Prime Video’s “The Summer I Turned Pretty” is set to make a splash, and maybe even some waves, with author Jenny Han having adapted the first book of her beloved trilogy into a new TV series — which has already been renewed for a second season. And while the book was first published in 2009, Han delighted in revisiting — and changing — her original story.
“It’s such a delight to be able to revisit the story that I told so long ago and think, ‘Okay, what would I do differently? What would I do the same? How different does it feel to tell the story in 2022?’” Han said in a recent interview with TheWrap.
The story follows Isabel Conklin (Lola Tung), nicknamed Belly, as she embarks on the summer of her 16th birthday, spending it where she always does: her mother’s best friend’s family beach house. Susannah Fisher (Rachel Blanchard) and Belly’s mom Laurel (Jackie Chang) have been best friends since college, and every summer they bring their children to Cousins Beach. Belly and her brother Steven (Sean Kaufman) have grown up with the Fisher boys Conrad (Christopher Briney) and Jeremiah (Gavin Casalegno), with the boys often banding together on adventures while Belly always felt a little left out as the youngest one and the only girl in the group. But this summer is different for Belly. Everyone — even the boys — notices how she has grown up.
“I hadn’t read the books until I was cast actually, which was interesting because it sort of just allowed me to — when I was auditioning — just sort of bring myself to the character and do it the way that I would just naturally do it without any previous knowledge which was really cool,” Lola Tung — who stars as Belly — told TheWrap. “And then to be able to then read the books after I was cast was so special because I could sort of picture myself going through this journey as Belly and I was really excited for it.”
Belly has loved Conrad, the older Fisher brother, since she was at least 10 years old, but she thinks he’s never noticed her. Younger brother Jeremiah has always been loyal to Belly, and a good friend to her in the smallest ways.
“Belly is such an emotionally driven person and a loving person and she cares so much about these people in her life all in different ways,” Tung said. “And I just really connected to that part of her that loves so strongly and so deeply and really wants to make the people in her life that she loves proud and that she cares about each of them so much.”
When asked how she connected to Belly, Lola immediately thought of one line in the script.
“The first line that came to my head was actually a line from the last episode of the show,” Tung said, turning to Han who asked “Which one?”
Tung responded “The one that Laurel says about Conrad, which I know is part of a love triangle situation…” Han finished the line for her — “For Belly, Conrad is the sun. When the sun comes out the stars disappear.”
Han also wrote the “To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before” trilogy, with each book receiving its own film adaptation on Netflix to the delight of the fanbase. And she said her readers had a significant influence in the adaptation of “The Summer I Turned Pretty,” especially when it came to the soundtrack.
“As a longtime [Taylor Swift] fan, it was a dream come true to have one song, much less, we have five songs like to have that on the show was unbelievable,” Han said. “Because she doesn’t often have her music on shows. I haven’t really seen it very much. So it felt like a huge honor to get that.”
This request resulted in Swift’s re-recorded version of “This Love” off of her “1989” album debuting in the show — along with four other songs from her discography: “Cruel Summer,” Lover,” “False God,” and “The Way I Loved You (Taylor’s Version).”
“Fans of the books have asked me over the years if there could be Taylor [Swift] music and I always of course wanted it but I can’t promise anything because it’s like not up to me,” Han said. “But that was the most joyous part for me was able to give the fans that gift because I knew what it would mean to them as well.”
“The Summer I Turned Pretty” is now streaming on Prime Video.