The Summer of Gavin Casalegno
The actor, donning the latest Uniqlo and Marni collaboration, talks filming The Summer I Turned Pretty and what he’s learned from his famous co-stars
It can be a tall order to bring a character from a beloved book to life on screen. But for Gavin Casalegno, the task couldn’t have been easier. The 22-year-old, who plays Jeremiah Fisher on Prime Video’s upcoming series based on Jenny Han’s The Summer I Turned Pretty books, was struck by how similar he was to his character. “Jeremiah, quite frankly, is me in real life,” says Casalegno. “When I got the character breakdown, I was literally questioning how they knew me so well.”
To a decade worth of young readers, The Summer I Turned Pretty series represented an escape into a salty, sunny, ocean-filled dream world filled with first parties, first kisses, and first loves (and where summer romances when not one, but TWO boys liked you were totally possible). The books quickly reached cult-classic status, so when the news first broke that the series was being adapted into a show, fans justifiably freaked out.
With tan skin, piercing blue eyes, and a mop of curly brown hair, it’s easy to see why Casalegno was cast as the beloved Jeremiah, the life-of-the-party younger brother of brooding “bad boy” Conrad (Chris Briney), and one-third of the book’s central love triangle. Even over Zoom, his big smile and easy-going personality shine through – very Jeremiah of him: “Jeremiah is just a go with the flow, lots of energy, can be friends with anybody guy,” the actor says. “I got lucky to be able to just be me on film.”
Though playing Jeremiah will be his most widely known role to date, Casalegno has been acting for years. The Dallas native grew up doing commercials, before moving to Los Angeles for bigger opportunities. Most notably, he played a young Damon on The Vampire Diaries and acted alongside Russell Crowe, Emma Watson, and Jennifer Connelly in 2014’s Noah. “I’ve talked to a lot of A-list actors that have been working every day or their lives, and when I ask them for advice, it’s usually like, ‘Dude, I have no idea what I’m doing,’” he says about what he’s learned from his famous co-stars. “That gave me so much peace just knowing that nobody knows what they’re doing, and they’re just having fun while doing it.”
For Casalegno, the fun started before he even got the part: “I created a playlist for Jeremiah before I did the audition,” he says. The playlist, filled with the kind of summer songs that you would blast in your car with the windows down (“Tongue Tied” by Grouplove, “Pleaser” by Wallows…you get it), might’ve given the actor the edge he needed in the audition process. “I was like, I’m just going to vibe to this and then I’m going to do this audition, and we’ll see what happens.” Even with the good luck playlist, actually getting the part came as a shock. “It honestly felt surreal. I don’t even think it hit me until the next day,” he says.
The filming process for The Summer I Turned Pretty ended up echoing much of the book. Casalegno relocated to Wilmington, North Carolina, alongside his castmates, Chris Briney and Lola Tung–who plays the show’s main character, Belly–and the trio quickly became friends. In between takes, they would play Wiffle Ball, which he admits he is terrible at, have nerf gun wars, and, after some particularly late nights, jump into the ocean to watch the sunrise.
Fortunately, Casalegno and the rest of the cast have been welcomed by the book’s substantial fan base: “I knew the book was popular because I saw it back when I was in middle school, but to see the reaction just from the teaser melted my heart.” The teaser, which also features snippets of Taylor Swift’s “This Love (Taylor’s Version),” has close to 4 million views on YouTube and counting, while the actor’s personal social media presence continues to grow.
Lately, Casalegno has been soaking up the perks that come with starring in a highly anticipated TV show. In February, he attended New York Fashion Week, and since then, he’s been focusing on figuring out his personal style, right now an unlikely cross between all-black looks and Matthew McConaughey-esque beach styles. “My style honestly depends on the city I’m in, but I definitely always love wearing jewelry,” he says.
Undoubtedly, Casalegno’s star status will explode once the series is out, pushing him in closer proximity to some of Hollywood’s biggest stars. “It’s just been really fun to see the fruit of your work come together and to have people enjoy it,” he says. “At the end of the day, we’re here to entertain people and to tell a story.” If that’s the case, he’s hit this role out of the park.
The Summer I Turned Pretty will be available to stream on Prime Video starting June 17.