'Upload' star Zainab Johnson confirms Season 2, and the future of Nathan and Nora's relationship
Zainab Johnson, who plays Nora's colleague and close friend Aleesha on the show, opens up about her experience working on the show, her beliefs on a digital afterlife, as well as Season 2
Amazon Prime's show 'Upload' took viewers from a digital trip to heaven with its not-so-futuristic refreshing tale of two star-crossed lovers, Nathan (Robbie Amell) and Nora (Andy Allo). The show had the elements of a satire, comedy as well as a thriller. In an exclusive interview with MEA Worldwide, Zainab Johnson, who plays Nora's colleague and close friend Aleesha on the show, opens up about her experience working on the show, her beliefs on a digital afterlife, as well as Season 2.
1) What did you like most about playing the character of Aleesha?
The things about Aleesha in all the 'angels', is that we exist in the real world as well as in the digital world, in 2033. I get to play a little bit, I get to create a digital avatar for myself. On television, you see an angel who is always of service. While Aleesha does service, she is also a disciplinarian and sets guidelines.
2) How was it working with Andy Allo?
Andy was absolutely fantastic. I met her for the first time at the table-read. She and Robbie were at the center, and I was to her left. And I remember, the first time meeting her was instant chemistry, laughter girl talk, collaboration.
3) Your character spars a lot with Luke, played by Kevin Bigley on the show. How was your off-screen equation with him?
Kevin is fantastic, smart, caring, and insightful. He really has your back in a scene and is so supportive. It was really funny to go from a deep conversation when we were not shooting and then be Luke and Aleesha. Had to really work up the energy to be bothered by him. From the pilot, Luke was always one of my favorite characters. If you noticed in the pilot, Luke and Aleesha don't interact. When I saw his performance in the table-read, I was like Luke is going to be one of my favorite characters.
4) The show's premise centers on the idea of 'uploading' yourself into a digital version of heaven. What are your views on such a possibility?
The possibility really scares me. It is scary because it is something that I haven't seen outside this show. While I love technology, it's still kind of scary...because as we know, technology fails. My GPS hasn't taken me to the right direction sometimes, or worse, a dead end. My phone for some reason doesn't perform. When you think of your being or consciousness, or will, held by a technology company, who only cares about the money it is generating, that's scary to me.
4) Would you ever like to try it?
I'm too afraid. I wouldn't say never, but I definitely wouldn't be the first upload. I would wait until there were very few kinks in the testing. A part of the show explores Nora and father, her father, and his father wants heaven. I was raised Muslim. For me, I think, a lot of how I am rooted is in faith, and God and heaven. That aspect makes it difficult for me to buy into a digital afterlife.
5) The show is not only humorous and satirical, but it also has elements of a thriller...
I remember reading the script and Greg Daniels would also ask us how we are feeling about it and wanted our contributions. I remember telling him, after reading the first five episodes, that this was the first time I was reading a comedy that felt like a thriller.
6) It also leaves us with a cliffhanger and a way for Season 2. What's going to happen to Nathan and Nora?
I think that was a genius move on Greg's part. You want it to be a page-turner, and you want people to want more. And what's even better is that we found out that we got renewed for a Season 2! Amazon ordered a Season 2, and we premiered just a week ago. If you've seen the last episode, you see Ingrid showing up. You have to ask who's going to be her angel, what does Nathan and Nora's relationship look like, with Ingrid being there in the afterlife. There are so many possibilities.
5) Ironically, even this version of heaven has a cost. The rich and affluent get grand resorts, while others reside in tiny cubicles. Is this mirroring the capitalist state of affairs in the world?
Absolutely. That's a big part of the show, capitalism in social class. Even as technology advances, the type of technology you can afford, depends on your socio-economic status. That's what is happening today in corporations, class systems in all parts of the world. This is just what would happen if our current situation gets worse and worse. It could be the best heaven...if you have the money
7) Would you choose to work on more such sci-fi shows?
I would, I wasn't a sci-fi person growing up. I never got into sci-fi. This was a lot of fun, and the sci-fi genre reminds you of the animation genre as you can explore your imagination a lot more, and it reminds you of what you could do in real life.
8) Do tell us about your upcoming projects.
I had another show called '100 Humans' on Netflix, and I can't get wait to get back on stage...get back and perform live. I've been developing a show on my own life. I'm looking forward to getting back to working on that.