The Summer I Turned Pretty is coming back to sweep us off our feet again. Adapted from Jenny Han’s popular YA romance books, the Prime Video series follows teenager Belly over a transformative summer as she falls into a love triangle with two brothers she’s always seen as her closest friends. After trying to figure out whether her heart belonged with her longtime crush, Conrad, or the younger and exciting Jeremiah, last year’s season 1 finale concludes with her choosing the former—sealed with a kiss at the beach and a debutante ball slow dance.
You’d think that when we reunite with Belly in season 2 on July 14, she’d still be on cloud nine, basking in the glow of a new romance. But instead, “Belly’s in such a different head space than when we left her,” says Lola Tung, the actress who plays her.
Part of the reason is that the show technically picks up a year after season 1, but still includes flashbacks to moments immediately following the finale. In the present day, Belly and her family are coping with some big life changes, and her relationships with both Conrad (Christopher Briney) and Jeremiah (Gavin Casalengo) are not what they used to be. “It was really interesting to just get to see a different side of Belly that we hadn’t seen,” Tung adds.
Fans of Han might have already expected that this new season would be based on the second book in the author’s Summer trilogy, It’s Not Summer Without You. Tung, who read the entire series shortly after landing the role as a Carnegie Mellon student, had hoped that the show could continue. Sure enough, the series was renewed before the first episode even premiered last June. It was a great call considering how TSITP ultimately resonated with fans, becoming the top series on Prime Video and even inspiring Twilight-like #TeamConrad and #TeamJeremiah fandoms. Tung was “for sure surprised” by the response, but at the same time, she “knew it was something special when we were filming.”
Without giving too much away, Tung says that “despite the changes, I think [the series] does stick really true to the books,” and fans of the novels will be “really happy” with season 2. She also teases “some really iconic important moments in the second book that a lot of people are looking forward to” are on the way. But alterations are inevitable when bringing a story from the page to the screen, especially in one like this, which “lives so much in Belly’s mind,” Tung says. “So it had to be a little more active for the show.” Luckily Han has been on both sides of the process—writing the novels and now co-showrunning The Summer I Turned Pretty with Sarah Kucserka.
So, where exactly does Belly’s relationship with Conrad stand in season 2? “I think they’ve all had a really tough year and things have happened that have caused them to grow apart,” Tung says, tiptoeing around potential spoilers. That posed an interesting challenge for her and Briney, as they jumped between filming Belly and Conrad’s honeymoon phase and later awkward stage. “[We] were trying to keep that magic of that last moment of the first season, while also being in the head space of this new season, which is so different,” she says.
Belly and Jeremiah are similarly “not [in] the best place” as season 2 begins. “I think that relationship also needs time and repairing and communication, and they kind of need time to digest what’s happening in their own lives before they come together again.”
Like it did in season 1, TSITP will also focus on other important people in Belly’s life, like her older brother, Steven (Sean Kaufman), who’s graduating high school, and her mother Laurel (Jackie Chung), a successful author. Laurel is actually the reason why Conrad and Jeremiah are in her children’s lives: she’s best friends with their mother, Susannah, and they’ve been vacationing in the same summer home for years. Their adult friendship is just as enjoyable to watch as Belly’s own shenanigans, but it also lends a somber tone to the series as Susannah battles cancer. By the end of season 1, her health begins to deteriorate but she decides to undergo a medical trial for experimental treatment.
“Susannah is this magical being that is unlike anything else, or anyone else Belly knows,” Tung says of the characters’ special, mother-daughter-like bond. “And she represents such light and goodness and happiness in her life.” Tung and Rachel Blanchard, the actress who plays Susannah, shared a similar connection on set. “I remember we were filming a scene together and instantly got emotional and she was like, ‘It’s so easy. Every time I just look at your face, I cry,’” Tung recalls. “I think [Susannah and Belly] kind of just understand each other on that level,” she adds, “even when Belly can feel like maybe she and her mom don’t always understand each other.”
Tung feels “very lucky” to be a part of her cast, which includes David Iacono (Cam Cameron) and Rain Spencer (Taylor) alongside Briney, Kaufman, Casalengo, Chung, and Blanchard. (“Of course there’s a group chat!” she says.) When they weren’t on set or sleeping, they’d grab dinner or hit the beach in Wilmington, North Carolina, where they filmed.
Kyra Sedgwick and Eighth Grade’s Elsie Fisher also join this season in yet-undisclosed roles. “Oh my God, working with them was so cool,” Tung gushes. She and her co-stars bonded with them right away. “I’m very excited for everyone to meet their characters because I think they immediately fit right into the Summer world.”
Minnie Mills, however, previously announced she won’t be returning as Steven’s girlfriend Shayla. But Tung is thankful that she and Mills got to “become so close and carry that friendship outside of work,” she says. “And I’m so excited to see all the things that she’s doing and I’m just very grateful for that relationship.”
As we return to Cousins Beach for season 2, “fans should expect a more mature side of the characters, because they’ve definitely been through a lot since we last saw them. And they should expect more of Belly’s antics and confusion,” Tung says with a laugh. In other words, prepare for “the same heart of the first season, but definitely growth for all of the characters.”
We can probably expect some more great needle drops, too, after season 1 included songs from Frank Ocean, Solange, and Taylor Swift—including the debut of “This Love (Taylor’s Version)” in the trailer. “I didn’t find out until the day Taylor posted it on her Instagram,” Tung remembers. “So that was a really exciting, unbelievable day.”
As for Tung’s own summer plans? She says she’ll be watching season 2, as well as spending time with family and friends at home in NYC. “And there’s a writer strike happening, so of course we’ll be supporting the WGA,” she adds. As for what comes after that, she says, “We’ll see what happens next.”
The Summer I Turned Pretty season 2 premieres on Friday, July 14 on Prime Video, with new episodes following weekly until the season finale on Friday, August 18. Season 1 is now streaming.
Erica Gonzales is the Senior Culture Editor at ELLE.com, where she oversees coverage on TV, movies, music, books, and more. She was previously an editor at HarpersBAZAAR.com. There is a 75 percent chance she’s listening to Lorde right now.