Interview: ‘Foundation’ Star Kubbra Sait on Asimov, Revenge and Our Real Life Dystopia

Foundation, the Apple TV+ series based on the sci-fi novels by Isaac Asimov, has taken the streaming zeitgeist by storm. The cerebral but action-packed interpretation of Asimov’s classic trilogy was brought to life by David S. Goyer (Blade, Dark Knight) and Josh Friedman to critical acclaim and massive audiences. A dystopian saga chronicling the slow but inevitable downfall of the galactic empire – as predicted by those who practice “psychohistory” – it has parallels certainly to a 21st Century characterized by the decline of superpowers.

Learning of the dire prophecy being communicated by members of the Foundation, the emperors Brother Dawn, Brother Day and Brother Dusk – three cloned identical twins of varying ages – seek to persecute said members, whose belief in the science of psychohistory threatens to undermine their power and upend the longstanding belief of the populace that the dynasty will last forever. 

Science has, throughout history, been seen by those in power as a potential threat, from the church’s inquisition of Leonardo da Vinci, to today’s willful ignorance or deliberate dismissal of the facts surrounding climate change or the pandemic. And the emperors, in their quest to suppress potentially damaging information, brutally punish those that they believe were responsible for a devastating terror attack. 

Years later, a survivor of the imperial attack on her home planet Anacreon, Phara Keaen – played by Indian actor Kubbra Sait – leads a group of fighters determined for revenge. And that is where we begin with Ms. Sait, a rising star whose career has been turbocharged by this compelling dramatic role. Prior to Foundation, she memorably appeared in the Netflix series Sacred Games, as well as Amazon Prime’s Wakaalat From Home; but she now seems genuinely poised for greater things.

She sat down with BlackBook to talk about what it all means.

Phara seems to be a character hell bent on revenge. Is that an overly simplistic view? What virtues does she exemplify?

No real emotion is overly simplistic in my opinion. We choose to simplify it by the virtue of what we know or understand. It’s too easy to refute another person’s pain, since we haven’t experienced it. That being said, it’s impossible to walk in the shoes of every person you come across in life, let alone a character you see onscreen. Phara, for me, is the embodiment of deep pain, she is singularly focused on revenge because it stems from a place of injustice. Not hers alone – she carries the mantle of justice for her entire planet. 

What was the most difficult or challenging aspect of portraying Phara?

She has an emotional journey, one that requires her to manipulate. Personally, I take what people say at face value – I’d expect that from a character or another human being. The parts of Phara where she is impossibly hard to believe and trust were the most challenging for me.

How did you prepare for this role?

Innumerable hours went into physically training for Phara Keaen. I had never thrown a punch or kicked someone ever in my “previous” life. Learning a new language was fun, but also mentally heavy duty work.

Do you see any of yourself in your character?

(Laughs out loud) Thankfully not. But I have learned who never to be.

Before this role, were you familiar with the works of Isaac Asimov?

Through Goodreads, yes. In my humble opinion this man was nothing short of a philosopher and a soothsayer. For David S. Goyer to pick his work and turn it into a mirror of who and what we are today, to address the pertinent issues of our existing dystopian world, is mind blowing. 

So you believe that there are parallels in this story with world events of today?

Totally. The regime, the unrest, the dog-eat-dog society, the degradation of the environment, water levels rising, the robotic / AI challenges experts are trying to battle…we see them all. He (Asimov) wrote about this in fiction more than half a century ago.

Foundation seems to be a watershed moment in your acting career in terms of visibility. What’s next for you?

Hope is what is next for me. I have been alive and thriving on my hard work and hope. I’m getting better at the craft…and I’d love to explore the world of characters, both here and back home. It’s a beautiful career that is taking shape.

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