If you could customize your own afterlife, what earthly destination would its design most closely resemble? For folks lucky enough to spend their overnight visits to the Hudson Valley in a certain Victorian-era resort atop the Shawangunk Ridge, it would be highly tempting to choose the Mohonk Mountain House and its spectacular grounds as their template.
We are often told by our guests that ‘Mohonk is Heaven,’ so it’s not the first time we’ve heard of this concept,” says Alex Sherwood, director of hotel operations at Mohonk Mountain House. “Our guests and staff often talk about our mountaintop being an incredible place to reconnect with nature and how there’s something magical about the air up here, so we understand why the creator of the show would choose Mohonk as the backdrop.”
Sherwood is referencing a new TV series premiering this Friday, May 1 on Amazon Prime, titled Upload. Set in the year 2033, it’s satirical science fiction with the narrative premise that technology will soon permit a person near death to opt to be digitally uploaded instead to a virtual heaven. However, your quality-of-afterlife will be determined not by how righteous a life you led, but by how much you can afford to pay to maintain your subscription to eternity.
For most of us 99-percenters, there will be strict data-plan limits on what amenities we may continue to enjoy after we have shuffled off this mortal coil.
Because his fiancée’s (Allegra Edwards) family is wealthy, Nathan (Robbie Amell), the protagonist of Upload, gets to transition to a most attractive version of the afterlife, called Lakeview. Just one glance at the primary advertising poster for the first season of the series will confirm that Mohonk Mountain House is the inspiration for the show’s primary setting. A woman is peering into a pair of virtual reality goggles, whose lenses frame a certain very familiar castlelike structure, perched on a cliff overlooking a sparkling glacial lake. If you’ve ever been there, the turreted stone façade is utterly unmistakable.
This being social satire, Nathan’s perfect heavenly reward quickly goes awry, of course. Questions are raised as to whether his death at a young age in a collision involving a self-driving car was indeed accidental, and his indebtedness to his former prospective in-laws soon becomes burdensome. He also begins to get emotionally entangled with Nora (Andy Allo), the “angel” or customer service representative assigned to his afterlife account. She’s still alive and he isn’t, so their romance is awkward at best.
The new show is being eagerly anticipated by fans of The Office and Parks and Recreation, since showrunner Greg Daniels has been brewing this project for some 30 years. It originated as a concept for a skit when he was part of the writing stable at Saturday Night Live in the 1980s, only to be shelved repeatedly as Daniels worked on other shows that became progressively more successful. Upload will continue in his aesthetic tradition of half-hour single-camera sitcoms using ensemble casts of relatively unknown actors (who typically go on to greater fame as a result of their involvement with his projects, as Steve Carell, Chris Pratt, Mindy Kaling, John Krasinski, Aziz Ansari and Aubrey Plaza can attest). All ten episodes of the first season will drop at once this Friday, so if you’re homebound and bored (and an Amazon Prime subscriber), you can binge-watch to your heart’s content.
Most of the interior scenes were reportedly shot in Vancouver, but Mohonk is abundantly on display in the exterior shots. Although the most heart-stopping Shawangunk cliff and Lake Mohonk panoramas were taken from drones, it’s clear from some scenes in the trailer that the New Paltz hotel played host to the production as well – for instance, in a scene in which Nathan, seated on a veranda, makes the acquaintance of two guests occupying the room next door. Those are the Mountain House’s real verandas, all right.
“The cast and crew filmed here at Mohonk Mountain House for four days in November of 2017,” Alex Sherwood confirms. “The crew was very small, approximately eight to ten people, so we were able to have filming happen without many guests being aware the filming was going on.” Although a pan of the lakeshore used in the trailer depicts buildings adjoining the hotel that don’t exist in real life, Sherwood says that these special effects were added in postproduction; it was not necessary to construct green screens on-site.
“From scouting to further in-depth site visits to filming, the crew and teams were great. We spent a significant portion of the planning with crews, educating them on our operation and guest expectations so they understood our ongoing goal to provide exceptional guest service,” he adds. “We worked closely with them to be able to integrate their filming into the resort’s routine activities. With some timing and location flexibility, the production team was able to achieve their goals in filming while not impacting the guests’ experience.”
With images of the hotel being used so prominently in the series’ advertising campaign, the Mountain House is poised to leverage this heightened visibility in its own public-relations outreach. “Mohonk is thrilled to be included in this campaign and will be actively sharing the love for the show and our excitement about being featured as a version of ‘Heaven’ on the official Mohonk Facebook and Instagram accounts,” says Sherwood.
While a second season has not yet been greenlit, and there’s no guarantee that the story’s primary physical setting will remain the same, locals can only hope that Lakeview remains a happy place where visitors will want to live more or less permanently.
To watch the official trailer for Upload, visit here.