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Foundation on Apple TV Plus: release date, plot, cast, and what we know so far

Foundation Season 1
(Image credit: Apple TV Plus)

Foundation, the upcoming sci-fi series adaptation from Apple TV that's based on the novels by Isaac Asimov, has generated plenty of buzz since it was first announced in August 2018. 

Despite the series' tentative release date, casting news and some quotes from showrunner David S. Goyer, though, there hasn't been a plethora of leaks or new information that's come to light about Apple's next big TV show.

Still: what do we know about Foundation’s plot, cast, development, and launch at this point? There has been confirmation on some fronts, and we’ve gathered them together to tell you everything that's worth knowing about Foundation on Apple TV Plus so far.

As of April 2021, however, it seems that production has mostly, if not fully, wrapped on Apple's adaptation of Asimov's works. It's unclear if filming has finished on every aspect of the series' shoot, but you can read more below. The TV show's IMDB page has revealed some new cast members, too, but a couple of their roles are currently undefined.

If you need a crash course on Foundation’s source material, we’ve got you covered on that front, too, so you don't go into the TV show with no idea of what's going on. Let's waste no more time, then, diving into Apple TV's Foundation adaptation.

Foundation release date on Apple TV Plus: Fall 2021

Right now, Foundation doesn’t have a confirmed launch date. The official Apple TV webpage for the series confirms that it is coming sometime this year and, in an interview with LovinMalta, showrunner David S. Goyer whittled that timeframe down to Fall 2021. If that tentative release date is met, we could see Foundation start around late September or early October - but that's just our guess, and there are other factors at work, here. 

Like many other productions, filming on Foundation was halted last March due to the Covid-19 pandemic. According to The Irish Independent, production started again in early October, with Troy Studios in the city of Limerick becoming the main base of operations for the sci-fi show.

Goyer also confirmed that the cast and crew would shoot more scenes in Malta due to the UK’s third nationwide lockdown, which began in late December 2020. In the same LovinMalta interview, Goyer revealed that Malta had been earmarked as a key shooting location before filming began, but extra sequences would be shot across the republic as a stand-in for various environments and planets in Foundation’s universe. 

In February 2021, Film New Europe revealed that shooting had wrapped in Malta, but it’s unclear if other scenes or reshoots still need to be gathered before post-production can accelerate. Filming has also taken place in Fuerteventura in the Canary Islands and Tenerife respectively, according to Spanish news outlets Canarias7 and El Dia.

As of April, it seems that production on Foundation's TV adaptation has wrapped. There's been no official confirmation on this front but, according to various actors who play prominent roles in season 1, most of - if not all - of the current film schedule has ended.

Leah Harvey and Lou Llobell, who will portray Salvor Hardin and Gaal Dornick respectively, have confirmed that they have finished filming their scenes for the TV show. You can check out Llobell's April 2 Instagram post below, which reveals that she has finished shooting on the production after 19 months:

Foundation on Apple TV Plus: What is the sci-fi series about?

Foundation

(Image credit: Apple)

Foundation is a compendium of sci-fi novels written by Isaac Asimov. The US author’s series is made up of seven books, with the core trilogy - Foundation, Foundation and Empire, and Second Foundation - comprising eight short stories that, after being released individually, were published as three collections in the early 1950s.

According to Apple TV’s synopsis, Foundation “chronicles a band of exiles on their monumental journey to save humanity and rebuild civilization amid the fall of the Galactic Empire”. The series initially follows Hari Seldon, a mathematician who explains that, unless humanity changes course, the Empire will fall and be followed by a 30,000-year period of turmoil before a second Empire rises. Seldon, though, reveals that he has foreseen an alternate path that allows the intervening period to be cut down to 1,000 years if certain criteria are met.

At the behest of the Empire’s reluctant board, Seldon creates the Foundation - a group of the greatest living scientists, engineers, and historians - which travels to a remote planet known as Terminus. There, the assembled humans are tasked with preserving an anthology of humanity’s knowledge - the Encyclopedia Galactica - so that, at the end of the millennium, a second Empire may begin. 

Unbeknownst to the board, however, Seldon secretly creates a second Foundation at the opposite end of the galaxy for mysterious purposes. What unfolds is a complex, interweaving saga and, due to its convoluted plot, Goyer has already hinted that it will take multiple seasons to tell Foundation’s vast story.

“The audience is changing the way that we’re consuming stories,” Goyer told LovinMalta. “Game of Thrones was one of the first to do a giant novelistic show and now, with Foundation, we can hopefully [tell] the story over 80 episodes, or 80 hours, as opposed to trying to condense it down into a two or three-hour film.”

