What The Cast Of Summerland Is Doing Today

Back before The WB became The CW, they aired a show called "Summerland." The show was about three siblings — Bradin, Nikki, and Derrick — who are taken in by their aunt Ava after they lose their parents in a car crash. To their surprise, their aunt lives in a crowded beach house in California, meaning they will need to adjust their Midwestern upbringing to live in a world of surf, sun, and sand.

When "Summerland" premiered in the summer of 2004, it was an instant hit. The Washington Post noted that the series premiere won its time slot with teens, and that the audience held up across successive episodes. Unfortunately, though, the second season fared poorly, and the show was canceled in 2005. "I think it's a shame, because it certainly had a place it the marketplace of television," star Shawn Christian later reflected to WeLoveSoaps. "It was family drama. An unconventional family on the beach."

Still, though, the small but devoted fanbase around "Summerland" has lived on. The "Summerland" board on FanForums was active well into 2015, a decade after the show went off air; fans continued to make fan art of their favorite characters, follow their favorite stars' careers, and rewatch their favorite episodes long after the series was canceled. If you, too, were a devoted fan of the beachy antics of a young Jesse McCartney, read on to see what he and the rest of the cast of "Summerland" are doing today.

Lori Loughlin was a co-creator

In addition to playing fashion designer Ava Gregory on "Summerland," Lori Loughlin also co-created the show! She told The Washington Post that the idea came to her before a meeting with The WB where she pitched the concept. "I thought, 'You know, a lot of TV shows are about murders, forensics, and all these interesting subjects, but [there are] not a lot of family shows,'" she recalled. The show's first season saw hit ratings and positive reviews, specifically for Loughlin, who critics said was finally shaking off Aunt Becky from "Full House." Entertainment Weekly published an article headlined, "Why we love 'Summerland's' Lori Loughlin."

After "Summerland," Loughlin spent many years as the star of Hallmark's "When Calls the Heart." She told Smashing Interviews, "It's all set in the back of a frontier town, which is nice because you can go back to a simpler time without television, cellphones or modern technology. Things were much simpler then."

Things were simpler for Loughlin, too, before the College Admissions Scandal. Along with "Desperate Housewives" star Felicity Huffman, she became the face of an investigation into parents who were accused of bribing their children's way into college. In 2022, after completing time in jail, Loughlin told KTLA (via Los Angeles Times) that her charity work with Project Angel Food helped her get back on track. "They have welcomed me with such open arms at a time when I was feeling particularly down and broken," she said.

Jesse McCartney called his character 'a punk'

On "Summerland," Jesse McCartney played Bradin Westerly, the eldest sibling of the trio who lost their parents. Bradin was quite the heartthrob, romancing numerous beach-town girls throughout the course of the show — and he became a surfer. Or, as McCartney summed it up in an interview with "Soap Talk": "He's a punk."

The show made McCartney into a heartthrob, as well. McCartney is also a singer, and his biggest hit, "Beautiful Soul," was released only a few weeks after the first season of "Summerland" finished airing. McCartney won the award for Coolest Teen at the "Family Television Awards," which no longer exist; according to The Futon Critic, they were given out by the Association of National Advertisers to praise family-friendly programming. When the second season aired, promos advertised simply, "Jesse's back."

Nowadays, McCartney continues to release music; his album "New Stage" was released in 2021, per Billboard. He has voiced Dick Grayson aka Robin on "Young Justice" since 2010, telling CBR, "That character means a lot to so many people and just the whole comic book world is an audience that's very, very particular and I'm going to try my very best to give them the character that they want to be." He competed on "The Masked Singer," too, providing the voice behind The Turtle. "This was one of the most memorable experiences of my career," he said in a backstage interview after being unmasked. "I had such an incredible time."

Zac Efron was a budding heartthrob

Before Troy Bolton, there was Cameron Bale. "Summerland" starred a pre-"High School Musical" Zac Efron as Cameron, the floppy-haired local who becomes Nikki's boyfriend. Lori Loughlin later told ET that she had no clue he would become such a breakout. "He was always cute, but he really morphed into quite the hunk, huh," she said. Efron was asked about her comments by the outlet, who reported that he blushed after he was shown the video. "She was like something out of 'Sports Illustrated' every time I saw her," he recalled, perhaps nursing a bit of a crush. "I really love her."

Efron is, of course, best known for being in "High School Musical," but he's enjoyed a long career ever since. He starred in hits like "17 Again," "Hairspray," and "The Greatest Showman." In 2022, he starred in "The Greatest Beer Run Ever," a film for Apple TV+. "It's one of those unbelievable, real-life scenarios that you just can't believe a guy got himself into," Efron teased to Entertainment Weekly about the film, which is set during the Vietnam War.

