[This story includes spoilers from the first three episodes from The Summer I Turned Pretty season two, “Love Lost,” “Love Scene” and “Love Sick.”]
The Summer I Turned Pretty is finally back and Gavin Casalegno, who plays Jeremiah, is opening up about how the second season role came into his life.
Following the first season of the Prime Video series — which saw the beginning of what has become a drama-filled love triangle, as well as the return of Susannah’s (Rachel Blanchard) cancer — season two picks up after a year of trials and tribulations for the whole gang, including the death of Conrad (Christopher Briney) and Jeremiah’s (Casalegno) mom.
Casalegno, Lola Tung, Briney, Sean Kaufman, Rain Spencer, David Iacono, Blanchard and Jackie Chung all return for the new season of the series from Jenny Han, who also wrote the book trilogy of the same name. This season also welcomes new faces, including Elsie Fisher and Kyra Sedgwick.
The first three episodes, which premiered on Friday, focus on the present day as the new summer season kicks off. But this summer break is different from every summer before, as everyone tries to navigate the grief they’re feeling after Susannah’s death a month prior. But throughout, viewers get glimpses of what has happened since the previous summer, from Belly (Tung) revealing to Jeremiah that she kissed his brother to Belly and Conrad officially getting together and Belly ultimately getting her heart broken at prom.
Casalegno notes that there has been a “lot of emotional weight that has passed through, in between season one and season two.” And no matter how long they all try and avoid it, they’re eventually going to have to confront their feelings and the past.
But even after a year of some of the highest of highs and lowest of lows, everyone seems to be further apart than ever before, including Belly’s relationship with her mom Laurel (Chung) and her brother Steven (Kaufman). As they each work through this recent tragedy, none could have predicted that the pending sale of their beloved beach house would be the glue that brings them all back together to help keep Susannah’s memory alive.
Below, Casalegno spoke with The Hollywood Reporter, in an interview that took place before the SAG-AFTRA strike, about some of the most anticipated moments from the book, how he prepared to film the more “challenging” scenes and teases what viewers can expect throughout the rest of season two.
Following a successful first season, how was it returning to work with Chris Briney, Lola Tung and Sean Kaufman again?
It was so much fun. It’s like getting to go back to summer camp with all of your best friends. We all work so well together and just have so much fun on- and even off-set. It was fun hopping back in that friend group again.
Season two begins with a different tone compared to season one. What was it like filming those difficult scenes in the first few episodes?
It was super interesting because there’s been time and a lot of emotional weight that has passed through, in between season one and season two. And they’re kind of jumping right into the middle of it for season two, which is so exciting but also kind of nerve-wracking. There’s a lot that’s happening and you feel like you constantly are just trying to catch up and then a new thing happens, and it leaves it very exciting. But also there’s some pretty heavy stuff that is dealt with and talked about in season two, especially in the first three episodes.
As each character grieves the loss of Susannah in their own way, how did you prepare for Jeremiah to take on those emotions and feelings?
I use just life experiences to deal with a lot of the grieving process, to kind of work through it again. And that was really fun, challenging, healing and unlike anything I’ve ever done before. It was definitely interesting, kind of pulling up those past experiences and using that for Jeremiah’s circumstances.
As an actor, would you say it was more challenging taking on season two?
Yeah, I would say so. I think there’s more of a serious tone to it. For me personally, I prefer the more serious tone. I think it’s challenging and really fun. It’s always super fun to just kind of goof around and I joke a lot to keep everything light, but to really get in the nitty-gritty of it, which I feel like we do very quickly in season two, it’s more challenging and it leads to some pretty beautiful moments onscreen which I’m excited for everyone to see.
Viewers can see in the first few episodes that Jeremiah has been kind of alone while grieving. What do you think helped push him through those tough times?
Especially through the breakup and Belly and Conrad’s relationship, I think he really just put them both on the back burner and was just doing his own thing. Which is really sad because I feel like that’s a stage of grief: denial. I think he really was going through that, and I think he’s trying to keep busy and distract himself from what he really wanted and wanted to be a part of.
In the scene when Jeremiah is yelling at Belly and finally telling her what he has been going through, was it hard to film that scene with Lola given that you are all close as a cast?
That was one of the first days we worked and it was such an emotionally heavy scene to just jump right into. So, it was really hard. I had to go take a walk for a couple of minutes after a couple of takes because I was like, “This is just so tough to just jump back into this.” Actually, someone got some really cool photos of me walking out into the middle of the street, near this cornfield. I don’t necessarily know what I did but I just was like, “All right, you know what, let’s just go for it.” And then the one tape that I felt great about, that is the one they ended up using.
It’s really interesting going from laughing with someone and figuring out the logistics of like, using a carjack and all this stuff. And then be yelling at someone and getting emotional. It’s really interesting and weird. That was a challenge for sure.
Can viewers expect to see more flashbacks of what Jeremiah went through this past year in future episodes?
Definitely! I think that people should just stay tuned because the flashbacks end up being such an amazing part of the season where you get just a little more backstory and some key things.
