Snack Shack Interview: Mika Abdalla & Nick Robinson Talk Throwback Comedy

Snack Shack
Credit: Paramount

ComingSoon Editor-in-Chief Tyler Treese spoke with Snack Shack stars Mika Abdalla and Nick Robinson about the coming-of-age comedy movie. The duo spoke about filming in Nebraska and what it was like to make a movie set in the 1990s. Snack Shack is set to premiere in theaters on March 15, 2024.

“Nebraska City, summer of 1991 — Inseparable best friends AJ (Conor Sherry – Are You Afraid of the Dark?, The Terminal List) and Moose (Gabriel LaBelle — The Fabelmans) seize the opportunity to run the local pool’s rundown snack shack after their plan to gamble on dog races and sell home-brewed beer goes down the drain,” reads the movie’s synopsis. “Dreaming of striking it rich, things take an unexpected turn when they meet summer visitor Brooke (Mika Abdalla — Sex Appeal, SWAT), an effortlessly cool lifeguard who puts their big summer plans, and their friendship, at risk.”

Tyler Treese: Mika, you share so many great scenes with Conor Sherry in this film. What really stood out about him as a scene partner for you to show your range off with?

Mika Abdalla: Conor’s just so funny, and he’s really great with physical comedy. I think the first scene I ever shot with him was the scene where Brooke and A.J. meet, and he’s sneezing, and Conor’s actually allergic to everything. He was shoving a blade of grass up his nose before every take to make himself sneeze, and he looked like … none of that’s makeup. He just looked like a wreck because he was exploding from all the pollen. He is A.J. [Laughs]. He was A.J. while we were shooting. I feel like Brooke’s laughing at him half the time, and he made it really easy to do that.

That’s an incredible story. Nick, your character’s so fun. You’re the older character, and all the kids are looking up to you. What did you like most about that dynamic and ushering in these two little mischievous kids as they’re coming of age?

Nick Robinson: Yeah, it was fun to be the older brother; to be the one they could look up to or talk to if they couldn’t talk to their parents about something, or just being that mentor figure was a fun part. And also, Shane’s based on a real character, so it felt like big shoes to fill. It was this real person who had made a huge impact on Adam, our director, and a lot of people in the town. I ended up meeting his family and folks that knew him and he was just this larger-than-life character. So you try and do him justice as much as you can.

Mika, what did you find most relatable about Brooke?

Abdalla: Yeah, I grew up in the industry, and I frequently missed out on things because I had to go to work or I was traveling, and I am pretty used to being so immersed or like enmeshed with a group of people for a couple of weeks or a couple of months and then splitting ways and not really knowing if you’re ever going to see those people again. It also kind of forced me to grow up a lot faster than I would’ve had to otherwise. So I think that all kind of ties into Brookes being an army brat and moving around and being a lot older than she really is.

Nick, meeting Adam’s parents — Snack Shack is such a personal story for him. How was it filming in Nebraska City? That had to make it all the more personal and really got you to feel the vibe of the story.

Robinson: Yeah, I thought it was a really smart choice. It felt like you were entering into this world that just existed and was fully formed. I don’t think Nebraska City has changed too much since 1991, when Adam was working the pool. He also was very generous with his memories and would take us around and say, “Oh, well, that’s where that happened,” or, “That’s that person.” All of that combined to make it feel like a very natural organic thing to fit into. I think I showed up — they’d already been shooting, and I was one of the last hires, and it felt very natural coming into it, meeting everyone and making this little unit for the summer.

Mika, how was it being transported back in time to 1991 and getting to wear the fashion from that era while doing this time capsule film?

Abdalla: It was really fun. I feel like a lot of the ’90s trends are coming back. Everyone I know has a film camera. The fashion was stuff that I would totally wear today. Then the cars that we were driving were so cool. The Jeep that I drive was actually one of our stand-in’s cars that he just let us use — just stuff like that. It was really cool and it felt very aesthetically pleasing to me.

Nick, what stood out about just working with Gabriel LaBelle? Because he’s really been on a hot streak now and he is showing so many different sides of himself in this film.

Robinson: Yeah, working with Gabe was great. He’s a hard worker. We’d be going out, and he’d be like, “No, I’ve got to stay in and study for this scene tomorrow.” And it was impressive. I don’t think I had that kind of work ethic or seriousness at his age, so it was cool to see.

Mika, you mentioned the camera, so I was curious — do you have much of an interest in like photography or do you differ from the character in that aspect?

Abdalla: That is my camera — the camera that I use in the movie is my personal camera. Yeah, I read the script, saw it was a Minolta, and was like, “Oh, I’ll use this.” I brought it to set just to see if they’d let me use it, and it was the same exact camera as the prop camera that they had brought in. So I was like, “No, we’re going to use mine.” It’s like the roll of film that I was shooting on throughout the whole movie is like graduation pictures of family members and then it’s like Conor sneezing next to the camera. [Laughs].

Nick, what stood out about working with Adam Rehmeier? He has been such a strong director these past few years, and for him to do such a personal story really shows a lot in this film. What stood out about working with him?

Robinson: It is a really personal story and, reading the script, that was apparent when I first read it. It just felt like such a world and such a specific point of view that it made me really want to work with him. Then I saw Dinner in America, and I thought that was great. He’s just such a generous, caring guy. He really cares a lot and making sure that everybody feels comfortable and heard on set. So I loved working with Adam. I thought he was great, and it just felt like a very personal, close-to-home thing for him. His family was there, got to meet his kids, and it became this little familial unit.

Mika, the whole love triangle is very fun to watch unfold, but the relationship of Brooke and A.J. and seeing that blossom is a real highlight. What did you like most about seeing it develop slowly over time in Snack Shack?

Abdalla: I think it is really sweet and though Brooke is a little more bold and willing to act on her feelings than maybe A.J. Is or than a lot of people are when they’re that age, I think it felt very true to how things work and like the awkward, clunky, “Does she like me? Does she not like me? Does he like me? Does he not like me? What’s going on?” I think that makes it really honest and sweet and true to what it is like to have that first love or first crusher or whatever it may be.

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