Foundation star Lee Pace relives his big genre roles, from Pushing Daisies to The Hobbit
Foundation (TV series)
"I like putting my mind in that place, whether it's a movie or a book or comics," he tells EW.
Years later, Pace's career has been marked by prominent genre roles, from his very first series regular part on the fantastical Wonderfalls to his beloved resurrecting part on Pushing Daisies to his more recent work on blockbusters like the Hobbit film trilogy and Guardians of the Galaxy. Now, he adds another prominent sci-fi role to his repertoire: the theatrical Brother Day, one of three clones who rule the empire at the center of Apple TV+'s Foundation series.
"I enjoy the people that fantasy attracts, and the way that they think," he says. "I have a good time in this world."
On the eve of Foundation's debut this Friday, Pace looks back on some of these genre roles that have come to shape his eclectic career.
The short-lived 2004 Fox dramedy about a Niagra Falls gift-shop clerk who could commune with talking animal figurines was Pace's first experience with creator Bryan Fuller's "rules of reality."
"I remember the cow creamer episode, looking at this cow and Bryan saying, 'It's going to speak. We're going to animate it,'" Pace recalls. "I love that show. It has a sense of charm and camaraderie to it."
The actor hadn't done much in the industry prior to Wonderfalls, in which he played Aaron Tyler, the PhD comparative religion student living at home with his parents. He previously appeared in an episode of Law & Order: SVU (as a convicted pedophile) and in the film Soldier's Girl (as a transsexual nightclub performer), but he sees Wonderfalls as a crash course.
"I remember going up to Toronto and learning basically everything, finally learning about marks, learning what cameras were and all the rest of it," he says.
Pushing Daisies (2007-09)
Because of Wonderfalls, Pace would reunite with Fuller for perhaps his most famous role: Ned, a pie-maker with the strange ability to bring people back from the dead with a single touch in the ABC show Pushing Daisies.
The show aired from 2007-'09, and even now Pace says he and the cast are always chatting with Fuller about getting the gang back together for something. Anna Friel, Kristin Chenoweth, Fuller, and everyone. "Fingers crossed," Pace remarks. But he won't say anymore about what a reunion would look like out of fear it might foil any plans.
"There was such a magic to it at the time," he remembers of working on the show on the Warner Bros. lot, on a stage right by The Big Bang Theory. I think it had to do with everything that [executive producer and director] Barry Sonnenfeld brought to the aesthetic of the show, obviously Brian's stories, and that basic concept. There's a kind of alchemy about that group of actors. We had such a great time working together."
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn—Part 2 (2012)
There's much for Pace to say about his one-film appearance as a vampire in the Twilight franchise, perhaps because his part was so small or perhaps because, you know... it's Twilight. If you have nothing nice to say, don't say anything at all.
"What an insane, wild world to have been a part of," Pace remarks. "I wish I could articulate the moment of being in Twilight for that brief time."
He does remember being blown away by the franchise's popularity by the time he came in as Garrett, one of many vampers who joins up with the Cullen clan to face the Volturi in the final movie. "I'm used to a [theater] with 400 people. At Angels in America, we had 1,400 [people], which is a lot. The audience Twilight commanded, I was like, 'Jesus!'"
The Hobbit trilogy (2012-2014)
Joining the cinematic universe of Middle-earth was an entirely different experience than Twilight. This was something living in Pace's heart since childhood.
After his dad read Tolkien's The Hobbit novel to him as a kid, Pace later devoured The Lord of the Rings in high school. Getting to bring a character like the "fun, dark, twisted" Elven king Thranduill, ruler of the Woodland Realm of Middle-earth, was "a dream," he says. "To pack my bags and head to New Zealand to work, I lost my mind."
It took about a month of wig and wardrobe fittings to complete the transformation. "The costumes always had to have a big effect on how you approach [roles]," Pace notes. "The golden robes and the platinum wig, you look in the mirror and feel your character coming together."
In Foundation, Apple TV+'s adaptation of author Isaac Asimov's formative sci-fi novels, Pace isn't just one man; he's many.
The futuristic Genetic Dynasty is ruled by clones of the original emperor Cleon, and Brother Day is the main replicant in power. "Cleon has figured out a way to cheat death. But has he? That's the story," Pace says.
"This idea that I'm not really playing a man, but I'm playing many men at a certain time in their life where they have control of the entire Milky Way galaxy, it's such an insane reality," he continues. "I thought that basic idea for a character that might last for a long time in the story was really, really interesting."
Foundation is an ambitious undertaking by showrunner and writer David S. Goyer (The Dark Knight, Man of Steel). Like the novel, the series is a story told over a timeline of 1,000 years. Hari Seldon, played by Jared Harris, uses psychohistory — the study of mathematics to predict the future based on human behavior — to foretell the destruction of the empire. Humanity's only hope is to curate a "foundation" of knowledge so that when humans eventually bounce back, they won't have to start from scratch.
Pace acknowledges the "big idea" that Goyer, as Asimov once did, is pursuing. "It's difficult to distill down. It's about life, it's about survival, it's about. I feel like if I spit them out to you, it's a little bit of a generalization about the experience of being alive."