Lou Llobell was barely a year out of drama school when she landed one of the leading roles in Apple TV+’s big-budget sci-fi epic “Foundation” — so it’s no wonder she has a charming, stars-in-her-eyes energy when talking about her young career in the spotlight, and the many places it may go.
“Hopefully this will open loads and loads of doors, and we’ll see what happens,” Llobell says. “I’m excited, I’m so excited. I’m overwhelmed by the response that I’ve gotten so far, so I have all the faith in the world that something exciting will come along.”
In one of her first interviews since the show premiered (and therefore she’s able to be a bit more relaxed about what she can say, ever in fear of spoilers), the U.K.-based actress says she’s very much in the thick of the fandom, but her life hasn’t changed all that much yet.
“I’ve still got the time and the mental capacity to look at some DMs and some comments on my stuff, which maybe one day I’ll probably have to stop, but it’s really exciting,” she says over Zoom from London, “Foundation” painted nails flashing on-screen as she talks. “Everyone’s so happy with Gaal, and they love her and she’s so endearing, and they are really happy with my performance, which is so amazing because I’ve put my heart and soul into this character. I know her like the back of my hand, so it’s so nice that people see her the way that I would hope that they do.”
Llobell got the role over two years ago, after receiving the script in her inbox and leaning on her dad for some help deciphering the science fiction of it all.
“I said to my dad, ‘Oh, ‘Foundation,’ I think that’s sci-fi, I don’t know. It’s got some math, so could you help me?’ Because my dad is really a science guy. And he was, ‘Foundation!?’” she says of the classic Isaac Asimov series of stories. “And then I realized what it was, and then I realized how big it was.”
Her callback was a five-day audition in Ireland alongside a handful of other actresses being considered for the part in a process she calls “really, really intense,” before she won the role of Gaal.
“She’s someone that I aspire to be more like. She’s very caring for the people around her. She understands human needs and human desires and wants. She wants to try and save a little bit of all the humans in the entire galaxy, which I think is something that the people of The Foundation don’t initially consider, which is really important,” Llobell says. “And it’s that understanding that the world is not as small as the people around you. It’s a lot bigger, and it’s important to be open-minded and accepting of all different people, and you need to understand where they come from as well.”
Llobell was born in Zimbabwe, to a Zimbabwean mother and a Spanish father. Her father has a PhD in biochemistry, while her mother studied economics: she and a few of her siblings strayed into the creative world, despite her parents’ fields, and Llobell says for her, acting was her dream “genuinely from birth.”
“I was literally going through school and I was thinking, ‘If acting doesn’t work out, what else am I good at? What else do I like? What do I enjoy enough to want to spend the rest of my life doing?’ And I couldn’t ever come up with anything,” she says. “And it’s only now in my adult life that, before I got this job, that I was thinking, ‘If this doesn’t work out, then I have to do something else in the industry.’ And my parents were always great supporters of making sure that I did what I wanted to do and what made me happy, not forcing me to do something just because I had to, or it was the logical thing to do.”
The family moved to Spain for a bit when she was younger, before landing in South Africa, where she attended high school. She came to the U.K. at age 18, where she’s lived ever since.
“When my mom lived in Spain, being a woman of color, it was quite difficult at the time, I think, for her in that sense,” Llobell says of their moving around. “So we moved just to have a bit of a change of scenery and to make it a bit more comfortable for her, and for us to grow up in a different space.”
As a girl, she gravitated toward women of color in Hollywood, like Thandiwe Newton and Viola Davis, women who showed her that a career in acting was possible for girls who looked like she did.
“I would love to be someone that would speak up in that way as well. I think that’s also important to me, to pave my own path and make sure that I have an impact, especially for young women of color, who maybe come from places like South Africa, where I grew up, to be able to look at me and be like, ‘Oh, I can do that, too,’” she says.
By starting her career in a science fiction project, she says she feels she is already on her way.
“A role like this in an epic sci-fi series is insane to me to even think that there’s two people of color that are in the lead roles,” she says. “It’s a pretty amazing responsibility to have. It’s a bit of pressure, but I’m also excited to take it on, because I think it’s time. What better person than someone like me? Because I have to try and convince myself of that. And there’s so many other people, but how great it is that I can have that responsibility, although it’s scary and daunting. And not everyone’s going to enjoy it, and that’s OK as well. People have their opinions and that will come and go, and as long as there’s one person who sees it, and sees me and gets inspired and feels motivated by that, then that’s all that matters. If just one, then you’ve done your job, I think.”