August 17, 2022

Greg Daniels first got the idea for his Amazon series “Upload” back when he was  a writer on “SNL,” from 1987-1990. 

“I was actually trying to come up with a sketch for SNL, and this was so long ago that people were advertising CDs as being the next big thing – all of your music digitized,” Daniels, 58, told The Post. “I was like, ‘What else could be digitized, what if we could digitize ourselves?’ It would be a way for human beings to create our own form of heaven. And I was like, ‘Well, if we did it ourselves, we would screw it up.’ It would be like any other product roll out. And I was like, ‘That’s a really funny idea, but it’s bigger than a sketch, I’ll put it in my pocket.” 

Now going into its second season (premiering Friday, March 11 on Prime Video), “Upload” is a sci-fi comedy set in a near-future in which humans can “upload” their consciousness into a virtual afterlife after they die. There, they can still communicate with living loved ones through phone and video calls, and the perks and luxuries of their afterlife worlds range, according to how much they pay for it.

The plot follows computer programer Nathan (Robbie Amell), who finds himself living in the luxurious afterlife of Lake View after his untimely death – thanks to his wealthy and vapid girlfriend, Ingrid (Allegra Edwards). As he explores his new surroundings and grows feelings for Nora (Andy Allo), his living customer service rep, he also comes to realize that he was murdered. Season 2 picks up with Nathan and Nora separated after a misunderstanding, and Ingrid having “Uploaded” herself in order to cling to Nathan forever, much to his dismay. 

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Nathan (Robbie Amell) and Ingrid (Allegra Edwards) in their virtual afterlife together in “Upload”
Liane Hentscher

“I pitched it as a romantic comedy satiric sci fi philosophical murder mystery,” said Daniels. “It was sort of a joke in the pitch that I was going to try and push all these genres together. But as a viewer… it was something I thought I’d like. Overall, it’s very much a romance, and it’s funny, but you’re kind of off balance with these weird moments of sci fi horror sprinkled in there.”

Nora (Andy Allo) and her co-worker, Aleesha (Zainab Johnson) stand on a sidewalk looking worried in "Upload."
Nora (Andy Allo) and her co-worker, Aleesha (Zainab Johnson) in “Upload.”
Liane Hentscher

Daniels, who’s also known for “The Simpsons” and “The Office,” said he used some inspiration from the latter to inform Nathan and Nora’s relationship on “Upload.” 

“I really liked making the Jim and Pam romance over several seasons [on ‘The Office’], and the key to it is having obstacles. And so, when I started to think ‘What would be a big obstacle?’ the fact that Nathan is dead and has no physical body and is just uploaded and living in the cloud, hosted by a tech company, and Nora is alive and living in Queens….that’s a pretty big obstacle to overcome. And it could have that poignant feeling that you have when you can’t see a way for them to get together.”

Greg Daniels
Greg Daniels at the “Upload” Season 2 premiere.
Sipa USA

Even though “Upload” is a whimsical sci-fi comedy, Daniels said that he and the writers look to the real world for inspiration.  

“Because the show is only set 15 years in the future, we do a lot of research in terms of what inventions are coming down the pike. We’ll put something in that might be a slight exaggeration – for instance, we had on the show that you don’t eat natural food, you eat printed food. We thought that would be funny, futuristic and slightly unpleasant. And as soon as the show aired, people started sending me news stories about 3-D printed fake steaks, which are real now. Every month, I get another text saying, ‘Remember that joke you guys did… They’re doing that now.’ 

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“That’s kind of a weird part of it. It’s set in the future, but the future is catching up to the show.”