HomeTV‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’: Lola Tung on Growing Up Alongside Belly

‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’: Lola Tung on Growing Up Alongside Belly


Lola Tung was taking classes as a first-year acting student at Carnegie Mellon University, in Pittsburgh, when she heard the news. She had just been selected to play the lead in a new Amazon series called “The Summer I Turned Pretty,” based on the best-selling young adult novel by Jenny Han.

“I was just in shock because I didn’t expect this,” Tung, 20, a New York City native, said in a video interview last month. “I called my mom after and we were just crying together over the phone, which was lovely. But it was the best surprise ever.”

Tung, who was 18 years old and had acted only in school plays, took a leave of absence from college in 2021 to go to Wilmington, N.C., to join the production of the show, which tells a story of romantic awakening set at a beach house.

As summer commences and the show’s two central families head to the coast, Tung plays Isabel Conklin, known as Belly, an adolescent girl who becomes caught in a love triangle with two of her childhood best friends — who also happen to be brothers: Conrad (Christopher Briney) and Jeremiah (Gavin Casalegno). The romantic tension captivated teen and young-adult viewers when the series debuted in 2022 and helped turn the show into a social media sensation. The hashtag #TheSummerITurnedPretty has accumulated millions of views on TikTok as users post fawning videos in support of “Team Conrad” or “Team Jere.”

“I knew it would be special, but I think nothing can ever prepare you,” Tung said. “There’s no way to know how it’s going to be received and how your life will change after.”

Tung continued her college leave to star in the show’s second season, which premieres on Prime Video on Friday. If watching the first season felt like basking in a perfect summer day — full of pool parties, passionate kisses and Kim Petras lyrics — the second season feels darker, cloudier, shrouded by loss.

Both Tung and her character have weathered a series of changes between the two seasons: Tung now has red-carpet interviews, a partnership with American Eagle and millions of Instagram followers; Belly has lost a close family friend and must fight to save the beach house. Both are learning what it means to grow up.

Ahead of the Season 2 debut, Tung spoke about her role, her favorite Taylor Swift music and whether she’s on Team Conrad or Team Jeremiah. These are edited excerpts from the conversation.

How do you get in the mind-set of preparing to play the role of Belly?

Music plays such a big part in prepping for different scenes. We were jumping around a lot emotionally in Season 2, so I think music was a way to very quickly get into the head space of the character, whatever scene it was. I would journal a lot and write a lot, especially from Belly’s perspective. The first season, I wrote letters to each of the characters in Belly’s voice, which was really cool. I think when you journal and you write just sort of like stream of consciousness you learn a lot about the character.

What were some of the songs you listened to for this season?

I listened to a lot of Mitski. “Two Slow Dancers” is a great song to listen to; it’s a very reflective sort of song. A lot of Taylor Swift. Phoebe Bridgers was on the playlist, Dodi was on the playlist, Lizzie McAlpine; I think I have some SZA on here as well. It was a lot of slightly more emotional songs — songs that felt nostalgic because Belly was really in this season dealing with a lot of changes in her life and dealing with the fact that change is inevitable. It’s a hard thing to realize growing up. You know, how do you move forward and still stay in touch with that magic of childhood and the familiarity and things that you know?

What do you think this season says about the themes of change and loss and growth as a young person?

The characters have experienced a lot of growth and a lot of change since we last saw them. That’s a really hard thing for all of them to deal with, and they’re sort of on their own at the beginning. Season 1 was so much about these characters growing together and having each other to lean on. Season 2 is a lot about individual growth and how to take initiative, especially for Belly.

She’s really isolated from the boys and from her family, and feeling completely lost without Susannah (Rachel Blanchard) there. It was really cool to get to figure out what the next step was for her and how she moves forward from the weight of grief. It’s about learning that change is OK and normal. Even though things are different, everything will be OK.

Are there aspects of Belly’s character you relate to? And are there aspects you feel are very dissimilar?

I definitely think we’re pretty similar, and I absolutely bring some of myself to her. It’s only natural if you’re playing a character, especially one so close in age. She’s a very emotional person and leads with her heart and cares a lot about the people in her life, especially her family, even if it’s hard to express that sometimes. I think she’s bolder than I am, and she’s more of a risk taker, and that was something I thought would be a challenge. But I really enjoyed getting to tap into that part of her, and I learned from her in that way. I stole some of her boldness.

I saw that Taylor Swift teased her “Back to December (Taylor’s Version)” song during the latest trailer for the show. Do you have a favorite song of hers you really resonate with?

I am a big fan of hers. I used to listen to her earlier albums like “Fearless” and “Speak Now” and “Red.” I had a little CD player and I would listen to them while I was falling asleep. I have a lot of favorite songs. I think an all-time favorite is “You Belong With Me” and then I also love “Everything Has Changed.” Right now I’m listening to “Mirrorball” a lot.

What are the dynamics for you with the other actors both on set and off set?

I feel so lucky that we all get along so well and that I’ve made some really great friends. Especially in the first season, we played whiffle ball a bunch and we would just go grab dinner whenever we could. We would car-pool together. When we had downtime on set, we would hang out and talk and play cards or chess. The guys loved playing chess on set, which I started to get into as well. It’s fun when you’re just sitting around waiting for the next setup in a scene to just play a quick game. I wasn’t that great, but I had fun.

I have to ask — are you on Team Conrad or Team Jeremiah?

I always say I am the biggest supporter of Team Belly, forever and always, and I will always stick with that answer because I really do believe that she’s the only one who can make that choice. And if we’re doing our jobs right, I think you can see why she loves both of these boys. Ultimately it’s just about her following her heart.

Content Source: www.nytimes.com


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