Upgraded Director Carlson Young On Her Art Taste & Acting Background

By z20z.com 9 Min Read


  • Prime Video’s new rom-com “Upgraded” combines the traditional trope of mistaken identity with a vibrant energy, led by Camila Mendes as the tenacious protagonist Ana Santos.
  • The film follows Ana as she navigates between the demands of her job and the desires of a romantic encounter, resulting in a charming romance and a refreshing female-centric workplace comedy.
  • Director Carlson Young collaborated closely with Mendes, who served as an executive producer, emphasizing trust and intuition in bringing Ana’s character to life. Young’s acting background shaped her approach to directing, creating a safe space for vulnerability.

Prime Video is flying high with Upgraded, a new romcom that has arrived just in time for Valentine’s Day and Galentine’s Day alike. Director Carlson Young (The Blazing World) infuses the traditional trope of mistaken identity with a vibrant energy that is perfectly in line with the screenplay’s ambitious protagonist. Camila Mendes (Riverdale) leads the cast as an art gallery intern named Ana Santos, whose lucky break in the art world comes when her boss Claire Dupont (Marisa Tomei) requests her presence on a work trip to London.

After winding up in first class, Ana meets Will (played by Shadow and Bone star Archie Renaux) and is accidentally taken for an art dealer in her own right. From there, things spiral as she volleys between the demands of her job and the desires of Will’s mother Catherine (Lena Olin), which happen to conflict with Claire’s goals. At once a charming romance and a female-centric workplace comedy, Upgrade‘s positive reviews reflect Young’s impressive balancing act.

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Screen Rant interviewed Young about collaborating with Mendes as not only Upgrade‘s protagonist but also a producer, as well as which was her favorite art piece from the movie, and how her experience as an actor influences her directing style.

Director Carlson Young Talks Upgraded, Art, And Love Of Acting

Screen Rant: I really enjoyed Upgraded. I thought it was such a fun and different take on the typical romcom storyline. I read that you brought a lookbook into the meeting and already had this vision for the movie. What was it that spoke to you about the story, and what did you most want to emphasize?

Carlson Young: I thought the script was so playful and fun and was familiar tropes, but my entry point into the material, I felt like, was specific to me. I really connected with Ana’s character and just the tenacity that she has in this set of circumstances that are all stacked against her when breaking into a near-impossible world. I really related to that, and that resonated with me. The charm and wit that she has doing it, I was like, “I want to be like that.” It was just this really pure [feeling of] relating to her character.

And then I just felt like it was a story about three women. I felt like that’s what was coming through for me. The romance, of course, was a fun part of the script. But I found the relationship between her and Claire and her and Catherine really compelling.

Speaking of Ana, I know Camila was an executive producer on the project. What was that back and forth like with her? What kind of collaboration do you have on who Ana is and how we’re presenting her?

Carlson Young: Yeah. We collaborated a lot, and Camila is such an intuitive actress and has phenomenal instincts. I think I just trusted her right away. She’s got great taste, and I was like, “Her ideas were great.” That’s the dream to have as a director; that trust between your actors. I was very lucky to have that with her.

Ana (Camila Mendes) holds a glass of champagne on a plane in Upgraded

When you are making a movie with a main character whose passion is art, I assume you want to make sure you’ve got some good taste in art there. Do you have a favorite artist or get a favorite artist from working on the movie?

Carlson Young: The [Hilma] af Klint was funny because it was originally written as this simple Barnett Newman piece, and we couldn’t get it cleared last minute. The production designer was like, “What about Hilma af Klint?” And I was like, “Whoa, I haven’t thought of her, but I love her work.” When The Swan came to our table, it was such a no-brainer.

She’s such a fascinating artist, and I think she’s making a resurgence right now. Everyone’s intrigued again, and she has such a cool story, so I was happy to use that piece.

Finally, I think it’s really cool when directors have acting background as well. You were great in Scream: The Series. How do you think that your approach to directing is shaped by having acted?

Carlson Young: Yeah, it’s shaped a lot. Acting was my first love. It’s how I learned about this world, and it’s how I learned about how sets work and everything, so it was very much my education in this job. I think I know how – or at least my attempt is – to create a safe container for my actors to be vulnerable.

Acting is a really vulnerable job and I know that. I remember that. I’ve experienced that. If I do my job well, then I can just create this line between us to where I see you, you see me. You feel safe to just let it all go, because once I get into the edit, I can craft it to be something we can both be proud of, hopefully.

About Upgraded

Ana (Camila Mendes) and William (Archie Renaux) flirt with their eyes in UPGRADED

In this romantic comedy, Ana Santos (Camila Mendes) is a smart and ambitious art enthusiast with dreams of running her own gallery. She is currently paying dues as an unpaid trainee at a premiere NYC auction house, run by the influential and demanding Claire Dupont (Marisa Tomei). When Ana is sent on her first work trip and gets unexpectedly upgraded to first class, she meets the handsome and well-connected Will (Archie Renaux), who mistakes Ana for her boss– a white lie that sets off a series of fortuitous events and VIP introductions that suddenly have Ana winning at work and caught up in a whirlwind romance she never expected. However, this little white lie begins to unravel, threatening to ruin Ana’s career and newfound romance.

Check out our other interviews here:


is now streaming on Prime Video.

Source: Screen Rant Plus

Upgraded temp logo movie poster

Upgraded is a romantic comedy film by director Carlson Young. Camila Mendes stars as Ana, a young artist brought to London during her internship along with her handsome and wealthy boss, William.

Release Date
February 9, 2024

Carlson Young

Camila Mendes , Archie Renaux , Marisa Tomei , Lena Olin , Anthony Head , Saoirse-Monica Jackson

Christine Lenig , Justin Matthews , Luke Roberts , Karl Hall

Gulfstream Pictures , Luber Roklin Entertainment , Tempo Productions

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