Nowadays, Efron frequently gets questions about his appearance. He insists he hasn't had plastic surgery and that any difference is the result of a broken jaw. He told Men's Health that he avoids speculation. "If I valued what other people thought of me to the extent that they may think I do, I definitely wouldn't be able to do this work," he said.

Ryan Kwanten's Jay was a womanizer

Ryan Kwanten played Jay on "Summerland," a womanizing, heartthrob surfer who lived with Ava and Susannah. Jay was originally going to be American, but Kwanten let his Australian accent slip behind the scenes on set, and producers asked him to make the character an Aussie. According to an interview with Nylon, the producers asked him, "'Can you just be Australian when you're reading your lines? Would that be too much of a challenge?" I was like, 'No, I think I can handle that.'"

After "Summerland," Kwanten went on to play Jason Stackhouse for years on "True Blood." He liked working on the set, but he admitted to The AU Review that he liked what it meant for his career going forward. "'True Blood' has afforded me many opportunities and the biggest one, from a career standpoint, is the fact that I can now make decisions based on how they inspire me creatively, which is a really rare position for an actor to be in," he said.

Most recently, he starred in the Shudder Original horror movie "Glorious." He carries almost the entire movie himself; his character is trapped, sans pants, in a rest stop bathroom, talking to a mysterious figure behind a stall door. "There's not a film or even a collection of films that you can compare this to," he teased to CBR. "It's definitely not for the faint of heart. It's definitely something you haven't seen before."

Kay Panabaker's first kiss was her co-star

Kay Panabaker's character on "Summerland" was Nikki Westerly, one of the three siblings taken in by Ava. Notably, Nikki was in a relationship with Cameron, played by Zac Efron. That meant Panabaker was one of the first to play the love interest of an actor who would soon become a bona-fide teen heartthrob. She told LA Teen Fest, "It's just so nice to know everybody before they kind of blow up ... Zac Efron, I actually shared my first kiss with, and now he's bigger than huge and I couldn't be happier to say I knew him when." She added that she was nervous at the time, because while he was 16, she was only 13.

After "Summerland," Panabaker appeared on hits like "The Suite Life of Zack & Cody," "Grey's Anatomy," and "Weeds." She led the cast of "No Ordinary Family," a superhero show that only lasted one season. "We had a hard time finding our voice and finding the type of show we wanted to be, and we found it too late," she reflected to Entertainment Heartbeat. Still, she said, she believed something else would come along.

"Something else" turned out to be a major career change. She left Hollywood and now works as a zookeeper at Disney! She told Naperville Magazine that she no longer felt drawn to acting, but she's happier now. "Looking back, finding my true passion was worth all of the extra time," she said.

Merrin Dungey loved playing Susannah

Merrin Dungey was already a TV star by the time she joined the cast of "Summerland," having spent several years on "Alias." She played Susannah Rexford, Ava's bestie, business partner, and roommate. Dungey loved working on the show, even though she acknowledged that filming several days a week on a beach in a bathing suit actually required some hard work to stay in shape. She reflected to PopGurls, "It's much harder work than I have ever done because I have much more responsibility here. But, like I said, I am very happy and relaxed because of this cast and crew. Really great people, and I think that might be [producer Aaron Spelling's] secret. He hires wonderful people." There was another reason why she enjoyed working on the show, too, she admitted, "Also there are some REALLY hot guys on the show who never wear shirts. Yum. Yum."

Since "Summerland," Dungey has kept busy. She's been on "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," was Ursula on "Once Upon a Time," and played Claire on the first season of "The Resident." She's also popped in for appearances on everything from "Grace and Frankie" to "Star Trek: Picard." After playing the detective on "Big Little Lies," Dungey now recurs on Starz series "Shining Vale," with Courteney Cox. Speaking with TV Meg, she said, "I just feel like I fell out of the lucky tree, and I hit every branch on the way down."

Danielle Savre didn't enjoy playing Callie

On "Summerland," Danielle Savre played Callie, a rival to Sarah for Bradin's affections who becomes Bradin's girlfriend in the second season. Unfortunately, Savre doesn't look back on her time at the show fondly, though at the time she was having fun. She dislikes the stereotypical storyline of girls arguing over a boy, telling Stylecaster, "We're so impressionable when we're younger. I was like, 'Okay. This is how I'm supposed to act. I'm supposed to fight over a guy.' Which now I realize was the stupidest thing ever." In addition, Savre noted that spending two seasons on television wearing mostly a bathing suit took a toll on her mental health. "I'm a 15-year-old girl who was on the WB ... and I'm in a bathing suit. I'm more of a muscular build. I've got legs, I've got a butt, and I'm curvier. That was always something that was scrutinized growing up," she recalled.

