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Interview: Creator and Executive Producer Greg Daniels on Season Two of ‘Upload’

The future-facing comedy Upload returns for its second season on Friday, March 11th. Its vision of a digital afterlife gets an upgrade in season two, with a new spotlight on an anti-technology faction seeking to take down the corporation that wants to be the home of the rich when they die. It’s just as fun and thought-provoking, a welcome return almost two years after it first started for one of the best shows on Prime Video today.

Awards Radar had the chance to speak with series creator and executive producer Greg Daniels, whose credits also include The Office, Parks and Recreation, and Space Force, about his approach to season two, a shorter season, and what else he has in the pipeline.

Q: How are you doing today?

A: I’m good. So, are you in New York?

Q: I’m in LA. What about you?

A: Oh, LA too.  

Q: I liked the hot stretch we had a few days ago. Hoping for that again soon.

A: I don’t know, it’s confusing. I don’t know whether to wear a sweater or not in the morning.

Q: Well, fortunately, we don’t have these problems in Lakeview, right? Don’t have to worry about artificial temperature.

A: Don’t have a sweater, you just adjust the dial to summer, and you’re good.

Q: That actually leads perfectly into my first question. Do you think that we’ve gotten closer to the technology that we see on the show in the time between season one and season two in the real world?

A: 100%. The announcement of the multiverse was so hilarious to me and the writers because they are even naming the portal Horizon, which is the name in our show of the company that hosts the Lakeview digital afterlife. So we already have all these T-shirts with Horizon and stuff on them that make it even more relevant, I think.

Q: I like season two a lot. I think it gets a lot more into the drama than season one. Do you feel like it’s more serious, or is that just part of the show’s natural evolution?

A: Gosh, I don’t know. To me, it was just maybe more world expanding. I thought it was about the same in tone. But that’s an interesting observation. I’ll see what people think. The attempt is to be romantic and intense and funny. I guess depending on what you’ve been through in the last two years, you might find it more dramatic.

Q: I think it’s a good thing. I think it’s still very funny, especially with Luke and other parts of the show, there’s definitely a lot of humor there. We also get this new world with the New York City iPad tour and the Ludds just out and far away from technology. That felt like something new and really separate.

A: Yeah. I do think that what is fun when you’re building a world is to continually build it out. To have an episode with the Tri-Wizard Tournament or something like that, and just learn a bit more about what life is like in the future. To see where the Ludds live up in the woods and how they look at things is interesting. Seeing what the ads are on the streets of New York and stuff.

Q: I think my only disappointment with season two was that it’s only seven episodes. Is there a reason for that?

A: Well, I think that basically there was a pandemic that we were shooting in, and there’s so much post that if we had added another several episodes, we would have added another I don’t know how many months until it could come out. In the writing of it, when that script came in, it came in very strong and very juicy, and we all kind of looked at each other and said, hey, maybe this is the finale. It felt like a good place to stop.

Q: That’s fair. I think that’s also true for another show that you’ve worked on that premiered its second season recently on Netflix: Space Force, which also has a perfect ending even if I wish there were a few more episodes in there somewhere.

A: Yeah, well I think it’s better to have people wishing there were a few more episodes than to have people wishing there were a few less episodes.

Q: I do think that’s a big evolution that we’ve come through, partially with streaming, even after cable, that we used to have these 23-24 episode seasons. Obviously, some of them are very good, and there are some classic sitcoms and comedy shows where that does work, but now we’re seeing a lot more of the concentrated quality in smaller numbers.

A: You do have to up your game. I definitely feel like people have so many things to watch, there’s so many choices. For me, if I don’t have good cinematography, I may not watch the show. I want it to be really good in all different directions, and for that to happen, it takes a lot of effort in post, and a lot of money. They are long half-hours though, for Upload, they’re like 32-33 minutes.

Q: Right. And the other thing is that both of those shows that we’re talking about are dropping all at once, which is a great thing if you want to binge. Me, I don’t like to binge. I want to make it last as long as possible.

A: I do feel that what you miss, especially with a show like Upload, that it’s romantic and has ups and downs, you miss people wondering what’s going to happen next week and talking about it. My hope is that, for fans of the show who can’t watch it within the first week or two, is that nobody spoils it for them and tells them everything that’s going to happen. You can’t prevent it.

Q: I do think that we have some interesting romantic journeys in season two that never seem to be right at the forefront. They’re always supporting something else. I like that. I like that it’s not quite predictable, and it should never be the first thing you’re thinking about because there’s always so much else going on.

A: Yeah, I think that’s really a good way to tell a story. If you focus on it too hard, suddenly people can start thinking about what’s happening next and there’s a lot of pressure. If you surprise them like a good magician because they’re looking one way and then you come in with something else, the art of distraction seems like a good part of storytelling.

Q: I also think it’s very common in a second season to see this whole influx of new characters. We really don’t have that here. There are a few Ludds, but that’s it. It’s an interesting choice that works well. Was that purposeful?

A: You sound like you’ve thought a lot about TV. I was like, oh, cool, new characters, maybe I should have done that when you said that. But no, I really love the cast that we have. We have three new series regulars this year out of the people from last year, Josh Banday, who plays Ivan, the A.I. guy is a series regular, and Lucy. So we have seven or eight actual characters to service, and with only seven episodes, there’s not a lot of room to bring in a guest star for too much. But we needed Paulo Castanzo to come in, he was great.

Q: I agree, he’s terrific. I’m hoping that once this season premieres, the renewal timing will be similar to what it was last time, very, very quick. I’m curious – how many seasons of this show do you have mapped out?

A: Well, when I sold the show, which was in 2014, I went around town pitching it everywhere, and I had two seasons in the pitch. I very confidently threw the packet down and was like, here it is. We’ve done a bunch of the ideas that were in those things. But you don’t know who’s going to pop in the cast and you don’t know how the world will change and everything. I definitely have a sense of where it would go but I’m very open to making some adjustments. The writing process is a process of rewrites anyway. I’m very comfortable with that. As long as it’s improving and feels supported and true to itself in each draft, then I’m happy to keep punching it up as long as I can.

Q: Great. I loved season one, I liked season two just as much. I’m very excited for everyone to see it, and I hope we get to talk again about this and other projects.

A: Thanks so much, Abe. Nice to talk to you!

All seven episodes of season two of Upload premiere on Friday, March 11th on Prime Video.

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Written by Abe Friedtanzer

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