[Editor’s note: The following contains spoilers for Season 2 of the Amazon series Upload.]From creator Greg Daniels (Parks and Recreation, The Office), the Amazon original sci-fi comedy series Upload, set in a technologically advanced future where humans can be uploaded into a virtual afterlife, has returned for a second season and continues to follow Nathan (Robbie Amell), a guy who’s left his more clueless life behind to find his better self, albeit in a virtual world. His very extra ex-girlfriend Ingrid (Allegra Edwards) has unexpectedly joined him while Nora (Andy Allo), who captured his heart as she was teaching him the ways of his new existence, is unaware of how he really feels, and all Nathan wants to do is figure out what his next steps are.
During this 1-on-1 interview with Collider, which you can both watch and read, Amell talked about how he brings more of himself to Nathan than any other character he’s played, why this show has never been more relevant, the journey his character goes on in Season 2, working with a showrunner that’s super collaborative, the Nathan and Nora dynamic, what went into shooting the most stand-out scene of the season, and what he’s hoping for in a possible third season.
Collider: You had a bit of a break between Season 1 and Season 2. Was this a character that was pretty easy to find again? Is he someone that you had to remember who he was and where you left him?
ROBBIE AMELL: No, I think Nathan is probably the most of myself that I bring to any project I’ve shot. Just from day one, reading the pilot, we have the same mannerisms, same sense of humor, same speech and cadence. It just felt like Greg [Daniels] wrote him for me, which I know he didn’t. It just felt very, very at home for me. I loved shooting the first season so much, I only grew more into that. Greg’s really great at finding his actors’ voices and bringing them to the characters. It was such a great cliffhanger that it was tough to forget where I left off.
What was it like coming back to this virtual world, after experiencing such a hard pivot to virtual living during the pandemic? Did it give you a different appreciation for the story that the show is telling, or make you think about any of it any differently?
AMELL: It’s never been more relevant, that’s for sure. The interesting thing is that Greg is a technology psychic. He’s got some kind of crystal ball because a ton of stuff that he talks about in the show ends up coming to life. It’s a little frustrating that it takes so long for the show to come out because sometimes this stuff comes up while we’re editing. Once a month, our Upload group chat sends a new article about something that was in our show, that happens to be happening in real life. Facebook’s Meta-verse just called themselves Horizon. I’m like, “This is just way too weird. This is straight out of our show.”
It’s interesting to watch your character this season because he feels like he’s in a bit of a different place, now that he knows he was murdered, Ingrid is in Lakeview, and he doesn’t know where Nora is. What was it like to pull the rug out from under everything you knew about him in the first season?
AMELL: He’s really two different people in the first season, anyway. If you watch episode one and episode 10, there’s a big change in who this guy was. Part of it, maybe, was having those memories blocked and not knowing the poor decisions he made, but a lot of it was meeting Nora and learning from her, growing as a person, and realizing what’s important in life. In Season 2, all of that has fallen apart. He’s lost the woman that he loves. He wasn’t able to tell her he loves her. He doesn’t know where she is. He doesn’t know if she’s okay. And here’s the crazy ex, who he was finally rid of, or got some space from, and she owns him again.
The way I looked at it was that, without Ingrid, he’s stuck in two gig. He’s got no data. He can’t find Nora. He’s useless. So, he has to play this game, and just put on a happy face with Ingrid and pretend everything’s okay, while he tries to find Nora. In the time that he’s doing that, life is happening for Nora. She meets somebody else. If they could just see each other, maybe things would be different, but they can’t. So she’s starting to move on, and he’s starting to realize that maybe she doesn’t want to be found. He looks at the world and his life and has to think, “Okay, I used to love this girl. She uploaded for me. That’s a big deal. Maybe I’m indebted to her. I’ve gotta see this through and see if there’s anything there.” And then, Nora shows up again.
Like with Season 1 and the cliffhanger that season had, there are a number of twists in the story before we get to the end of Season 2. How much did you know, at the start of the season? Did you go into filming this season, knowing where things would end up, or did you have to learn that somewhere along the way?
AMELL: Greg was super collaborative. He had us into the writers’ room in February. They had started writing a little bit of the story outline before we premiered, in case it went well. We went right before COVID took hold of the world, and they talked to us about what we liked, what we thought about the characters, and where we wanted to see them go. By the time we were shooting, which was in January or February of 2021, I would say three-quarters of the scripts were fully written, and we had a good idea of what these arcs were.
I think we had one through five, and then six and seven were being fleshed out and polished, and trying to decide on what that cliffhanger was gonna be. Greg’s pretty adamant about us knowing where we’re going. He likes to know the season-long arc, and that helps, as an actor. It feels really good. You’re able to talk about problems or things, before the day of. You can go, “Well, this feels a little odd,” or “This feels a little odd,” and you can make tiny adjustments, along the way.
There are back-to-back crazy things happening in the last two episodes of this season. With Nathan and Nora finally getting to reunite and reconnect, what was it like to actually have that moment? What did you enjoy about actually getting to bring those characters together, in an even more real way than they were in the first season?