Nowadays, though, she's much happier with the role she's playing. Savre has spent several years on "Grey's Anatomy" spinoff "Station 19" as Maya Bishop, a fan-favorite character who is bisexual. Savre identifies as queer herself, and she told GCN that she was happy to represent the community. "I am so proud," she reflected. "An entire audience, an entire generation is gonna get to watch a character like this on television, LGBTQ+ characters in a real relationship, playing a badass woman who is also flawed and still figuring it all out."

Jay Harrington is now on SWAT

Jay Harrington played Simon O'Keefe on "Summerland." O'Keefe is the principal of the school who falls in love with Ava, but on their wedding day, she calls it off. Lori Louglin told Us Weekly that if the show were to have a reunion, she would like to revisit the relationship. "I always loved that thing that Ava had with Simon," she said. "Who knows, maybe he shows back up. You never know!" Harrington evidently enjoyed his time on the show; nearly a decade later, he tweeted a behind-the-scenes photo of himself and a young Zac Efron.

He went on to play the titular Ted in cult favorite "Better Off Ted," alongside his "Summerland" co-stars Jonathan Slavin and Merrin Dungey. "I've been in this business long enough — this is not my first barbecue," he told the Cape Cod Times while waiting to hear if "Ted" had been renewed. "I'm not worried if it doesn't work out. I think I can still get a job, but I'd like it to be this one."

"Ted" was not picked up, but Harrington did indeed get another job. He currently stars on "SWAT," the hit CBS show about the members of the Los Angeles SWAT team. The role allows him to film action scenes, which he loves. "We were basically looking at each other like, this is the stuff when you were a kid, playing in the backyard with friends, this is it," he told Screen Spy.

Shawn Christian played Johnny Durant

When the Westerly kids move in with Ava, they are lucky to have many parental figures around to look up to. One such presence is Johnny Durant, Ava's ex-boyfriend who still hangs around, growing close with the kids. Johnny was played by Shawn Christian, who was well aware that he brought a certain sex appeal to the show thanks to his frequent shirtless scenes. He later told WeLoveSoaps that he didn't mind putting his body out there, remarking, "It ain't gonna be there forever." He added that he hoped his talent brought more than just the hunk factor. "You don't just want to be up there on the screen hamming it up without a shirt, you hope to have substance behind it ... As long as I can back it up with the work I don't care what I'm wearing... or not wearing," he said.

After "Summerland" ended, Christian played Daniel Jonas on "Days of Our Lives" until 2016. He would have stayed longer, but Daniel died in a car crash, which Christian told Soap Opera Digest upset him. "It hurt, you know?" he said. "Just the way it ended so abruptly. I'm not going to lie."

Nowadays, Christian is a Hallmark Channel regular. In addition to other films, he wrote and starred in "Love In The Sun," a romance based on his own life in Hawaii. He told "Home & Family," "I was so proud to be a part of it."

Taylor Cole worked with her stepdad on Summerland

Taylor Cole played Erika Spaulding on "Summerland," a character who falls in love with Ryan Kwanten's womanizing Jay. She was originally supposed to be a one-off guest-starring spot, but Cole was brought on to the show full time. She told Teen Hollywood (via Taylor Cole Online), "They asked me to be a series regular so it was a blessing." She initially auditioned for the show while on a visit with her stepdad, none other than "Summerland's" own Shawn Christian!

They later reunited on screen after "Summerland," appearing together in Hallmark's "Ruby Herring Mysteries: Silent Witness." Cole told "Home & Family" that her stepfather's support was important in getting her foot in the door in Hollywood. "I didn't know what I was doing. I didn't necessarily know if I wanted to be an actor, and he really encouraged me and stayed up with me working on scenes," she said. Christian added that he likes working with his stepdaughter, remarking, "It's a huge blessing to work with her ... I'm like, 'This is my baby girl! I'm so proud of her.'"

Cole is a Hallmark star in her own right, having starred in numerous films even without her stepfather. "[I] love that there is the real need for these beautiful stories with happy endings, and family-friendly content," Cole told Monsters and Critics. "I am so grateful for every job that I've gotten to get me here, but honestly, Hallmark is food for my soul."

