SPOILER ALERT: This story contains spoilers from Season 1 of The Summer I Turned Pretty streaming now on Amazon Prime Video.
Those who read Jenny Han’s 2009 novel The Summer I Turned Pretty and the two books that followed it knew a little what to expect from the series, whose first season ended on Friday, June 17th became.
The premise was simple: a young girl, Belly, and her mother go to a beach house every summer and stay with her mother’s best friend and her sons. Bely always had a crush on one of the boys, Conrad, and is best friends with his brother Jeremiah. Before her 16th birthday, she returned to the beach one more time and everyone noticed that she wasn’t a little girl anymore.
The seven-episode series follows the same space in which newcomer Lola Tung portrays Belly.
“I really wanted to find actors that felt real, natural and fresh. There is a feeling of discovery. The focal point should be Belly because everything hangs around her. She’s the main character, so finding our right gut was the most important thing,” Han told Variety. “Lola had this freshness about her. She was 18 when we cast her and she turned 18 on the show, but I think it’s really hard to create any sort of innocence or novelty in things. This is our first part and she had never done this before. It has so many meta elements – to Belly’s Big Summer and Lola’s Big Summer.”
Here, the writer and co-showrunner dives more into the differences between the book series and the TV show, her vision for future seasons, and those incredible needle drops.
As you adapted the book, how much pressure did you feel when it came to who Belly chose romantically at what point in her life?
It’s a bit of a balancing act because I really had to weigh what the fans were expecting and where the show was going creatively and find that balance. My priority has always been for the fans of the book to be really happy with the story we’re telling, but also to know that this is an adaptation in a new medium, so it won’t be exactly the same. I think those are like the two things that are always on my mind.
In the first book, Belly rejected Jeremiah. In it, she gave him a chance and they were together. Was there a chance that by the end of season 1 she would be with Jeremiah instead of kissing Conrad?
Yes, that was kind of moved up in the first season. When I did Jeremiah’s POV in the second book, I was torn in all directions very badly. I don’t want to spoil too much, but the books have been out for a while. You never know what might happen to the show. I went into it openly. I considered many different possibilities.
So, are you Team Conrad or Jeremiah?
I definitely had moments where I went back and forth because I think in order to write these characters you have to love them and understand them and have empathy for them. So I had a lot of empathy for those two brothers. And my heart would definitely turn just like Belly’s.
Can you talk about the decision to make Jeremiah bisexual on the show?
I looked at this adaptation and thought if I had to write this book today, how would I write these characters? They’re all the same characters, but I think the culture has changed in a lot of ways, and I think this younger generation is a lot more label free and open minded and less on a binary lineage. So with Jeremiah, I felt like it really made sense for him because I think he’s a character who’s very comfortable in his own skin and with himself. I think it was a really natural decision.
It was great to see the young men constantly on this show ask if they could hurt Belly. So thank you for that. We also see her getting more experienced and start talking about sex. Will future seasons include more talks about this?
Thanks! We will see! We are still writing the second season. So, I think we’re going to find out where this is going.
Susannah and Laurel’s friendship, as well as their individual personal relationships, was a much bigger part of the show than the book. And really, their friendship is a love story in itself. Did you know that you wanted to go deeper into that when designing the show?
One of the joys of adapting it for television was that we were able to expand from Belly’s point of view, where in the books it’s really internal because you’re literally inside her head. For the show, we had to expand our world and spend time with other characters in their minds. It was important to me that these two women have their own storylines that are separate from being mothers or wives – that they had their own inner worlds and growing up. Both are in some ways at different turning points. I really wanted to show the breadth of female friendships, their intensity and intimacy, and really celebrate how these two women chose each other, and they’ve chosen each other for decades. They value their friendship so much that they choose to be in this house together and bring their children and create this magical world as one family.
Susannah dies between the first and second books. What early conversations did you have with Rachel Blanchard about her character and the arc she led?
We’ve had a lot of conversations about Susannah’s career and all the cast have read the books as well, so everyone with that knowledge base came into play. I would say that Rachel and I talked a lot about what I think Susannah is one of the most important characters of the first season. I think every single person is in her orbit in some way and they are all there because of her and she is very loved by everyone. People react to them in many ways. She sends people on different journeys, so it was important to me that the person I cast for this role was someone that drew people in, someone who was easy to fall in love with.
Of course we have to talk about the music because she’s a character in her own right on the show. There are many Taylor Swift, Olivia Rodrigo and Ariana Grande. Can you explain your process to get the rights to these big hits?
It was pretty much the normal way of writing scripts and then hoping people would give us permission. As we progressed, there were certain scenes where I asked for 10 different songs to try out. Pretty much anything we were looking for we could get for the most part. The way I approached music was thinking about how I think there’s always that song of the summer. You remember where you were when it was the big song and there’s something really nostalgic about music that can just transport you to a different place in time. So I wanted the show to have that immediacy, but also that sense of memory. I really wanted recognizable songs.
To get the rights to the music our process was to show the artists the script so they could see the scene and have the context of what it was supposed to become as some artists are picky about who they grant the rights to and to whom they hand them in I don’t want a topic that’s super violent or anything. Different artists deal with it differently, but that’s pretty much the process for all the music we’ve tackled.
So this is a three-book story. You already have a season 2. Are you planning three seasons?
It totally depends on what Amazon wants and really, really what the audience wants. I would like to get three seasons because there are three books. So I would like to be able to finish this story the way I wrote it. But I certainly don’t take anything for granted. I just hope that people find the audience and love it and want more.
https://variety.com/2022/tv/news/summer-i-turned-pretty-book-changes-from-show-taylor-swift-1235297656/ “Summer I Turned Pretty” EP on Book Changes, Who Is Endgame