Amazon’s new series “The Summer I Turned Pretty” is a coming-of-age story of a teenage girl who finds herself in a love triangle over summer vacation. For her star, 19-year-old newcomer Lola Tung, and creator and co-producer Jenny Han, filming during the summer of 2021 was a memorable time, full of new experiences and life lessons.
Both moved to Wilmington, North Carolina, for the filming of the first season. It was Tung’s first acting job and Han’s first as showrunner, a title she shares with co-creator Gabrielle Stanton. Han wrote the book on which the series is based, and is also the author of the “To All the Boys” trilogy, which was adapted into movies by Netflix.
“The Summer I Turned Pretty,” which opens Friday, follows Isabel “Belly” Conklin who, along with her mother and older brother, spends every summer at the beach with family friends, the Fishers. Belly is the only girl in the group and she has always been treated like the little sister that accompanies them. This summer, however, she is more mature and arrives as a cute teen, turning heads wherever she goes. Soon Belly finds herself in a love triangle with the Fisher brothers, Conrad and Jeremiah, played by Christopher Briney and Gavin Casalegno.
Tung says that she and her young co-stars came to Wilmington early to get comfortable with the place and each other.
“We were able to form a bond similar to the bond with your childhood friends and that we needed for the series,” he said.
Showrunners aren’t always around for filming, but Han wanted to be there during the process to make sure it matched the tone he created for the book.
“It’s not a super-high concept series in the sense that it’s not a big mystery to be solved or a procedural or fantasy story. It’s really this little moment in a girl’s life, and to me that’s personal. I wanted it to feel personal.”
Han’s presence gave Tung the confidence to play the lead.
“I always had access to her if I had any questions about the scenes or the characters,” Tung said. “She always knew how I felt and how to comfort me and be there for me.”
As a showrunner, Han also learned on the job and says the most difficult aspect was becoming a problem solver in general.
“Everyone looks to you for answers all day long, and you have the whole story in your hands. You have a million different problems to solve. As a novelist, I used to solve my own problems and my character’s problems, but in a series you have to solve a lot of other people’s problems.”
Amazon has already ordered a second season of “The Summer I Turned Pretty,” and Tung says he won’t pick a favorite between Conrad and Jeremiah Fisher. “I’m from the Belly team,” he said with a laugh.
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Cast of ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’ forms strong bond