Sara Paxton's character was named Sarah, too

Sara Paxton appeared on numerous episodes of "Summerland" as Sarah Borden, one of the girls interested in Jesse McCartney's character Bradin. Sarah had an addiction to marijuana, which of course meant that she and Bradin couldn't be together — it was the 2000s, remember! At the time, Paxton was a rising star; an Associated Press headline (via Today) a few months after "Summerland" ended bore the headline "Sara Paxton could be the next Hilary Duff." Again, it was the 2000s; that was pretty much the highest compliment you could give someone.

Shortly after leaving "Summerland," she starred opposite Emma Roberts and Jojo in "Aquamarine," the millennial cult fave about mermaids. "Being a mermaid has been like my dream since I was a little kid ... and it was really amazing getting to be one," she told Radio Free. She went on to star in films like "The Innkeepers," "Shark Night 3D," and "Sydney White," with Amanda Bynes.

In 2022, she appeared in the horror film "Barbarian" — which was directed by her husband, Zach Cregger, and the Marilyn Monroe biopic "Blonde." She was particularly excited to attend the red carpet premiere of "Blonde" at the TCL Chinese Theater in Hollywood because of the theater's connection to Monroe. "Where are her prints? They're right over there, right?" she gushed to an interviewer. Paxton is also active on TikTok, where she regularly shares videos with her dog.

Jonathan Slavin's character was accidentally groundbreaking

Jonathan Slavin played Colby Freed across twelve episodes of "Summerland," nearly half of the show's run. The character was hailed as positive representation of an HIV-positive gay man on network television, but Slavin says the character's HIV status was an accidental character trait. In an interview with The Advocate, he recalled that some of his first lines on the show were, "According to the best doctors of our time, I should be dead right now." He added, "Lori and I talked that day about how amazing it was that they were putting an HIV-positive character on a WB show." However, years later, he had a conversation that changed his understanding of who he'd played. "I ran into the showrunner, who was like, 'Oh, no, that speech wasn't about HIV. We didn't want to get specific, but in our heads he had survived a car accident,'" Slavin said. Lori Loughlin's response? "Well, that seems a little naive."

After "Summerland," he has luckily gone on to play some gay characters with more intentional specificity. In addition to his roles on "Better Off Ted" and "Speechless," he was one of the main cast members on "Dr. Ken." After he asked for his character to be gay, the storyline was much more progressive than on "Summerland." He told NBC News, "I would have been a lot less suicidal if I could've turned on the TV and seen gay people in a relationship and have it not be a big deal."

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or text HOME to the Crisis Text Line at 741741.

Simon Rex's memorable guest character

Simon Rex showed up for two episodes of "Summerland" as "Sun." His character was a former surfing buddy of Jay's who at times was more like a rival, and he always shook Jay up when he came into town.

Rex was known as an MTV VJ before being on the show, and he is perhaps most famous for being in "Scary Movie 3" through "Scary Movie 5." Shortly after appearing on "Summerland," Rex also developed a rap alter ego, "Dirt Nasty." He's put out several albums under the moniker, and he told Vogue that he believes he's been able to extend his career thanks to social media. "It keeps you out there; to stay in the entertainment business, you have to keep putting out material and comedy. I constantly put out videos and keep my brand of comedy alive, and promote a movie or TV show, or Dirt Nasty," he said.

Most recently, Rex garnered raves for his role in the 2021 film "Red Rocket," from Sean Baker, director of "The Florida Project." Rex is particularly excited about what "Red Rocket" may lead to next. He explained to Mr. Feel Good, "Like most people in this industry, I was sort of written off. This movie showed casting directors, other filmmakers and other actors what I can do. I don't care about the fame and the money and whatever. I just want to do good work with good people."

Alexandra Barreto's Isabel Luna proved pivotal

Alexandra Barreto's "Summerland" character Isabel Luna started as the mother of one of the other kids in the youngest Westerly sibling's class. However, she became incredibly important in the final few episodes of the show, finally getting together with Jay as they looked toward the future.

Since the show was canceled, Barreto has continued working consistently in TV, including as Antonia Pena on "Mayans M.C.," Coach Montes on "All American," and Ana Gutierrez on "The Fosters." She is married to "Boy Meets World" star Rider Strong and they have a child together, according to Us Weekly.

Barreto has also begun directing. She wrote and directed a short film called "Lady Hater" that screened at the Tribeca Film Festival in 2019, a proof-of-concept that she hoped to turn into a feature film. In an interview with Fanversation, Barreto offered advice to anyone else looking to get into writing and directing. "I would say, just do it," she said. "Once I just jumped in and did it, it felt so natural — especially coming from the acting world and producing world — it's like all this time being in front of the camera, and being on set, it was to me, such a natural thing to move into writing and directing."