The Summer I Turned Pretty: The Untold Truth About The Cast

Based on the book series by Jenny Han, Prime Video's adaptation of "The Summer I Turned Pretty" quickly found a fanbase when it was released in the summer of 2022. With author Han at the helm as co-showrunner, "The Summer I Turned Pretty" thrilled fans of the book series and newcomers alike, and much of that is down to the cast's wonderful chemistry. 

"The Summer I Turned Pretty" tells the story of Isabel "Belly" Conklin, a teen girl who unexpectedly finds herself caught in a love triangle with two of her oldest friends, brothers Conrad and Jeremiah. While Belly explores her first summer romances, her mother Laurel spends time with her own oldest friend, Susannah, the mother to both Conrad and Jeremiah. But the annual summer vacation doesn't go off without a hitch, and the two families face loss like never before.

"The Summer I Turned Pretty" was an instant hit with viewers, and a Season 2 renewal quickly followed, transforming the lives of the show's young cast. Here we explore the untold truth of the cast of "The Summer I Turned Pretty."

Lola Tung was given an infinity necklace by Jenny Han

During the first season of "The Summer I Turned Pretty," Conrad buys an infinity necklace to give Belly on her sixteenth birthday. However, he chickens out and doesn't give her the gift, instead stuffing it in a drawer in his room. Belly later finds the necklace, and knows that Conrad must have bought it for her, because when they were children, he taught her what "infinity" meant. This iconic gift seems to have taken on a whole new meaning on the set of "The Summer I Turned Pretty," with Lola Tung receiving a replica of the necklace from co-showrunner and author Jenny Han.

In an interview with Teen Vogue, Tung revealed, "It was so, so incredibly special. In the books, it's such a big part of Belly's relationship with Conrad and it holds so much meaning for her. And I think it ended up holding a lot of meaning for everyone in the cast." She continued, "Jenny and I were thinking the same thing because I gifted her an infinity necklace for wrap the next day." Tung also revealed that she now considers the special piece of jewelry as a good luck charm, telling the publication, "It felt so special to be getting something that held so much meaning from her, the creator of the books, the creator of the series, and someone who changed my life and impacted my life so much." 

Gilmore Girls inspired Lola Tung's performance

In Season 1, Episode 7 of "The Summer I Turned Pretty," Belly attends a debutante ball with Jeremiah. It's a pivotal moment in the series, showing that Belly is growing up, and her family members also take part in the event. Fans may be surprised to find out that Lola Tung's performance in the episode was actually inspired by "Gilmore Girls. "I really didn't know anything about debutante balls except of what I'd seen in that episode of like 'Gilmore Girls' where [Rory Gilmore] goes to either a cotillion or a debutante ball," Tung told Seventeen. "I think that was the one reference that I had." It's certainly easy to draw comparisons between Belly and Rory, as they're both bold young women that know what they want, so this particular reference makes a lot of sense.

Discussing the important episode of "The Summer I Turned Pretty," Tung told Seventeen, "It's not something that many people would've initially expected [for the show], but talking to Jenny about why she included it, she really wanted this representation of Belly growing up and not being presented to society, but sort of having her moment of stepping out and actually having a representation of this growth that she's experiencing over the summer." As the ball occurs at the end of the season, it's the perfect bookend to a summer of romance, growing up, and changing family dynamics.

Lola Tung attended the same high school as Jennifer Aniston

Lola Tung's role in "The Summer I Turned Pretty" marked her very first onscreen credit. However, a lifetime of training seemingly prepared Tung to play Belly, the lead character in Prime Video's dreamy teen series. During an interview with 1883 magazine, Tung opened up about attending LaGuardia High School, whose alumni includes Jennifer Aniston, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Timothée Chalamet, Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino. "I think high school is such a formative part of any person's life," Tung told the publication. "I learned a lot while I was there." Since leaving, Tung has joined a long line of successful actors who also attended the school.

Importantly, Tung instantly found her creative passion while attending LaGuardia, and was able to develop her skills as an actor. "I learned a lot about professionalism, the industry, and life," she told 1883 magazine. "As I was growing as an actor, I was growing immensely as a person and learning who I was." Tung's experiences at LaGuardia High School have even informed her performance in "The Summer I Turned Pretty." "When I first entered high school, I was really shy, and I still wouldn't consider myself the most extroverted person, but I think I really was able to ground myself more and figure out who I was," she explained. "It's cool that I now get to play Belly, who is going through the same thing."

