Lee Pace talks about his role in Apple TV+’s Foundation

Lee Pace in “Foundation,” premiering September 24, 2021 on Apple TV+.
Lee Pace in “Foundation,” premiering September 24, 2021 on Apple TV+. /

Anticipation among sci-fi fans has been rising for some time for Apple TV+’s adaptation of Isaac Asimov’s classic Foundation novels, with the two-episode premiere dropping tomorrow. One of the original characters created for the show is Brother Day, portrayed by British actor Lee Pace, who already has a pedigree with sci-fi and fantasy fans having starred in The Hobbit and Guardians of the Galaxy.

The versatile actor brings arrogance and menace to his role as the middle throne emperor, the series’ main antagonist whose crimes will undoubtedly eclipse those of any Targaryan monarch by the time the show is over. Pace and his character are undoubtedly one of the show’s highlights.

Brother Day is the primary leader of a galactic empire with a 12,000-year history. However, his eternal clone rule comes under threat from the mathematical equations of Hari Seldon, who uses his psychohistory concept to predict that the empire will fall and plunge the cosmos into an unprecedented dark age. Reacting with disbelief, the emperors soon see that Seldon was right as the downfall begins in a spectacular fashion.

Introducing Brother Day

The inclusion of Brother Day (and his fellow clone emperors Brother Dawn and Brother Dusk) is bound to be controversial since it wasn’t included in the original books. Speaking with SyFy Wire, Pace says that including the clones is in keeping with the message of the original novels, which posed “riddle about inherited power.”

"Here we are on Earth; we’re very familiar with monarchies and very familiar with certain classes of people who can hold power. But they’re fascinating to me, and this can only really happen in science fiction, where you can abstract something so that you can remove all the triggers that get us into the circular conversations that we have about the world that we currently live in. Let’s remove all those triggers, expand the idea to take over the entire Milky Way galaxy, and look at what this autocrat is."

As clones, Brother Day and his “brothers” can effectively cling on to power on a galaxy-wide scale forever. However, despite all being clones of Emperor Cleon I, who reigned 400 years ago, each version of Cleon that we see reacts differently to circumstances depending on his age and situation.

"I’m playing a role that many men will fill, right? That role is of the emperor of the galaxy. But these individuals that slide into it are responding to different circumstances, are educated in different ways. Although they are living in the fantasy that they are the same man, I think what we’re starting to see in this first season, we’re watching them realize that they have sentience, that they have individuality."

Although they’re all clones of the same man, Brother Dawn is a child and teenager, Brother Day an adult, and Brother Dusk a senior. However, as the clones age naturally, a new brother Dawn is frequently “born” as Brother Dusk passes on. One of the most intriguing aspects of the series is how each Cleon differs from the others. “He’s watching, watching, watching, but when his back is against the wall, you cannot beat him,” Pace said of his character. “He is unbeatable. He will dominate. He always has dominated, and he always will dominate. I think that, in a way, is his curse. He can’t be stopped, and it prevents him from seeing the change that he needs.”

Episode 1. Cooper Carter, Lee Pace and Terrence Mann in “Foundation,” premiering September 24, 2021 on Apple TV+.
Episode 1. Cooper Carter, Lee Pace and Terrence Mann in “Foundation,” premiering September 24, 2021 on Apple TV+. /

Foundation asks the big questions

Lee Pace has always been a sci-fi fan and relishes his role in Foundation. Like many, he didn’t believe it was possible to produce an adaptation of Foundation given the scope of the novels and the number of characters. However, after being sent David S. Goyer’s first three scripts, he changed his mind.

"He sent them to me, and he was like, “This is what I’m working on. I would like for you to play Brother Day.” And he cracked it. He was able to create these characters that you can emotionally invest in that will, potentially, if we get the good luck of getting to do more seasons, really take us through the 1,000 years that we will need to tell this story."

Being an incredibly cerebral book, the Foundation novels ask deep questions about ethics, politics, religion, and more. And the show doesn’t shy away from drawing parallels to our current situation in 2021. Pace says the series is both about the “principle of change” and “about the people.”

"The one thing you can bet on is that things will change. Yet, we are resisting change. We are holding on to it as tight as we can, and we will fight like hell to stop change from happening because we believe that it is the best thing for mankind and for the people that we have taken on the responsibility for. The only thing we know how to do is hold the monopoly of violence."

Foundation tackles weighty issues. The opening episodes ponder whether a clone can have a soul, the righteousness of revenge and war in response to terror, and whether people are better off living with the truth or with hope. “The story is about what does it mean to be a human? Where does your soul reside? Is it in your body? What happens when you lose your body? What questions can we investigate with math? Math can quantify minutes, but does it really give you an accurate picture of the change? What is better explored through the realm of spirit? What does that teach us?”

The first two episodes of Foundation will air on Apple TV+ tomorrow, Friday, September 24, with a new episode every Friday until November 19.

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