem so 1, 2D, but that kind of relationship when you see her with her family or with Raych or with her friends, you knowâ¦ it’s the little pieces that color her life and color her like a real one To be human. And I think that’s so important and I had such a great timeâ¦ on set, yeah.
I think that leads me to questioning that your character is one of the many genre swap characters on the show. What do you think adds to Gaal and why do you think it was important to do so?
I mean, I think if we looked at all the characters, and we had them as they were in the books, we’d haveâ¦ 8 or 9 lead roles, like lead roles, with all the men. Which doesn’t reflect the world we live in today, so I think it’s important to have, you know, that kind of diversity. I also think it’s important to have someone – a woman, a woman of color, to be a character on this show and to be the narrator and the person who takes the audience on this journey. And, I think it was a great thing to do and I think it’s so important. And, I think it’s something that people are going to respond positively to.
I also like Gaal’s costumes-
Uh, me too. I want to take them home, I honestly need a Gaal wardrobe in my house honestly.
Did you take one, even one from the plateau?
I asked, I begged! I was like, âPleaseââ¦ Yeah, no, I wish.
Do you have a particular favorite?
Yes! It’s the one that’s on all the posters, it’s like a reed kimono jacket. It was like yellow and blue and it was so perfectly fitted to my body and structured andâ¦ it was so awesome and I loved it, it was my favorite jacket for sure.
Uh i want to ask too, these questions might sound silly but, you swim in the show a lot [laughs]
How strong are you as a swimmer and how important did you think this attribute was to the character of Gaals?
Oh, you know, I’ve been swimming my whole life. I was a swimmer at school. I played water polo. My family is still in the ocean. My father is an underwater fisherman and so are my brothers, as we areâ¦ made for water. It was something that was like second nature to me. As soon as I knew I would be doing a lot of swimming, I was like, âBring it. Like, this is what I’m here for. Throw me in the pool for as long as you want me to be good. So that was pretty amazing, and I got to do so much and work underwater andâ¦ I never thought in my entire career that I would do all of these amazing things and I actually got to do all of them. in one season of a TV series and I’m so excited. It was so awesome.
Is there anything you can give fans about Gaal’s plot after the events of episodes 7 and 8?
I can tell you one thing and only one thing. That you should watch it, end the season, and tell me what you think about it. And, I hope you like it and I hope you like the journey and the characters and how it all comes together, and that you can really relate to it. And, just throw yourself into the world and invest yourselfâ¦ that’s, that’s what I’m hoping for.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Where to stream Foundation