Christopher Briney was rejected from ten colleges

Before landing the role of Conrad in "The Summer I Turned Pretty," actor Christopher Briney faced some tumultuous moments, particularly when it came to applying to colleges. In an interview with 1883 magazine, Briney explained, "I applied to some colleges out in LA, but honestly, a big factor was I was rejected from almost every college I applied to." While Briney ended up having a positive experience at Pace University, the whole process of applying to and being rejected from so many educational institutions challenged the actor. "College humbled me and getting rejected from 10 out of 12 schools humbled me," Briney told 1883 magazine.

Ultimately, Briney doesn't seem to have any regrets about how everything turned. "I met some of my dearest, dearest friends at college, I learned invaluable lessons," he told the publication. Plus, Briney seems to credit the challenges he faced with preparing him for the world of acting, in which success is never guaranteed. "I'm working right now, which is something I don't take lightly, because I know how hard it is," he continued. "I have friends a lot more talented than me that are not acting." If you're ever facing rejection or failure, just remember that Briney went from losing out on attending his dream schools, to being cast in "The Summer I Turned Pretty."

Christopher Briney initially didn't like his character Conrad

Throughout the first season of "The Summer I Turned Pretty," Conrad Fisher acts moody and aloof, making it difficult for Belly to figure out if he really likes her or not. Viewers likely have a love-hate relationship with Conrad's behavior, and it seems that actor Christopher Briney felt the exact same way about the character to begin with. During an interview with 1883 magazine, Briney explained, "I also had to try to like Conrad because he was just doing some s***, man. Like he was really playing. I sat with it for a long time and I wrote a lot about it." The actor continued, "I think he's similar to me in a lot of ways and I didn't want that to be true. Some of the qualities I'm not proud of, but I love him now. I'd fight to the grave defending him. It just took a little while."

It's understandable that Briney initially found it hard to love his character, especially as Conrad doesn't always seem to treat main character Belly all that well. Luckily, the first season of "The Summer I Turned Pretty" helped introduce Conrad to viewers, giving them an insight into the pain he's feeling regarding his mother's cancer diagnosis, and his father's absence. As Briney told 1883 magazine, "With Conrad, it's like he's standing in a ditch and instead of trying to hold someone's hand to get out, he's just digging himself deeper and deeper."

Being cast in the show was 'scary' for Gavin Casalegno

While being cast in "The Summer I Turned Pretty" was likely a dream come true for everyone involved, it also induced anxiety in some of the younger cast members. For instance, Gavin Casalegno, who plays Jeremiah Fisher on the show, felt a certain amount of pressure upon learning the news that he'd be joining the Prime Video show. In an interview with L'Officiel, Casalegno explained, "It was definitely scary. I knew my life would change so drastically from what I had imagined. I had planned all of these things in my life, and this series has upset my previous plans in an exciting, fun, and important way." Luckily, the actor was able to overcome his apprehension, and embrace the experience. "I'm so happy with where I am right now in life because of the show and so thankful for it," he told the publication.

Prior to joining "The Summer I Turned Pretty," Casalegno had been steadily working in the entertainment industry since he was young. His previous credits included playing the young Damon in an episode of "The Vampire Diaries," and appearing in Darren Aronofsky's 2014 film "Noah." As Jeremiah in "The Summer I Turned Pretty," Casalegno finally found his breakout role, cementing his future as an actor to watch.

Gavin Casalegno didn't have 'a lot of friends' growing up

As Jeremiah Fisher, one of Belly's love interests in "The Summer I Turned Pretty," Gavin Casalegno has found a lot of fans. However, the actor didn't always feel popular. "I  grew up not having a lot of friends," he told The Daily Front Row. "I was cool with everyone, but I grew up alone." While fans of the star may be saddened by this revelation, it seems that Casalegno found some positives in his solitude. "There were a lot of good things that came out of it that I can be grateful for now," he told the publication. "I definitely think everyone has that moment in their life when they turn into a swan and have that revelation moment of who they are. Everyone has their grow up moment."

Having grown up in the entertainment industry, Casalegno likely didn't have a so-called "normal" childhood. However, his "The Summer I Turned Pretty" success comes after years of taking smaller roles in TV shows and films, and it seems as though all of that alone time finally paid off. Hopefully, Casalegno no longer feels alone.

