LOS ANGELES, May 1 (UPI) -- Robbie Amell began to film his new sci-fi comedy Upload in January 2018. He was shocked to find that the show, which premieres Friday on Amazon Prime, had predicted people would be wearing masks in public.
Upload takes place in a future in which people can be uploaded to a digital afterlife before they die. The show's futurescape depicts people wearing masks on the subway. Creator Greg Daniels (The Office, Parks and Recreation) could not have known in 2018 that his show would air during a pandemic that required people to use masks.
"That actually had nothing to do with a virus of any kind," Amell told UPI in a phone interview. "That was more of a take on pollution and what the world might be like in 15 years."
In the show, Nathan (Amell) is injured in a self-driving car accident. With his life hanging in the balance, he decides to be uploaded just in case his physical body cannot be saved. Once he is uploaded, he cannot return to his body.
Another character in the future is ailing with a condition called "chronic vape lung." Daniels anticipated medical complications from vaping before cases of lung damage among vapers emerged last year.
"When they talk about vape lungs, that wasn't really a thing," Amell continued. "None of the reports about vaping being so harsh or detrimental had come out yet."
Nathan uploads himself to Lakeview, a lavish resort environment in the cloud. He can communicate with living people via video chat and even make physical contact if they are wearing virtual reality suits. His digitized brain can live in Lakeview infinitely.
"They've now talked about trying to map the human brain," Amell said. "They're mapping smaller animal brains to try and potentially be able to do what we do in the show, or a version of that but that's a long way off."
Amell hopes Upload viewers understand these real life parallels were entirely coincidental.
"The show is more relevant now than ever," Amell said. "The only problem is some of the stuff that we shot came true in real life. It looks like art imitating life when really it ended up being life imitating art."
Upload also explores its characters living virtual lives, isolating themselves and only connecting with people remotely. Nathan's video connections with the living world are an extreme example of that.
He also falls in love with Nora (Andy Allo), the technical support worker who guides him through Lakeview.
"The relationship that he builds with Nora becomes stronger than any of the friends that he did have in the real world," Amell said. "I think the two of them are looking for something when they meet each other and they find it in one another."
Nora's father is the one suffering from vape lung. With his impending death, Nora tries to persuade him to upload into Lakeview. This gives Nathan perspective on the problems people have beyond his adjustment to Lakeview, and it makes him admire Nora.
"The more they get to know each other, the more their relationship builds and feels like it could be something more," Amell said. "Again, they're always going to have that hurdle of one's real and one isn't."
Upload came at a time of transition in Amell's life, though fortunately not as drastic as Nathan's. He wanted to start a family with his wife, Italia Ricci, so was looking for more stability.
"I talked to my agent and I said, 'My wife and I are looking to start a family in the near or not-so-distant future. I'm not really looking for an hour-long drama that's nine months a year. So I would like a half-hour comedy,'" Amell recalled.
Amell and Ricci have a son, Robert Amell V, born Sept. 12. With Season 1 of Upload wrapped, Amell can stay home with them.
"Right now we're just doing our part to flatten the curve," Amell said, referring to the COVID-19 pandemic. "We're staying home. We're lucky enough to be able to do that, so we're just taking it easy and spending time with the family."
Upload Season 1 premieres Friday on Amazon Prime.