AMELL: That was a nice moment where I was able to step back and look at the show, as a fan. I’m a huge Greg Daniels fan. If I wasn’t on the show, I would watch it and be so pissed off that I wasn’t Nathan. I’m a huge fan of the actors that I work with, and the writers. Owen [Daniels], who wrote episode seven, Greg’s son, is just so thoughtful in his stories while still maintaining such a great level of humor. He had my favorite episode in season one, and in season two. It just felt like such an important moment between those two. It was two seasons, in the making. They’ve never seen each other in real life. Literally, anyone could have chemistry with Andy [Allo]. She’s so sweet and charming and likable, so my job was very easy. All the emotions were already there. I’m a fan. It was easy to just look at it like, “What would I wanna see, if I was watching the show?”
It’s really nice for them to have that payoff, especially after the very strange trip, where he’s hanging around her neck on a screen while they’re walking around New York. That was such an odd visual, so it was nice to actually see them share the same space in real life.
AMELL: Yeah. It literally was two seasons in the making, and had so many close calls. In the second episode of Season 1, you see a head explode when they download. You don’t necessarily think that’s something that’s gonna be possible in Season 2, and maybe it shouldn’t have been.
I have to admit, I’m very worried that things are not going to end well, when the show comes back. There’s this very real chance that it could all backfire. What are you hoping for, in that regard? Have you had conversations? Season 3 is already being worked on so do you have any idea what happens next?
AMELL: I think that the finale gives you a good idea of where things are going. I think that little montage of where everybody in our world is, at the moment, sets up for a pretty exciting third season. With one of my favorite shows, Game of Thrones, the penultimate episode was normally my favorite episode of the season. Everything happened in that episode, and then the next episode, which was normally episode 10, was like, “Here’s everything that’s gonna happen next season.” So, I feel like episode seven was our penultimate episode, and that’s a more fun way to finish. I’m not sure what’s gonna happen in Season, but I think we got a little taste of it, at the end. I don’t know how many Nathans there are gonna be. One is in real life, one is being rebooted from a save file, and one might be getting cloned by Ingrid, so I might be working really hard next season.
Somehow, his head is regrown, then maybe it could explode again, and then there’s this backup file, and now he’s got a nose bleed. My mind was blown, I don’t know what any of it means, and I have no idea where any of it will go.
How do you feel about the fact that the download might not be successful and that you might have to be playing one of these other versions of him?
AMELL: That would be super fun. Whether I’m reverted back to the old Nathan, who’s the materialistic douchebag, or I have to play opposite myself, which is a nightmare, but also really fun, I don’t know. There are people much more qualified than me to make those decisions, and I’m really lucky to have Greg steering the ship. Whatever he has in store, I’m just excited to be a part of it.
One of the scenes that stood out the most for me this season was the one where you were in the water and Matteo (Paulo Costanzo) was trying to lift you out. I kept cracking up because that scene was so hilarious. What was that like to do? How do you get through that without laughing, or can you even get through that without laughing?
AMELL: With great difficulty. I almost broke, a few times. Once when he had my ankles and shins up around his head, I was just like, “What the hell is going on?” When he pulled me one way, he was like, “Just slap me in the face with your dead arms.” I was like, “All right, man.” He did Designated Survivor with my wife (Italia Ricci), so we at least had known each other a little bit, before he totally manhandled me in a diaper. It was definitely a top three weirdest days of filming I’ve ever had.
I just kept thinking that it must be so hard to shoot something like that because you can’t have any reaction. Your character is not aware and has no idea what’s happening. I can’t even imagine what it must be like to have to go through that.
AMELL: It was very odd. I had to keep my eyes closed, the whole time. All I could hear was him struggling and grunting. And my legs were flying everywhere. It was very odd.
Especially for the poor new guy joining the show, to then have to be in that moment.
AMELL: Yeah, it was odd. It makes sense with Upload. It’s a nice way for him to get into the family.
Just when you feel like maybe you can sympathize with Ingrid (Allegra Edwards), she has to reveal that she didn’t really die and didn’t really upload herself, and she’s just been pretending this whole time. How did you feel about that? How does Nathan feel about that?
AMELL: One of my favorite things is when the audience knows something that the characters don’t. I love that the audience finds out, pretty early, that she is hug suiting it, and I don’t find out until that baby prototyke scene, which is one of my favorite scenes to have filmed. Allegra’s so good. That scene was so funny. She really walks that tightrope of being able to say some horrible things to people, but then you still love her again. All it takes is one or two lines. So, I love that Nathan’s really trying to be there for her and finally works up the courage to be like, “I can’t do this anymore.” That’s really hard for him. He hates it when people cry. And then, she says, “I’m hug suiting it,” and this giant weight is lifted. He’s like, “Great. I owe you nothing.”
I thought that was such a nice moment. We shot it a bunch of different ways. I was like, “Greg, let me just celebrate this.” And he was like, “Yeah, try one.” And that ended up being the one. And then, you quickly find out that I need her again because she’s growing my body back and now she’s gonna kill my body. And then, you feel for her again, when she’s tied up in the chair. She’s so good at making you go, “Oh, you poor thing, even though you say horrible things to people, and you’re such a terrible person.”
Upload is available to stream at Prime Video.
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