Christopher Briney and Lola Tung had an instant connection

Fans of Belly and Conrad's relationship will be delighted to discover that actors Lola Tung and Christopher Briney had an instant connection on set. In an interview with Seventeen, Briney explained, "Lola's fantastic, she's really wonderful to work with. She's so kind and so talented." It turns out that Briney and Tung also had a lot in common as they were both at similar places in their careers when they started filming "The Summer I Turned Pretty." "What was really nice is that it was really new to both of us," Briney told Seventeen. "[I]t was our first TV role, our first adaptation with the weight of fans. It really felt like we were making something for an audience, which can be really scary." 

Luckily, it sounds as though Briney and Tung were able to support one another through the more challenging aspects of being part of a huge TV series. As Briney told the publication, "Being able to be friends about it in between takes, like, 'I didn't like that one,' and then she's like, 'No, you're fine. That was great. You're fine.' It just meant a lot to have her there." It's undeniable that Briney and Tung demonstrate some electric onscreen chemistry as Conrad and Belly. As a result, it's nice to know that they have a solid friendship offscreen, and remain supportive of one another throughout the filming process.

Rachel Blanchard's alleged online stalker spread rumors

Prior to landing the role of Susannah Fisher in "The Summer I Turned Pretty," Rachel Blanchard had appeared in everything from "You Me Her" to "Fargo" to the TV adaptation of "Clueless." Having developed an impressive career in front of the camera, Blanchard seemingly attracted some undesirable attention online, and found herself fighting false rumors about her life. In a 2014 interview with ABC News, Blanchard shot down rumors about whether she was married and if she had children. "I think I have an Internet stalker, who started that and then won't take it down," Blanchard told the outlet. "I keep having it taken down and he keeps putting it back up. But I don't have a husband, I don't have two kids." 

While rumors about husbands and children may seem innocuous to some, Blanchard had to face some very real-life consequences as a result of the unfounded gossip being spread on the internet. "My mom's friend called in tears that she wasn't invited to the wedding," Blanchard told ABC News. "I lost a job because I was apparently pregnant with my second child. It's really annoying. ... Help me stop that rumor!" Basically, not everything you read online is true, and fake information can impact on a person's life in some pretty frustrating ways, actually.

Jackie Chung really connected to Belly's story

As Belly's mom, Laurel, Jackie Chung plays an important role in "The Summer I Turned Pretty." While their mother-daughter relationship isn't always perfect, Laurel remains a constant support in Belly's life, while also navigating her own lifelong friendship with Susannah. In an interview with Collider, Chung revealed that she instantly connected with Belly's story, which made her want to be a part of the show. ".... growing up I didn't have a show like this," she explained. "I didn't have a Belly to connect to and be like, 'Oh, my stories matter too.' Or, 'I could be on that screen like that too.' I'm really grateful and happy to be on the show." 

Celebrating the amazing Asian American representation seen on "The Summer I Turned Pretty," Chung told Collider, "I think we want to see identity stories, but it's also refreshing to see a story like this, where it's not the main focus, and people can kind of just go along this ride with Belly and remember, or connect, the feeling of falling in love for the first time and figuring out who you are and growing into your skin." Chung's passion for "The Summer I Turned Pretty" is evident in her impassioned performance as Belly's mom, and it seems that the actor was waiting a long time for a TV show she felt represented by.

Sean Kaufman was neighbors with Timothée Chalamet

Sean Kaufman plays Belly's brother, Steven Conklin, in "The Summer I Turned Pretty," which often finds him feeling like the fourth wheel, caught between his sister, Conrad, and Jeremiah. Before he scored a role in the Prime Video series, Kaufman had parts on "Law & Order: Special Victims Unit," "Manifest," and "FBI: Most Wanted." Plus, he once counted Oscar nominee Timothée Chalamet as his neighbor. Speaking to Just Jared Jr., Kaufman revealed, "I grew up in the same building as Timothée Chalamet, and sometimes call him my friend even though we've never had a conversation past two seconds." While it sounds as though Kaufman only passed Chalamet in the hallway on occasion, we can't blame him for celebrating his connection to the "Dune" star.

During the same interview, Kaufman also revealed that he's particularly close with one of his cast mates, saying, "Every day after shooting Season 1, Chris Briney and I would race home in our cars and play 'Call of Duty' all night." Basically, the onscreen chemistry of "The Summer I Turned Pretty" cast seems to stem from a very real offscreen camaraderie.