Lou Llobell knows a thing or two about celestial bodies and the pay-off that comes from persistence. Seemingly plucked from obscurity two years ago, the 28-year-old London-based actress shot to fame in Apple TV+’s hit show Foundation, where she plays Gaal, the mathematician tasked with saving the fictional Galactic Empire from collapse. For some, this act may register as difficult beyond comprehension, but the feat was nothing out of the ordinary for real-life, hard-working Llobell who sat down with 5ELEVEN to discuss season two, balancing her inner and outer worlds and the persistent threads that keep her many universes tied together.
Words by Maggie Jones.
Created by David Goyer and Josh Friedman, Foundation is adapted from Issac Asimov’s cult sci-fi novel series of the same name. The show follows Llobell’s character Gaal as she and her mentor Hari Seldon (played by Jared Harris) attempt to mitigate the disaster of the Empire’s impending fall. After an enormously successful first season one, Llobell reprised her role again, and this time she added a bit more spice.
“Gaal and I have very similar traits,” explains Llobell. “Over the two seasons [the audience] has watched her grow up into a full-fledged independent woman… she’s a bit more feisty in season two, which is great because I get to tap into a bit more of myself there.”
Born and raised in South Africa, Llobell grew up in a multicultural epicentre. With a mother from Zimbabwe and a father from Spain, the certainties of her childhood were conventional. There were the typical sporty extracurriculars and family outings, but during all of this, Llobell had figured out from a young age that she was destined for a life beyond that of her charming, but limited, small town upbringing.
All Jewellery by Garrard. Top and Skirt by Alessandra Rich
“You can ask any of my family members, we always knew [acting] was going to happen,” Llobell notes. In lieu of a fail-safe plan B, there was only ever plan A, to which Llobell remarks, “I genuinely couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else, which I guess is not great… you should probably have more options when you are growing up!”
With the support of her family, Llobell graduated university and moved to the UK in the hope of achieving her life-long dream. “I had a lot of belief from my family, they were super supportive in that if I do this thing, and put everything towards it then it will work out,” says Llobell. “I didn’t think that’s how it would work, but then it did… so I stand to be corrected.”
What ensued next was a seemingly Cinderella story where, within a year, Llobell had snagged the lead role in Foundation. Yet everything was actually not what it seemed and Llobell distinctly remembers that time in her not-so-distant past. “From when I graduated to when I got Foundation it was about a year, but it felt like an eternity… that first year really taught me that this industry is not forgiving in any way.” After what she estimates was about 150 or so auditions amounting to rejection or worse: no response, Llobell landed a hook. The lengthy audition process for Foundation was memorably intense, but she remained cautiously optimistic about her prospects, “I just thought that if this is where it ends, I want to remember this moment for the rest of my life… three days later I got the job.”
Catapulted in stardom, Llobell was quick to recognize the magnitude of the long-awaited moment she found herself in. “For the first month, I thought, ‘Am I just imagining this?’ I’d been working my whole life for this, and then it was suddenly happening.” Though typically self-confident, Llobell was not impervious to a mild imposter syndrome during those early days on set, “I was just like, ‘Did they [mistakenly] put my face next to someone else’s?’ Then I’m going to get there and they’ll think, ‘That’s not the person we thought we hired.”’ Luckily for Llobell the antidote to her initial unease came with time and leaning into her skillset until ultimately, she proclaims, “you just fake it until you make it. That’s truly what I did, where I just had to make it look like I knew what I was doing until I really felt like I knew what I was doing.”
You can discover the complete interview inside the Fall Winter 2023 Issue 11
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