Given that the show is a journey through young love, have you pulled from any personal experiences with love to help prepare you for your role?
I think like life imitates art, or art imitates life — I think in this world of entertainment and acting, it’s much easier to use your own personal experiences and to kind of pull from those. And I think that’s kind of always how I learned. But obviously, I’m always trying new things and so I’m trying to find the healthiest way of going about working on the character without poking too many bees nests in my own life.
With so much anticipation around specific scenes from the book, such as Belly and Conrad’s prom scene and visiting the beach house in the winter, what was it like to see those parts come to life off the pages?
Fascinating. I mean, it’s really cool getting to see Jenny’s creation on page just come to life; seeing the pages written and then seeing it being shot. It’s so freaking cool! We’re just really fortunate to have Jenny to actually help us and bring what’s on a 2D page into 3D, 4D, for people to watch and I think that’s a really exciting process.
How often did you go to Jenny Han on set to talk through scenes and goals for your character Jeremiah?
I could go to her for just about anything. There were times where I felt like I wanted to fight for Jeremiah more, and there were times where she would want to fight for Jeremiah more. And so it was an interesting balance of just figuring out how to do his story justice and how to get people to love him and understand him. It’s been so cool to have the creator just to be able to bounce ideas off of and ask those harder questions.
The beach house in Cousins Beach has played such a big role in both seasons and now viewers see it’s like the glue, figuratively speaking, holding you all together. Do you have something in your life that connects you to your loved ones, and if so, did it impact the way you took on this season?
I don’t necessarily know if I have one specific thing that really brings me closer to my family. I think just the glue in my life is my faith. I think that, through a lot of relationships, is the thing that keeps so many of my relationships intact; being grounded in something that doesn’t change a whole lot and that I know is consistent in my life. I think that that has helped every relationship and even with acting and all of that, I know that that has been the biggest priority for me as far as relationships go.
Which season was your favorite to film?
Honestly, season one, I felt a little more pressure and there was just a lot going on. I’m gonna have to say season one was probably more fun to film, but I think season two is going to be better. I think season two, we’ve figured out the field in the world and we’ve expanded on the world a little bit so that people can know what’s going on and can know the characters in a more intimate way. And I think that season two is kind of more comfortable with its own skin. I feel like you will see that even with how dramatic things are and how crazy things happen.
How exciting is it to have Taylor Swift and her music be such an important part of the series?
It’s cool! So many people like Taylor Swift’s music, and her main demographic is very much our show’s demographic. So it’s just kind of a one plus one equals two; it just makes sense. It’s cool to be able to support an artist’s music and vice versa. It’s kind of like they’re both helping each other and it’s just really cool to have some beloved music in the show that people really love.
One of the preview clips released on social media ahead of the premiere was the one of Jeremiah getting upset with Belly for kissing Conrad, and he then proceeds to bring up Susannah’s cancer battle. Do you have a response to some of those who have commented on the video, criticizing his character as “gaslighting” Belly?
I think the best person to ask for this question would be Jenny, because I just say what was on the page. I would say that you can’t blame a teenager for making some low blows every now and then when he’s emotionally hurt. I think a lot of people would act even worse if they were in the same situation in real life. But I understand; I didn’t necessarily agree with what he was saying either but sometimes being younger, you say stuff before thinking about it.
That [scene] was a flashback part and I think it will really show the growth that Jeremiah had as a person and character in real time versus the flashbacks.
With five episodes left, what can viewers look forward to for the rest of the season?
You think you know what’s going on for the first three and then the last five … there’s so much more. A lot of people are big fans of the car scene and wanting to see the car scene later in the season, and I think people have a lot to look forward to. If you like the first three episodes, the last five are so much better.
Throughout season two, was there a specific scene that you’re most excited for viewers to see?
My favorite scene is one with Chris — it was Jeremiah and Conrad and they are on the dock together, and then my other favorite was us near vending machines. And I just think that that’s the most real scene. I felt super great about it and I think story-wise it shows a lot of growth in both of the characters.
What do you want viewers to take away from your character this season?
I think just seeing how much he’s grown. He’s done some dumb things and made some bad decisions, but so does everybody. And I think he has grown so much and matured so much, and I think other characters haven’t really done that. I think he has the most growth between season one and season two and I think that it’s under-appreciated, so I’m excited for people to see the growth in Jeremiah.
Although a lot is up in the air with the current union strikes happening in Hollywood, if you all get a third season, what do you hope to see for Jeremiah?
I’d like to see more of an expansive maturity. If there was going to be a season three, it would be very college-heavy because that’s kind of where they’re going. I would like to see more maturity and see him grow to be a better boyfriend and a better man and a better just everything — friend, caretaker, all the roles that he plays. And I would like for people to see that in him, because that’s kind of what we’re all doing on a daily basis.
This interview was edited for length and clarity, and was conducted before the actors strike.
The first three episodes of The Summer I Turned Pretty are currently streaming on Prime Video, with new episodes dropping on Fridays.