Gavin Casalegno on ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’ and Why You Should Be Team Jeremiah

Gavin Casalegno portrays Jeremiah in The Summer I Turned Pretty. The show, which is based on the book series by Jenny Han, has already been renewed for a second season. All episodes of season one are now streaming on Prime Video.

The Summer I Turned Pretty is a multigenerational drama that hinges on a love triangle between one girl and two brothers, the ever-evolving relationship between mothers and their children, and the enduring power of strong female friendship. It is a coming-of-age story about first love, first heartbreak, and the magic of that one perfect summer.

We had lovely conversation about his approach to the character, the fan response to the series, classic love triangles, the importance of the family element, his argument for Team Jeremiah, season two, and much more. Keep reading for all the details!

Peter Taylor/Prime Video

First of all, huge congratulations on the success of the series. It is so well deserved.
Gavin Casalegno: Thank you. It means a lot just knowing that people appreciated the work and the hours that we put in because it was a lot of work and a lot of hours. So to see that people like really enjoy it, there’s nothing that melts my heart quicker. Thank you.

So, you’re approaching these beloved books, but I also feel like you brought so much to the character. Was there an aspect that you felt was specifically a challenge acting-wise or that you felt most excited to add yourself to and bring to life?
You know, what’s so interesting is I feel like Jeremiah was so similar to who I was. So I found it to be really easy to kind of just jump into it, and really put myself back when I was like a teenager and be like, “Okay, this is how I felt, this is where I was. I love being the life of the party,” but sometimes everyone has their own insecurities and I think like that was a really cool balance to find with Jeremiah. Also, I think the hardest part was not trying to lay on the love I had for Belly so thick. I think I wanted it more to be like that best friendship that is more to me and that was a challenge that I feel like ended up working out for me during the show, just not like laying it on super thick, you know? So yeah, I’m really happy with how everything turned out.

Obviously, the books have a passionate fanbase, but the show has received such a fantastic fan response, what is it like seeing how much people love you, your work as Jeremiah, and the series overall?
Oh my gosh, I mean, unreal. I’ve been very blessed to be able to have been a part of other projects and obviously, there’s been good responses, but nothing like this. I mean, this essentially, like changed my life in the last week, it’s crazy. There’ll be people that drive out to where I’ll go play like volleyball or where I’ll go to my coffee shops, and just wait for me to get there, and I’m like, “Guys, I’m just a person, it’s okay!” It’s so funny because all of their selfies are blurry because they’re nervous and their hands are shaking. It’s really cute and actually, I mean, one of the girls that was waiting there gave me these bracelets. She was like, “I made these for you,” and I’m like, “You are just the sweetest thing.” So it’s definitely overwhelming but also just such a treat and I’m so grateful for it.

In The Summer I Turned Pretty, audiences see this update of Jeremiah’s sexuality. Is there any sort of impact you hope he has with viewers who might relate to him or feel seen through the character?
It’s actually crazy the amount of DMs that I’ve gotten of just people being like, “Wow, thank you so much for how it was portrayed on screen,” and I think it’s so important that it just made people feel comfortable and relatable to the character. I feel like there was that delicate balance of not wanting to like push it too hard, but also just like kind of let it be it. It doesn’t need to be forced down, it doesn’t need to be really showed on screen. I think the way that Jenny wrote it ended up being just so subtle and such a nice touch that it allowed people to feel comfortable DMing me and telling me their life story, and it really is special to me.

Peter Taylor/Prime Video

Well, I think the thing was, it wasn’t his whole personality, which is so great to see because sometimes you have an LGBTQ+ character and that’s their whole personality. It’s like, they’re a human being, let’s portray them as a human being, right?
Totally. Right, 100%, I think people lose that and I think sometimes people can be out of touch, and it can end up doing more harm than good. It felt good to kind of be on the right side of that.

One thing I really loved was the family aspect of the story. I think it was really beautiful rather than just focusing on making it a teen show, you had the family involved because that’s a real part of being a teenager too. What do you think that added overall?
I think it was so important. I think throughout the books, I mean, if you think about it like Jeremiah has lived 16 years, you know what I mean? Like there’s 16 years of history, bonding, and relationships that you kind of have to add into what you’re doing. I think that that family bond and that family dynamic, even with the dad kind of being a little absent, I think just allowed there to be more realness and relatability to the character, and just to the show because I feel like nobody has the perfect family. It could look like that on the outside, but there’s always problems, we’re imperfect human beings. So I think just with the family part of it, it allowed people to relate in quite beautiful ways. I think it kind of grounded all of our characters because it made us care so much about our family. That’s important to me, and I know it’s important to a lot of people so I’m just happy to be part of it.