Right now, it’s unclear if season 1 will deal with Prelude to Foundation, the book series’ first prequel novel, which explores the backstory of key Foundation players including Seldon. Alternatively, Goyer could intersperse the prequel and sequel books as flashbacks and flash-forwards, if the show will primarily focus on the main trilogy, but hopefully we’ll have a better understanding of the show’s timeline closer to release.

Foundation cast: who is portraying who in the Apple TV adaptation?

A number of established stars and newcomers have been cast for Foundation, and you can check out a quick rundown of who’s who in the list below: 

  • Jared Harris (Hari Seldon)
  • Lee Pace (Brother Day)
  • Lou Llobell (Dr. Gaal Dornick)
  • Leah Harvey (Salvor)
  • Laura Birn (Eto Demerzel)
  • Cassian Bilton (Brother Dawn)
  • Terrence Mann (Brother Dusk)
  • Daniel MacPherson (Hugo)
  • T'Nia Miller (Halima)
  • Pravessh Rana (Rowan)
  • Kubbra Sait (Phara)
  • Alfred Enoch
  • Clarke Peters

Jared Harris (Sherlock Holmes, The Mortal Instruments) will star as Seldon, while Lee Pace (Lord of the Rings, Guardians of the Galaxy) has been installed as Brother Day, the current Emperor of the Galactic Empire.

While Apple TV’s adaptation may closely follow the source material in some way, there are a few changes to certain characters. Dr. Gaal Dornick and Eto Demerzel - both male in the novels - are female in the show. Lou Llobell (Voyagers) will star as Seldon’s biographer Dornick, while Finnish actress Laura Birn (The Innocents) will play Demerzel. Additionally, Leah Harvey (Fighting With My Family) will portray Salvor Hardin, the first Mayor of Terminus, whose gender has also been altered for the TV series.

Newcomer Cassian Bilton has been cast as Brother Dawn, the youngest living member of the Galactic Empire’s royal family, and Terrence Mann (Sense8, Critters) will play the royal family’s oldest member called Brother Dusk.

According to the TV show's IMDB page, there are characters in Apple's adaptation who don't appear to be present in the novels. Daniel MacPherson (Neighbours), T'Nia Miller (The Haunting of Bly Manor), Pravessh Rana (The Serpent) and Kubrra Sait (Sacred Games) will portray Hugo, Halima, Rowan and Phara respectively. However, unless Apple has changed their names for its Foundation series, these characters don't appear in Asimov's novels. 

Alfred Enoch has confirmed that he is part of Foundation's cast, but there's no word on who he will portray. Clarke Peters (The Irregulars) is also set to appear in some capacity, but the series' IMDB page doesn't reveal who that will be.

We can expect more casting announcements soon as there are plenty of other characters who play prominent roles in Foundation’s plot.

Foundation adaptations: why hasn’t Asimov’s book series been adapted before now? 

Foundation Season 1 teaser trailer

(Image credit: Apple TV)

It’s not been for a want of trying, even though multiple studios have found it tough to bring Foundation to the big or small screen.

New Line Cinema spent $1.5 million developing a movie adaptation of Asimov’s trilogy in 1998 but subsequently failed. A decade later, New Line’s co-founders Bob Shaye and Michael Lynne attempted to produce a Foundation film series for Warner Bros through their Unique Pictures production company, but were beaten to the screen rights by Columbia Pictures. Roland Emmerich (Independence Day, White House Down) was brought on to direct alongside sci-fi screenwriter Dante Harper, but the project failed to get off the ground.

Things went quiet on the Foundation adaptation front until HBO acquired the rights in 2014. Signing up Jonathan Nolan (The Dark Knight, Interstellar) as showrunner and producer, the US network spent three years trying to adapt Asimov’s works into a TV series. However, in June 2017, it was reported that Skydance Media was now developing a Foundation TV series. 

Jump ahead to August 2018, and it was confirmed that Apple had ordered a 10-episode straight-to-series order in collaboration with Skydance’s Television division. Goyer and Josh Friedman were installed as co-writers and co-showrunners until April 2019, when Friedman departed the project in an apparently planned move. Goyer, David Ellison, Dana Goldberg, Marcy Ross, and Robyn Asimov - daughter of Isaac - are executive producers on the series.

Foundation trailer: is there one?

Yes. In August 2020, a two-minute long first-look trailer was released on Apple TV’s social media channels, and you can view it in the tweet below:

See more

The video begins with a brief overview from Goyer about how Foundation has shaped other cultural phenomena including Star Wars, before moving into a 90-second teaser composed of shot footage and CGI moments. The trailer gives a good account of the universe that Asimov created, and there’s plenty of politicking and action on display in the sequence that we see. Hopefully, we’ll get an official trailer or two in the coming months, which reveals more about the plot for Foundation season 1 and which characters will appear.