It’s the day after the trailer for the new season of “The Summer I Turned Pretty” was released and Lola Tung’s phone hasn’t stopped blowing up. It’s to be expected ahead of the show’s second season, given how wildly popular the TV adaptation of the author Jenny Han book became last June when season one arrived on Amazon Prime. The first three episodes of season two arrive to the streaming service Friday, with the rest of the season dropping weekly through the summer.
Tung, the 20-year-old actor who plays the show’s lead Isabel “Belly” Conklin, hasn’t remotely tired from all the hype around the series.
“It’s made me so happy to see the excitement that everyone has about the show. And it made me so excited for everyone to see it because I’m reminded of just how proud I am of all of us and how wonderful Jenny is, and it’s really cool to be part of something that means so much to so many people.”
“The Summer I Turned Pretty” was Tung’s first acting job. Prior to auditioning, she was unfamiliar with the series but was a fan of Han’s other mega successful books-turned-movies “To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before.”
The audition came while Tung was in her first year of college, 2020 into 2021, which included a mix of Zoom and double-masked, in-person classes. She taped her audition in her apartment with the help of her roommates, and the rest is history.
Tung grew up a shy kid in New York City for whom acting turned out to be a reprieve.
“I had done my school talent show in fourth grade and loved that. And it was just a quick song on stage with my friends, but I really loved it,” she says. “ I don’t think anyone really expected me to enjoy being in front of crowds of people.”
Next came the middle school production of “The Wizard of Oz” and from that point on, “I was kind of sold, and just wanted to be doing that for the rest of my life.”
Acting, she says, “has sort of allowed me to find more confidence. And it’s one of those things too where every character that you play, you bring yourself to the character and then you learn stuff from playing that character. Acting classes made me learn so much about myself and be OK with failing and making mistakes and looking silly in front of people. And I think that not only helps you in your acting, but in your life too.”
In playing Belly, she gets to sink into a character who is “so full of life.”
“I really admired her curiosity and her determination. She was such a fully fleshed out character, you know? Like a real human,” she says. “And she went through many experiences and felt many of the feelings that I had felt at 16 and was still feeling at 18. I loved that I could relate to her and I felt like a lot of people would be able to relate to her.”
The show follows Belly as she finds herself in a love triangle between brothers Conrad and Jeremiah Fisher, who she’s grown up spending summers with on a Massachusetts beach. Season two finds the characters several months in the future, with plenty of flashbacks to fill in the blanks.
“I think the characters have grown a lot since the first season. There’s been a lot of time since we last saw them, and they’re all in very different head spaces,” Tung says. “Season one was a lot of seeing these characters together and on this journey together and growing together. And I think season two, you see a lot of individual growth, especially for Belly. You see her experiencing so many feelings and emotions that she never has had to deal with before. And, um, and I think that comes with growing up. This idea that change can be really, really scary — and it’s also inevitable. How do you move forward from really life-changing moments, and how do you find magic when you think it’s been lost?”
“Fashion has always interested me, especially growing up in the city where it’s such an important form of self-expression,” she says. “And so it’s so cool to just get a glimpse into the fashion world and get to figure out how I express myself through fashion.”
She looks up to the careers of Zendaya, Florence Pugh, Phoebe Waller Bridge and Michaela Coel.
“I’m just such a big fan of ‘Fleabag’ and ‘I May Destroy You,’ and I feel like they’re such a beautiful representation of stories centered around women that so many people can relate to,” she says.
“The Summer I Turned Pretty” is a three-part book series, so it’s assumed Tung and the rest of the cast will be back for another season at some point (though nothing has been announced pre-SAG strike). As she looks ahead to life post-show, Tung says she’s interested in doing something completely different for her next role.
“There’re so many exciting things out there. I’m interested in all mediums. I love theater, that’s kind of where I started. Film would be so cool,” she says. “I’ve been meeting so many cool people and reading materials and there’re so many creative people who write incredible scripts that you would never be able to even dream up. So it’s hard to even say exactly what type of character I would want to play. I think just something different. And I love Bells so much, and it’d be so cool to play like the complete opposite of her.”