Eagerly anticipating the seemingly positive personal and professional changes that are sure to come next in your life, while also affectionately holding onto the meaningful relationships and experiences that have influenced your emotions and ideas, can be an equally sentimental and difficult process. But having the maturity and intelligence to realize that just because your circumstances will always naturally be evolving doesn’t take away from the meaning in your connections and the things you have already accomplished. That powerful realization is captivatingly and amusingly showcased in the new comedy, Staten Island Summer, which is a relatable coming-of-age exploration into how both teens and adults truly accept their maturity, as they realize it’s time for them to move onto the next stage in their lives.
Staten Island Summer follows recent high school graduate Danny Campbell (Graham Phillips), who’s about to leave his home in the title New York City borough to start his freshman year at Harvard. Before he leaves, the innocent teen is determined to end his summer with a wild party at the local Great Kills Swim Club, where he spent the summer lifeguarding. Along with his co-workers, including hopeful Navy recruit, Anthony (John DeLuca); the pot-smoking Skootch (Bobby Moynihan); the disillusioned Mary Ellen (Cecily Strong) and his best friend, Frank Gomes (Zack Pearlman), Danny plans the ultimate celebration.
However, Danny’s desire to have one last weekend of fun before he delves into college comes at the disappointment of his parents (Kate Walsh and Jim Gaffigan), as he decides to forgo their annual trip to Disney World to stay at home with his friends. Another person who’s against the teen’s weekend plans is Great Kills Swim Club’s manager, Chuck Casino (Michael O’Brien), who’s upset that his staff doesn’t respect, or listen to, him. The leader takes whatever measures necessary to make sure that the party doesn’t happen, but often to no avail.
During the weekend, Danny also reflects on his childhood, and how his experiences have prepared him for college. As he and Frank try to come to terms that they’ll no longer be seeing each other all the time once school starts, the two friends try to form new relationships with girls they’ve longed liked. As Frank pines for the nice and friendly Rachel (Katie Cockrell), even though he can’t tolerate her twin sister, Rebecca (Kellie Cockrell), Danny hopes to start a relationship with his childhood babysitter, Krystal Manicucci (Ashley Greene). Before Danny and his friends try to finally mature and accept responsibility for their actions, the group is determined to have one final wild weekend, during which they can truly live for the moment and fulfill their last adolescent dreams.
To celebrate Staten Island Summer‘s release in select theaters this weekend, the comedy’s cast and crew returned to New York City on Tuesday, July 21 to attend the film’s premiere at Manhattan’s Sunshine Landmark Theatre. The movie’s actors, as well as its director, Rhys Thomas, producer Lorne Michaels and writer, Saturday Night Live cast member Colin Jost, generously took the time to pose for pictures and discuss making the comedy on the red carpet. With the movie, which is now also being available on iTunes and other VOD platforms, also being scheduled to begin streaming on Netflix on Thursday, July 30, the on-demand Internet streaming website’s Chief Content Officer, Ted Sarandos, also attended the premiere to talk about the benefits of distributing independent movies digitally.
While discussing the emotions and motivations of his protagonist in Staten Island Summer, Phillips noted the nostalgia Danny was feeling right before he left to begin his first semester at Harvard. “Danny was trying to get closure with his best friend, because they know they won’t see each other for a long time,” the Screen Actors Guild Award-nominated actor revealed. But just as he’s sure he’s ready to finally leave his home, “Staten Island pulls him back in, particularly because of a girl,” Phillips added, referring to Greene’s character, Krystal.
Phillips also explained that he was able to relate to his character’s struggles of starting to accept and embrace the responsibilities of adulthood, as he’s also a college student himself. The actor has played the son of Julianna Margulies’ title character on the hit CBS legal and political drama series, The Good Wife, since it premiered in 2009, and balances his acting career with his college studies. But The New York-based performer, who only has three semesters left until he finishes his degree, has said balancing his job with his studies hasn’t been as difficult as he thought it would be before he started. The producers on the show are flexible around his class schedule, and even changed the entire production schedule during his sophomore year so that he could take one of his final exams.
Jost also took the time to discuss his motivations in creating the character of Danny, and writing the script for Staten Island Summer. The scribe, who noted that he has long been influenced by such New York comedians and television hosts as Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, said he was “excited to make the story personal as a writer, as drawing on my own life and things I know makes the process easier.” But the ‘Saturday Night Live’ star added that the process on reflecting on his own life is also scary, as he doesn’t want to misrepresent anyone in his life. “While some of the events in my life that I based the script on were difficult as they were happening, they were helpful in creating the story,” Jost further acknowledged.
He jokingly added that some people he knew from his childhood and adolescence were automatically positive that a certain character in the film was based on them, so he had to reassure them that wasn’t always the case. Jost added that he did try to bass all of the comedy’s characters on real people. He hopes that it comes across that he thinks everyone he knew growing up were good people, and that he liked them. “I think that that idea comes across in the film, as the entire cast did great,” he also said.
While most of the film’s characters were presented as relatable and likable people, one antagonistic presence in the comedy is Michael O’Brien’s character, the lifeguards’ newly promoted boss, Chuck, as played by O’Brien. The Saturday Night Live writer and performer noted that his character keeps his staff from having any fun, particularly by leading them in a regimented and military style.
O’Brien also discussed how he had to film all of his scenes in Staten Island Summer in his character’s preferred swimsuit of choice, a Speedo. “Wearing the Speedo wasn’t as terrifying as I imagined it would be, and I was actually never self-conscious,” the actor confessed. But he revealed that he had to film a few reshoots a year after the movie’s principal photographer ended, which led him to start thinking about how he looked. O’Brien freely admitted that the concern he did have came from the fact that he doesn’t regularly exorcise, but he does do some sit-ups when he’s mad at himself.
While the Speedo-wearing O’Brien didn’t relate to the work ethics his character Chuck imposes on his employees, and the fact that he doesn’t like his job as a lifeguard, the actor has positive memories of his earliest jobs. “I worked in a dark room at a small town newspaper, which I loved. I developed the prints in the different solutions,” the writer said.
While O’Brien has enjoyed his jobs throughout his life, Kellie Cockrell noted that she and her sister Katie had one particular job they didn’t enjoy-modeling as statues. “We wore white make-up, and had to stand still for hours with our eyes closed,” the actress explained. “We asked why we went to college, just so that we could get that job.”
But actress Gina Gershon, who played Ms. Greeley, a potential love interest to Anthony, had some fond memories of her work when she was younger. “I worked on the Jersey shore as a singing waitress. The restaurant would have Victorian theme during the day, but it became more risque at night,” the Saturn Award-nominated actress revealed.
With Staten Island Summer sentimentally and amusingly reflecting on people’s best and worst jobs and relationships, Sarandos stated that he thinks the film’s cast offered great portrayals of their maturing and evolving characters. Netflix’s Chief Content Officer also noted that he’s happy the comedy’s set to play on the on-demand Internet streaming website, as Jost’s script is not only really funny, but the way people are watching films and television shows is continuously changing. Much like the characters in the movie fondly remember their pasts while also anticipating their futures, the film industry sentimentally balances its nostalgia of previous viewing habits, while also embracing the constant improvements in the way products are delivered to viewers.
Check out Shockya’s exclusive photos, as well as images from the film’s distributor, Paramount Pictures, of ‘Staten Island Summer’s cast and crew as they arrived on the red carpet at the comedy’s New York City premiere below
Written by: Karen Benardello