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Q&A: Unpacking the Nebraska nostalgia of ‘Snack Shack’ with Mika Abdalla, Conor Sherry

Conor Sherry (left) and Mika Abdalla (right) star as A.J. and Brooke in “Snack Shack.” The comedy from writer-director Adam Rehmeier will release in theaters Friday. (Courtesy of Republic Pictures)

By Victoria Munck

March 13, 2024 12:59 p.m.

This post updated March 13 at 9:02 p.m.

“Snack Shack” is bringing the ‘90s back, one hot dog at a time.

Premiering in theaters Friday, the coming-of-age comedy follows two best friends who take over their local pool’s snack shack to earn profit over the summer. Writer and director Adam Rehmeier set the film in Nebraska City, 1991, to create a semi-autobiographical story based on his own adolescence in the Midwestern community. Philosophy student Mika Abdalla and sociology student Conor Sherry star as Brooke and A.J., respectively, who navigate a stirring love triangle within the film.

Prior to the film’s release, Sherry and Abdalla spoke with the Daily Bruin’s Victoria Munck about the development of their characters and the significance of comedy in the industry’s current landscape.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

[Related: Oscars 2024 Q&A: Shona Heath, James Price share collaborative vision for ‘Poor Things]

Daily Bruin: The location of Nebraska City seems to be integral to the entirety of “Snack Shack.” As performers, what is it like to have a script be so rooted in its setting? Did that influence how you approached your characters?

Conor Sherry: We got very lucky that we were able to shoot in the actual town that our director grew up in, in the actual town that everything was based on. Being able to read the script and prepare, but then land in Nebraska and see all the storefronts that match the script, and see all the people – everyone in the town – knew Rehmeier. That was really cool. It definitely transported us to the ‘90s in Nebraska, which was really crucial.

Mika Abdalla: I feel like Nebraska City is its own character in the film. Adam told us that not a lot has changed since he was growing up in ‘91, so it just made it really easy for everybody to get into the world of the movie mentally.

DB: Conor, you arrived on location two weeks before the rest of the team to prepare for the role. How did your interpretation of A.J. differ before and after that experience?

CS: I think the biggest thing that changed was I got to be with Gabriel LaBelle, who plays Moose, my best friend in the movie, and that dynamic was really fostered in those first two weeks. I had done all my own work on the script getting to know A.J. and finding the character, but those two weeks I got to be in Nebraska City were huge. We worked at the real snack shack at the real pool. Gabe and I being able to build that dynamic and actually do friend things without a big camera was really, really crucial and also just fun and so rare.

DB: Mika, what was it like preparing to play Brooke? Was there a notable event that really shaped your portrayal?

MA: From the time that I got the script, the thing that drew me to Brooke so much was, I feel like out of all the characters that I’ve auditioned for – that I can remember, at least – she felt the most true to me. So I knew that my work going into it would be fairly minimal in terms of character prep. I didn’t get to go to Nebraska as early as Gabe and Conor did, but when I got there, all the stuff that we did off set was the stuff that we were doing on set. I think we all felt like we had less work to do once we got there because we just fell into everything.

DB: Many of the comments on the film’s trailer expressed sentiments such as “We’re finally getting a real comedy,” and “No one makes movies like this anymore.” How do you think “Snack Shack” builds upon the existing work in this genre? Why is it important that similar movies get made?

CS: I feel like part of the reason movies like this don’t get made that much is because we’re not in the ‘90s anymore. It’s somewhat of a period piece, it seems. There’s no technology. It’s really relationship and character driven. All you really have is the people, the things that they’re going through and where they are. I think that’s what really makes it special and why it’s hard to find that connection and heart.

MA: I feel like “Snack Shack” is this really fun marriage between a modern comedy and all of the classic ‘80s and ‘90s coming-of-age comedies. It feels very “Dazed and Confused” and “Better Off Dead” and “Weird Science,” where there’s these two main characters that are kind of dorky and dweeby and making it through high school. But it’s obviously not made in that era, so it has this modern feel to it. I think we get comedies today, but we don’t really get these remake-feeling things. It feels much more like an ‘80s comedy than a 2024 comedy.

[Related: Q&A: Author Larry Duplechan on Hollywood history in memoir ‘Movies That Made Me Gay’]

DB: As the film’s premiere approaches, what are you hoping audiences will take away from it?

CS: I hope that people take away a reminder of how fun and important human relationships are, just face-to-face experiences and making relationships that aren’t based in online culture or social media. Also, just that movies can be fun. Get a big thing of popcorn, go with friends and laugh. You don’t always have to feel like you have to dissect a movie and solve the world’s issues sitting in a theater. You can just go and have the best time ever with your friends and get inspired to make memories of your own.

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Victoria Munck | Theater | film | television editor
Munck is the 2023-2024 theater | film | television editor. She was previously an Arts contributor from 2022-2023. She is a second-year communication student from Granada Hills, California.
Munck is the 2023-2024 theater | film | television editor. She was previously an Arts contributor from 2022-2023. She is a second-year communication student from Granada Hills, California.
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