Alfred Enoch (Raych) praises the diversity in Apple TV+’s Foundation

Science fiction and fantasy have often been stereotyped as a predominantly white space. While the likes of Star Trek made strides with television’s first interracial kiss and casting the second Black lead in TV history at the time with Benjamin Sisko (Avery Brooks) in Deep Space Nine, the uncomfortable truth is that the genre has until very recently been a closed shop.

But times are changing quickly, and Alfred Enoch (Raych Seldon in Apple TV+s Foundation) has joined the growing number of Black actors with starring roles within sci-fi.

Speaking with The Stage earlier this year, Enoch revealed that he had attended the 2020 Black Lives Matter protest in London’s Trafalgar Square and spent a long time thinking about the associated issues during lockdown, including the murder of George Floyd, the effects of COVID-19 on Black people, and the systemic racism in his native United Kingdom.

Enoch told The Stage that he had “become more politically active” and wanted to consider his social responsibility within his career. Apple TV+ updated Isaac Asimov’s original narrative to introduce more female roles and give leading parts to actors of color.

Speaking to Winter is Coming, Enoch describes the updates as important. “You tell a story, you’ve got to know who you’re telling it for, and we’re not telling it for the same people that Asimov was writing the books for many years ago because we’ve moved on. It’s a different time; you speak to the people.”

Enoch insists that updating Asimov’s work for modern audiences is essential. The narrative needs to speak to an audience in 2021 rather than the one that existed when the first stories came out in the 1940s.

The most direct example of this. I do theater as well as working on screen, and you have the people in the room with you. You can’t play to an audience 20 years later or 50 years before; you play for the people who are there on the day. Obviously, there’s a slightly different thing when you put something on screen because maybe it’ll last and people will be watching in years and years and years, but we still have that responsibility to speak to the world of today. The world of today is a diverse one.

“Why can’t I do this?”

With leading roles for Alfred Enoch as Ryach Seldon, Lou Llobell as Gaal Dornick, and Leah Harvey as Salvor Hardin, Foundation has placed actors of color front and center. “The world of today is not the same world as it was [in 1950]; however, many years ago where people of color were even more marginalized than they are today and not allowed to take up space in society to the degree that we can today. Now that is not to say that journey is done, it patiently isn’t, but one of the things that can help that is representation.”

Foundation

Alfred Enoch and Lou Llobell in “Foundation,” premiering September 24, 2021 on Apple TV+.

Enoch, who recently finished a starring run as Romeo in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet at London’s Globe Theater, says it’s time to stop assuming what roles Black actors can and cannot play.

While science fiction and fantasy may not have the best record in terms of diversity, that is something that is quickly changing, with prominent roles for actors of color being seen in the likes of Star Wars, Doctor Who, Star Trek, and, of course, Foundation. Enoch says the show has genuinely excelled in that way.

“It was a really gratifying thing to see that in Foundation because it’s important.” Enoch said, “I think we have a responsibility as storytellers. Foundation is stepping up in that way.”

It’s enabling people to turn on their TV and see people that look like them. Why can’t I be in a sci-fi story? Why can’t I do this? Why can’t I be in a period drama? Whatever. I’ve had friends of mine saying, ‘I watched TV as a kid, and there was no one that looked like me.’ Let’s be done with that now.

The sixth episode of Foundation, Death and the Maiden, will air on Apple TV+ this coming Friday, October 22, with episodes running until the season finale on November 19.

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