ALICIA RANCILIO Associated Press
NEW YORK — The New Amazon Series » The summer when I became pretty is a coming-of-age story about a teenage girl who finds herself in a love triangle during summer vacation. For its star, 19-year-old newcomer Lola Tung, as well as creator and co-showrunner Jenny Han, filming over the summer of 2021 was an equally memorable time filled with new experiences and life lessons.
Both moved to Wilmington, North Carolina to film the show’s first season. It was Tung’s first acting job and Han’s first time as showrunner. (She shares a co-showrunner title with co-creator Gabrielle Stanton.). Han wrote the book the series is based on and is also the author of the “To All the Boys” trilogy, which has been made into films for Netflix.
“The Summer I Turned Pretty,” which debuted Friday, follows Isabel “Belly” Conklin who, along with her mother and older brother, spends each summer at the beach with family friends, the Fishers. Belly is the only girl in the group and has always been treated like the little Tagalong sister. This summer, however, she’s more mature and hits the beach like a pretty teenager, turning heads wherever she goes. Soon Belly is in a love triangle with the Fisher brothers, Conrad and Jeremiah, played by Christopher Briney and Gavin Casalegno.
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Tung says she and her younger classmates arrived in Wilmington early to get to know the place and each other.
“We got used to being in Wilmington, we got used to being together and were able to form this bond that felt like the bond with your childhood friends that we had to have for the show.”, she said .
The showrunners aren’t always there for filming, but Han wanted to be there for the length of time to match the tone she created for the book.
“It’s not a very high-concept show in that it’s not a big mystery to solve or like a procedural or a fantasy. It’s really that little moment in a girl’s life, and for me, it’s personal. And I wanted it to feel personal.
Han’s presence gave Tung the confidence she needed to play Belly.
“I always had access to her if I had any questions about scenes or questions about the character,” Tung said. “She always knew how I felt and how to comfort me and be there for me.”
As showrunner, Han also learned on the job and says the hardest part was becoming a problem solver in general.
“Everyone looks to you for answers all day, and you hold the whole story in your hands. You just have a million different problems to solve. Before, as a novelist, I was just solving my own problems and my character’s problems, but on a show you have a lot of other people’s problems to deal with.
Amazon has already ordered a second season of “The Summer I Turned Pretty,” and Tung says she isn’t picking a favorite between Conrad and Jeremiah Fisher. “I’m Team Belly,” she laughs.