Before becoming one of the most successful stories out of Staten Island, Colin Jost had a typical summer experience like most kids growing up. The Grymes Hill native spent his time playing sports with friends, rode his bike all over town, and hung out at Ralph's Italian Ices. The summer before he would leave for Harvard, he fell in love with a girl while lifeguarding at the Great Kills swim club.
As the head writer of "Saturday Night Live" and "Weekend Update" anchor, Jost returned as a screenwriter to the Island to his own version of teenage suburbia in first feature film "Staten Island Summer."
amNewYork spoke to Jost about teenage nostalgia and going back to Staten Island.
Being such a success story from Staten Island, are you at all nervous about releasing this film?
No, I'm not nervous as much as you're nervous about anything, but I think as a Staten Islander I tried to touch on things that are very unique to Staten Island. I tried to stay away from stereotypes. Most of the people don't have crazy accents in the movie because that's not how a lot of people are on Staten Island. What I hope is that it feels universal to many different suburbs in America, because I think that's what Staten Island is. I think Staten Island is a very good version of an American suburb.
What made you want to center a film on the Great Kills swim club?
There's a shot at the end of the movie where the main character is looking out over the swim club on the morning of the day he leaves for college. I remember sitting there and looking out over the swim club in that same way and just being so sad and nostalgic that I was leaving that place because it was such a big part of my life. Belonging to a swim club like that where all your friends are there and you can play sports all day -- it's such a rare thing.
How early on were your "SNL" cast mates Cecily Strong and Bobby Moynihan on board?
I definitely wrote the movie with our cast in mind, and then as we locked the people in I would try to refine it to their voices. We made the movie in 21 days so when you're under that kind of pressure you need people who can both function well and can bring their own and make it even funnier.
What did the other actors think of Staten Island while filming?
I think everyone was really impressed. Most people in the cast are like most people who live in New York. They'll take the ferry across, they'll look out [laughs] and then they'll take the ferry back. I think people were really impressed. To open up all those people to the opportunity there is so cool. When I go back to Staten Island it's such a relief because it's so much more peaceful than being in Manhattan. It feels like a getaway. When I was young, I was so anxious to get out of Staten Island to see all the opportunity that was in Manhattan, but now I realize the appeal of having some space.
Being from Staten Island means a lot of different things to people, but what does it mean to you?
I always think of community. The appeal to me is that it's still a small town even though it's got almost 500,000 people. You still run in to people you know, and you still have families that you keep in touch with. People look after each other more than they do in a lot of other neighborhoods in New York.
If you go: "Staten Island Summer" screens at AMC Loews Kips Bay on Friday and will start streaming on Netflix on July 31.