What makes ‘Upload’ so special according to its creator and stars

Robbie Amell as Nathan in ‘Upload.’
Amazon Prime

The plot behind ‘Upload,’ was an idea that always followed well-known writer, producer and director Greg Daniels around, but it began with his time as a sketch writer. The idea then evolved into a possible book during a writers strike in 2008, but Daniels then had to put it on hold again to go back to work. It found its place however when ‘The Office’ ended and the well-known show-runner finally had the chance to show Tinsel Town what he had been working on.

“When I went to pitch it around town I had two years’ worth of stories in this packet,” Daniels explains. “So, it’s been quite a long journey, but the fun of it is that I’ve had an opportunity to think through every aspect of it very thoroughly.”

Greg Daniels and Robbie Amell on the set of ‘Upload’. Amazon Prime

The thoroughness is just the start with the half-hour comedy, which ultimately found its home at Amazon Prime. In a world where digital after-life is part of the life/death transition process (though you find out through the show that it’s more of a luxury than a resource for most), we meet a slew of characters centering around Nathan (Robbie Amell), a young entrepreneur who ends up in a car crash at the beginning of season one.

What unfolds after is something you would only see in the future (the year 2033 to be exact,) when his girlfriend, Ingrid (Allegra Edwards), decides to make the decision to upload Nathan to Lakeview, aka a digital meta-verse designed by Horizon, a huge corporation based in the real world in New York City. Nathan’s doctors swear he’s on the brink of death, which is why he ends up at the Uploaded after-life in the first place, but it all seems so sudden. And throughout the season audiences begin to figure out why.

Creating this setting, however, is something that Daniels has had his sights on for some time, so, every last detail means something to its creator.

Allegra Edwards and Robbie Amell in ‘Upload’. Amazon Prime

“I’m probably a real pain in the a** nerd in the writer’s room because they’ll come up with something and I’ll say well, that’s not actually how the upload machine works, it’s a photographic process… And they’ll say, this isn’t real, you know?” Daniels jokes. “For this, it’s very production-designed. We’re in the future, so when [the characters] go out onto the street, you want to see ads for products that don’t exist and you want to see futuristic cars that go by and all of this kind of stuff. That takes a lot of work. Then when they’re not in the real world, they’re in this highly designed digital meta-verse that the Horizon company has created. So, that’s also super designed. It’s a bit challenging, but it’s also really fun. I spent many years doing a mockumentary where you got just whatever you got. This is much more planned.”

It’s in Lakeview that we also meet the rest of the cast that rounds out the talented group. There’s the A.I. Guy (Owen Daniels) who essentially is the everywhere man in Lakeview and can morph into whatever the residents he serves needs him to be, even if that means having to duplicate himself. There’s Luke (Kevin Bigley), a veteran who ended his life in the real world after losing his legs in a war so he could hastily make his way to the after-life where walking is less of a problem. There’s Alicia (Zainab Johnson), Luke’s “angel” aka one of the VR assistants employed at Horizon to assist their clients—Alicia is very well and alive in New York, and she also works with Nora (Andy Allo.)

Andy Allo, Robbie Amell, Zainab Johnson and Kevin Bigley in ‘Upload’. Amazon Prime

Nora is another very-alive “angel” who works with Nathan, and the two hit it off. So much so that it creates a love triangle with Nathan and Ingrid, who happens to be in financial control of Nathan’s uploaded account.

“This character and the world that Greg created is so layered and so detailed and so specific and really grounded,” explains Allo when talking about what pulled her into playing the part of Nora. “I remember going into the audition and I had all this comedy stuff worked out. I did the first take and the casting director said okay, so let’s throw all of that out. Greg really wants everything natural and grounded, it’s not about the funny. As soon as she said that I thought yes, okay, I love that. It’s not about hitting the joke, it’s more about the circumstances and situations that make you laugh.”

Amell, who plays Nathan, also held a similar sentiment when thinking back to when he first read the script.

“It’s rare to read something and feel like you’re so right for it. The character spoke like me and had the same sense of humor,” Amell says. “I think part of it is [Greg] finding personalities and the innate thing that people have that matches the characters that he’s put on paper. I think that’s part of why people fall in love with the characters in his shows.”

Andy Allo in ‘Upload’. Amazon Prime

And boy, do we get invested.

Season one ends with Nora finally letting Nathan know how she feels. What makes it unfortunate is the fact that Nathan has run out of data (thanks to a fight he and Ingrid had and her stopping his cash flow), so he’s virtually frozen—it’s not that he doesn’t know what to say, it’s that he can’t say anything at all. To make it more complicated, when he finally comes back awake, Ingrid reveals that she has also uploaded to be with him…well, sort of.

Season 2 opens with the cast in some new places and some new roles, and the world of ‘Upload’ certainly expands.

Kevin Bigley, who plays Luke, had some standouts to the sophomore season on his mind: “If you liked season one, this is just going to be more of it. Luke I think is much more involved with Nathan’s storyline as far as what happened to him and being of service. But, he’s really started to miss Alicia as her time is getting taken up, so he’s going to get increasingly to get her attention, and there are some storylines of invasion of privacy that kind of drive him nuts.”

Luke’s “angel,” Alicia played by Zainab Johnson, also teased some key moments: “I was surprised and extremely flattered at the release of season 1, so many people loved and wanted to know more about Luke and Alicia, both as a unit and just separately. I feel like in the second season, you get to peel back layers and find out so much more about Luke before he uploaded, and Alicia finds out more about Luke which really changes her perception. We find out a lot about what Alicia does when she’s not at Horizon, and that informs the changes we’re going to see. We get to see for the first time her hopes and dreams and I think that’s important for the characters.”

Amazon Prime

Overall, the second season is described as finding its groove by its creator, Daniels, and watching it certainly cements that sentiment. The drama is heightened, the characters are showing more, some secrets are revealed, but above all, the tempo comes from the naturalism to the comedy—not just from the punch line of jokes.

‘Upload’ season 2 premieres March 11 on Amazon Prime