"The Summer I Turned Pretty is about a girl's life told in summers, and so TV made the most sense."
Charlotte Gomez / BuzzFeed
We had the opportunity to chat with Jenny Han (author and creator of The Summer I Turned Pretty series) and Lola Tung (as Belly Conklin) in an exclusive interview where they discussed everything from the virtual audition process to bonding on set with fellow actors to the incredible soundtrack on the show.
The book series by the same name is a complete trilogy that published in 2009, 2010, and 2011. A little over a decade later, fans get to watch Belly Conklin experience one magical, transformative summer at her mother's best friend's beach house.
The show is beautifully done. The cast is absolute magic. It's nostalgic in all the best ways and succeeds in capturing powerful, emotional moments. All seven episodes are available to stream right now on Prime Video, but if you'd rather read the books first, you can find the series here.
🚨Please note that the interview below might have slight spoilers for the show, so continue to enjoy the series before reading! 🚨
1. Jenny Han is the author of these books, but she's also the creator of this television series, and she revealed she'd always wanted to write for TV.
2. The Summer I Turned Pretty was Lola Tung's first real TV audition.
Lola: "I was a major theater kid before this. I had done the whole, you know, school auditions and college auditions, but this was my first real TV audition — and job. The audition process was entirely over Zoom, which was very interesting. But it's also all I've really known. I was at school at the time, in my first year at Carnegie Mellon in Pittsburgh, and so I was Zooming in after classes for my chemistry reads. Jenny, you made the audition process so smooth, everyone did. It was so much fun to get to read with so many different actors. I had a blast."
3. And it's truly a small world, because two other cast members from the show also went to the same high school as Lola.
Jenny: "Two of our cast members went to the same high school (LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts) as Lola! It was funny — you wouldn't know when you were gonna see somebody that you knew from high school. David [Iacono] (who plays Cam) — and then Sean [Kaufman] (who plays Belly's brother Steven) is two years older [than Lola] and I was like, 'Did you guys know each other?'"
Lola: "I didn't expect Sean to remember me since I was a sophomore while he was a senior, but I remember I was like, 'I remember you. I saw you in a show at my school!'"
4. Jenny also walked us through the soundtrack of this show — specifically the process of landing some truly fantastic Taylor Swift songs.
Jenny: "I'm a longtime fan of Taylor's. When I was writing the books, I was listening to Fearless. So, 'The Way I Loved You' — that was the most important song. I didn't know if we were gonna be able to get it or not, because you just never know! I think many artists are selective about what they allow to be licensed. So I had my fingers crossed. When I found out that we were granted permission, I was so excited — not just for myself as a fan, but also for the book fans! They'd been asking for so long, 'Can we get Taylor's music on the show?' And I was always like, it's not up to me. We got five [Taylor] songs total, which is wild. Such a bounty of riches. I think she's an amazing storyteller with her music. So it really lined up.
We also have other great artists as well. I can't believe that we were able to get their songs for the show! But I want fans to be surprised, which is why I've been trying to keep everything under wraps, because I want them to have that experience watching it. You always have those songs of summer that really take you back to a moment, and the show has a lot of songs that will hopefully feel nostalgic."
5. One of Lola's favorite scenes to film was the one where Belly encounters Conrad after she gets home from her date.
Lola: "All of it was so fun to film. There's a scene with Conrad in the kitchen that was fun, but it was also kind of difficult to find that balance of figuring out how Belly was feeling in that moment and how to deliver those lines in a way that was true to her feelings. It was a tough scene."
Jenny: "It's the scene when Belly's coming back in from her date. And you're feeling good. You just had a hot make out with this guy, you're feeling very successful. And then there's Conrad and it's like, ughhh!"
Lola: "It was a great challenge as an actor to be able to do that scene. And then I think the ending scenes in the last episode are so beautiful. They were so much fun to film because we were all together. It was like a great way to end the summer."
6. Jenny doesn't enjoy being on camera, but she decided to film a cameo after fans kept asking if she would ever do another one.
Jenny: "I don't actually enjoy being on camera at all. I had done it for To All the Boys movies and people kept asking me if I was gonna do it for this one. So then I was like, 'You know what? Sure.' I bought [the dress] for that moment. I think it's a nice scene, very celebratory — and I like champagne."
7. Lola was a big fan of the To All the Boys movies, and she read The Summer I Turned Pretty once she was cast.
Lola: "I was a fan of the To All the Boys movies. I love those movies, but I read the [The Summer I Turned Pretty] books after I was cast, which was cool because I got to imagine what this journey with this character was going to be like. I was very excited for that."
8. Lola had the opportunity to read the audiobook for The Summer I Turned Pretty and said the process was a lot of fun.
9. There's a blink-and-you'll-miss-it Easter egg in the series: a glass unicorn!
Jenny: "I tried every opportunity to to add in little details from the books that the eagle-eyed viewers would recognize."
Lola: "There are little things in Belly's room."
Jenny: "Yes, there's a glass unicorn, which is like a figurine from the books. Unless you were really looking hard, you wouldn't be able to notice, but that was important to me that we had one in the room."
10. Lola spent two weeks bonding with Chris Briney and Gavin Casalegno before the first day on set and recalled that the time helped create those big, emotional moments for Belly.
Lola: "It was really wonderful. I felt so comfortable with both of them. We had two weeks in Wilmington, North Carolina, where we filmed, to just sort of bond. [It was there that] I really got to know them both. Then I got to show up on the first day already having this bond with them — and then to watch that only grow as time went on. It was really important to me that those moments felt really big and special, because they are so big and so special for for Belly, and I hope we delivered on that."
11. And the cast and crew celebrated Lola's 19th birthday on set!
Jenny: "Lola had turned 19 like the day before we wrapped, and we had some beautiful cakes for her — and everyone sang happy birthday. It was really sweet."
12. The final scenes of the last episode were very emotional and moving, and Jenny revealed that even she was crying on set.
Jenny: "I cried a lot during filming the last episode. It was important to me that those scenes feel really real and cathartic for the audience. I think you watch television to feel something — to feel these big emotions. And that scene really called for that. I wanted people to connect to that emotion."
13. And finally, Jenny and Lola revealed that to pass the time on set, the cast participated in game nights, beach picnics, and baseball games!
Lola: "We had game nights."
Jenny: "We had a beach picnic!"
Lola: "We played baseball occasionally in a field nearby."
Jenny: "Our show has a lot of talented baseball players, like Chris and Sean. So I'm like, dang, we should have had a baseball scene. We could have had a littleTwilight moment."