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Robbie Amell

The Canadian actor, 31, on his new drama about the afterlife, his current life on lockdown and steering clear of self-drive cars

Upload is an original idea for a drama…

It is pretty out-there. Greg Daniels (writer of the US version of The Office) thought of the concept 30 years ago when he was writing for Saturday Night Live and nobody would touch it because it was too out-there. But then with the success of Black Mirror and The Good Place everybody was all over it. He created such an interesting world that balances comedy, drama, sci-fi and romantic comedy with a murder mystery. It’s a cross-genre stew, as he calls it, and the way that he writes dialogue resonates with my own sense of humour. It made it really natural for me playing Nathan.

It’s a mind-blowing concept — quite literally because Nathan’s head is blown off — that you can be uploaded to an afterlife. Does it scare you?

I love the concept. Life is this gloomy place where people are wearing masks like they are today — although that was more a take on climate change and pollution in the future. The reason life is so special is because it’s not forever — everybody wants more time. So it’s a great option to continue into a digital afterlife; you get there and it’s bright, colourful and beautiful but you can’t work so it’s essentially a retirement home.

Out-there: Robbie as Nathan in Upload

Nathan dies in a in a self-drive car — has it made you think twice about driving one?

I have a Tesla and I won’t use the auto drive, and that was before the show. I don’t want to be the one that it happens to. And I also really enjoy driving. It’s tough for me to trust a machine when I’m flying down the highway surrounded by other cars.

Did it make you think about what you’d choose for your own afterlife?

I’d hope to be successful enough in this life to afford the good version of the afterlife but regardless, the things that are important to me are my friends and family so I’d want to be where they are. But I do love golfing so when Nathan played it in one of the episodes, I got to go golfing while being paid to do a TV show!

Are you a techie?

I am. I’m sitting in my game chair with my two Xboxes behind me; I love video games and gadgets. I got my first cell phone in sixth grade and the idea of an iPhone? Please — absolutely not! I remember an episode of The Simpsons when Marge and Lisa are video phoning back from a future episode and you thought, ‘Yeah, right’. Now I FaceTime my family every day.

Does our current situation make everyone appreciate things more?

I think people realise they took a lot for granted. Everybody wanted to stay home and binge-watch television and then when you’re forced to do it, it gets old pretty quickly. My wife and I have the luxury of being able to stay at home but for a lot of people this is presenting a real trouble and it’s a scary time. Hopefully, we can come out of it OK and it doesn’t last as long as it seems like it might.

What are you doing during lockdown?

I’m at home in Los Angeles. My mother in law got in to town right before everything got bad as I was supposed to be in Cannes for the film festival so we just extended her trip to stay here until everything, hopefully, goes back to normal one day. It feels like a movie. We started watching Contagion a couple of weeks ago and I was like, ‘This is too much’. We have a seven-month-old baby so we’re playing everything pretty safe. Days go by and it’s only 2pm, and I’m like, ‘Oh my goodness!’.

Were you in the middle of filming something?

It looked like I was going to shoot a movie about now but then everything is on hold. We’re in pre-production on a sequel to a movie we did for Netflix called Code 8. But the acting industry is a tough thing to do with social distancing so it’ll be interesting to see when productions can go back to work.

New perspective: Robbie with wife Italia Ricci PICTURES: REX

You star in Code 8 with your cousin Stephen — did you get a kick from that?

Yeah, it was really fun. It was weird to get to go to work and hang out with friends and family because everyone that made the movie were friends of ours. The amount of sweat equity in the movie is wild. Nobody took a big payday, it was just everybody wanted to be there, so getting to share the number one movie on Netflix has been pretty overwhelming.

Has becoming a dad changed the work you choose?

It’s a giant perspective shift. Before Upload I knew my wife and I were going to want to start a family. She was on a show called Designated Survivor at the time that shot in Toronto for nine months of the year so I knew I didn’t want a nine-months-a-year show myself because we’d be travelling to see each other every weekend, which is so difficult. So I said to my agents, ‘I want a half-hour comedy on a streaming network with a great producer’, and I fished my wish! Upload came along and it just happened to tick all those boxes. I’m really excited for people to see it. The way the world is right now, it’ll be a bit of escapism for people to have a laugh and forget about things for a minute.

Upload season one is available as a box set on Amazon Prime Video now