Greg Daniels is a writer and producer who has worked on The Simpsons, King of the Hill, The Office and Parks And Recreation. He has also directed many episodes for these last two series. He talks to us today about his work on Upload.
How did you get involved on this series?
This is a passion project that I have carried around in my writers notebooks literally since 1989. I pitched it as a book in 2008 during the TV writers strike and really developed it in this version in 2014, selling it in early 2015 to HBO on the basis of a detailed bible and the first two seasons of stories. The executive who bought it at HBO left and I was able to get the rights back and sell it to Amazon, and we have been working on it ever since.
How did you find the idea and topic for Upload?
The idea came to me while I was walking around midtown Manhattan looking at electronics stores advertising digital CD technology versus analog. While thinking about digitizing our own minds, I realized it meant mankind could literally program our own Heaven, which would then resemble human society with all its greed and problems. By the time I was writing it out in 2014, big internet tech companies had become very powerful and the idea was given more satiric potential.
What were your references and influences during the writing process?
My influences during the initial novel writing process were Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times, Kafka, and JK Rowling. Then in executing it as a series I was influenced by Spike Jones’s Her, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, and the old Alan Rickman movie Truly Madly, Deeply.
What are the advantages and disadvantages of writing a science fiction and anticipation series?
Writing a science fiction and anticipation series as a comedy is great fun because the world of the future as you imagine it can be a fresh area to make jokes in. Ie. I am starting with a premise that there is a near future where Upload (and 3D printing of food, and self-driving cars, etc.) is real, and that means a different world from the one we have now, and different comedy runs and jokes that you won’t have ever seen before.
What is your favorite anticipation and science fiction film?
How did you choose the directors and actors?
The actors were chosen through a long casting process of reading sides and bringing people back for chemistry reads and improvising. I am so thrilled with my cast. The directors were all people with great comedy experience and an expansive cinematic eye. I directed the first two episodes. The first was a year before the rest of the series. The other directors advanced the look and the world tremendously. It only gets better.
Where did you shoot the main sequences of the series?
The first episode was shot mostly in Los Angeles, and then we shot the rest of the show in Vancouver where we could find more forests and natural beauty for the historic Lakeview Hotel.
What is your best memory during this production?
I had a ton of fun memories shooting this with this enthusiastic and hilarious cast. One that stands out is when Ingrid (Allegra Edwards) visits Nathan (Robbie Amell) in Upload in a VR sex suit and has technical difficulties. Hot and hilarious and futuristic all at once.