With art somewhat seeming to imitate life, the real world has been through many of its own updates since Upload creator and showrunner Greg Daniels first announced back in May 2020 that a second season of the hit Amazon Prime Video series would be happening. Fast forward these 22 months later, despite everything that has occurred throughout this lingering Covid-19 pandemic, Upload season two is now successfully streaming and viewers will soon see that it was well-worth the wait.
Daniels, who is known for leading other popular comedy series like The Office and Parks and Recreation, works alongside his creative team at Upload to continue on with their not-so-distant future storyline of a world where instead of dying and losing all communication possibilities, a revolutionary technology exists where people can “Upload” themselves into a wide variety of virtual afterlife communities at various social status price levels.
With decades of experience understanding what makes audiences laugh and what doesn’t, I asked Daniels if he has noticed an evolution of what is funny and what is publicly acceptable to joke about today in our ever-changing, more and more connected society.
“Wow, that’s a good question. I think it’s different in terms of what you’re writing about – the themes and where society is, so the jokes that you’re making. I think that 10-15 years ago, we were making jokes to try and open people’s eyes that they can see clearly now. So, we don’t have to do the same exact kind of jokes, but I think people want to laugh, so jokes are a valuable thing to have nowadays.”
One of the most intriguing ways that Upload connects best with its streaming audience is that even though this type of elaborate virtual afterlife outlet does not actually exist (yet – or does it?), Upload writers’ narrative and theme hit sharply upon people’s growing obsession with technology. With many parallels between the Upload world and our real world, the series brings up several social issues we face today, often with its own comedic spin to lighten the mood, yet still making a point worth addressing.
Even with any great television writing, they are just words on a page until performed by its actors. Effectively embodying the well-layered characters brought to life on Upload, I spoke with this bright ensemble cast about their thoughts on technology today and how they approach their own social media pages. And as you might expect, this group of creatives share a wide range of beliefs about this hot, timely topic.
“Well, you know what’s so beautiful about social media is that it connects us from all over the world and there is this intimacy where I can talk to somebody across the oceans and they’re right here with me,” Andy Allo tells me, who stars as “Nora” on Upload. “At the same time, with people that are right next to us, there is that bit of disconnect and I think it’s about finding that balance, where we can see the benefits and the beauty of technology, but also still really valuing that in-person thing.”
“I have a love/hate relationship with social media,” says Robbie Amell, who plays one of the central characters “Nathan” on the Prime Video series. “I think it can beautiful but it’s also one of the most toxic places on the planet, so it’s tough. I think if you made everybody use their real name, I feel like it might change things a little bit, at least. I just feel like it’s a lot of hiding behind a screen name – anonymous negativity. It’s tough to say if the good outweighs the bad. If there was a giant ‘turn off’ button, you probably wouldn’t want me to hang around it.”
Addressing how technology and communication have changed since first introducing Upload to viewing audiences nearly two years ago, “Ingrid” actress Allegra Edwards says, “I think it’s astonishing that when we first premiered season one, it was May 2020 and all of our press interviews were via Zoom, which I had never heard of until May 2020. And in the world of Upload, everything is virtual, everything is on a screen, everything is a world away, and it’s just commonplace. I think globally that we realized Wow, virtual work is where it’s at! It’s so much closer than I ever thought it would be. It’s here.”
Kevin Bigley, who plays “Luke” on the series, sees technology and social media a bit different than his co-stars. “I think it’s terrifying. It’s all super scary for me. I mean, I live up in the mountains. I’m trying to run away from this stuff but the big thing that I think you realize with this show is it’s a bell you can’t unring. You can’t put it back in the box, so I think it’s just showing very logically where technology and how invasive it can be – and once you cut the red tape with these companies, they can run away with your privacy and all those things.”
Other Upload cast members seemed to have finally embraced the times we are in and seeing the advantages of easily connect with the outside world. Andrea Rosen, who plays “Lucy” on Upload, says that she recently decided to finally join TikTok, after resisting it for so long, as a creative outlet to share her comedy videos. Josh Banday (“Ivan” on the series) says he has immersed himself in TikTok, often finding himself almost unknowingly watching videos of others on the social media platform while he brushes his teeth.
Within Upload’s new season, writers introduce a community called “The Ludds,” a group of people who defy the advancements in technology and their world’s “Upload” trend. Inhabiting far into the woods (all about that poor reception service), “The Ludds” look to return to a simpler time and existence before technology took over, as they strive to strategically take down the virtual rise that has arguably altered the human condition.
Actress Zainab Johnson, who plays “Aleesha” on Upload, touches upon season two’s new group of “rebels” while sharing her thoughts about how Upload may be foreshadowing what is to come within our own real-life society. “Well, technology is not going anywhere, right? So we got to get on the train or you get left behind, but I think everything comes in cycles. I think that right now, we’re all in the ‘immediacy’ thing and I think at some point, we will get so inundated and be so overwhelmed that we will all want to slow down. And on the show, you’ll see ‘The Ludds’ who have people who are like No, we need to go back to what time was like before technology and I think it will come to that.”
At the age of 13, impressionable years on a young person’s mind during this digital age, actress Chloe Coleman (“Nevaeh” on Upload) speaks wise beyond her years seeing the opportunity that exists with this technology at our fingertips, saying that she finds it really important to use one’s voice for things that matter on social media. Chris Williams (who plays “Dave”) says he sees the good and the bad with social media, going on to say people know too much these days and people know too much of the wrong things, as well.
Last but certainly not least, in hilarious “A.I. Guy” character fashion bringing comic relief to nearly every scene he is in, Upload actor and writer Owen Daniels jokes that we as a society should fully embrace the technology of the “sex suit” that is often playfully referenced on the series, which allows residents of the virtual afterlife to physically experience a sense of touch with the living.
Beyond the many different outlooks on technology and social media today, what Upload excels in most these two seasons in is its ability to find the heart within all of these characters and bring out the best in them, even as the comedic chaos happening all around them continues onward and upward.
Being the mastermind behind this Upload universe, I concluded my conversations with more from creator and showrunner Greg Daniels, wondering his thoughts on the future of technology, which he agrees may in fact turn our everyday personal privacies into a thing of the past, if we are not careful.
“Right now, we spend tremendous amount of time on our screens,” Daniels continues. “It’s merging into the metaverse where we’re going to be actually in virtual reality, which is what our show’s about, what we’ve been previewing since the beginning of the show. What’s going to happen, I think, is that the notion of a public sphere in life where you can walk some place and meet somebody is going to be privatized by the companies that are presenting these virtual worlds. So, you’ll go there innocently making friends and everything, but it will all be being recorded and managed by somebody else. I don’t know, it’s a weird future coming.”