Of course, with any love triangle, there are some fans on the fence about which team they are on. So I want to ask you, what points and/or arguments would you pose for someone who is on the fence to cross over the team Jeremiah?
Listen, I live my philosophy like this and it’s done so well for me: you don’t want to marry, or like a long-term relationship, you don’t want that bright flame, you want a best friend, you want something steady. I mean, Laurel talks about it in the show, just puts it beautifully, and sometimes like that bright flame can be eaten alive. I think to have a best friend and someone like Jeremiah to be able to encourage you, always be there for you, and not flip-flop on you like Conrad always did — personally, I understand the pull for both characters, but in my own life, I think in a mature way, Jeremiah would definitely be my choice just because you need that best friend. You need that encouragement, you need someone who you know is always gonna have you back, watch out for you, and protect you and not in like an over-protective way, but just like, “You’re my best friend and I care about you.” I think that’s the most endearing part of Jeremiah is that he just genuinely cares about people and he talks about that, and I think that’s kind of what I would say, a very mature response to why you should be Jeremiah. But obviously, who doesn’t want to be friends with the lifeguard? I love Jeremiah as a person. Yeah, so that’s my argument.

Peter Taylor/Prime Video

They’re really cute. I feel like you can’t help it. I mean, some of those scenes, like that little twirl by the car… come on!
Yeah, so that’s like my thing. I like to twirl people and so literally Jenny and every director were like, “Dude, calm down on the twirls, alright?” I was doing it like every other and they were like, “Dude, you need to relax.” Then finally, it was funny, one of the directors texted me and was like, “they used one of the twirls and they used it for the cover, so like whatever.” So it was really funny just to know like, what went on behind the scenes of being like, “Gavin, listen, you need to stop twirling people, it’s just weird,” and I’m like, “why? But it’s — that’s who I am.” That’s such a Jeremiah thing. But no, it ended up being great, and I love the twirls and those cute little moments really made their relationship special.

You led me into my next question perfectly, what do you think makes the relationship between Jeremiah and Belly so special and magical?
There’s something beautiful about that longtime crush, I think, especially from Jeremiah’s point of view. I think there’s something beautiful about just loving the person for who they are deep down in their heart. Whereas like Conrad, I feel like it can be questioned, I feel, just with the all of a sudden like, “Oh, wow, I see her in a different light.” And I think that’s what makes Jeremiah and her relationship so special is they’re just best friends, and Jeremiah always had feelings for her. I think he masks it a lot with that kind of like life of the party vibe, but he has always had eyes for Belly, even when flirting with other people, he’s like, “I mean, honestly, I still like this one girl, so sorry.” I think that’s what makes it special. It’s not in your face kind of love. It’s just one of the ones that like is there, will always be there, whether it’s appreciated or not, it’s still going to take care of you and love you for who you are.

I really enjoyed the music. I mean, you had Taylor Swift, Olivia Rodrigo, Ariana Grande– this is my teenage years’ soundtrack! I don’t know how you guys pulled it off, but it was amazing.
Jenny, that’s all Jenny, she literally deserves a raise. I mean, she handpicked every second, song, artist — I mean, she knew what she was doing. She knew what she wanted, she knew what she was doing, and she was gonna get it, so props to her because obviously, the music is a huge part of the show. I think every single, especially like the “Are We Still Friends,” that rings in my head because I knew that she was gonna pick that song when we did the scene, because we had a speaker and we played it. Then we did the scene with that and I’m like, “Oh, this is gonna slap. Oh my God, this is gonna be so cool.” So I was excited for everyone to see all the music that came out because Jenny did amazing.

Trust me, I was fangirling. I’m like, “Oh my God. You got Taylor Swift and Olivia Rodrigo? What the heck? Okay.” I mean, I would have never thought but here we are.

Peter Taylor/Prime Video

Which Taylor Swift song do you think would be Jeremiah and Belly’s song?
Oh, that’s a tough one. I recently have been listening to “Lover.” I love that song and I think that it just fits too perfectly not to say that. I think it’s totally like a summer vibe. I don’t know, I would say that that’s kind of the song that I would go for to kind of encapsulate Jeremiah and everything.

Which scene were you most excited to see come to life from the books? Seeing it play on screen is just a different feeling.
To be cliche, I’m gonna have to say the Belly flop and that’s only because it was the start of filming, it was the start of the summer and I think like same with the book, it was the start of the summer. I think that it kind of opens the doors to what was going to be one of the most fun summers of my life but also to bring Jeremiah’s summer to life, the Conklins, the Fishers, and I think it was just too perfect of a scene to not mention, so that would be mine.

Was there a classic love triangle where you either immediately picked a side or where you were instantly torn?
So one of the previous projects I did was The Vampire Diaries and I was young Damon, so I’m basically like legally bound to team Damon. I was definitely team Damon, I just liked that, I know it’s super similar to Conrad. I think in that stage of my life, when I was a lot younger, I was like, “Oh yeah, Damon,” but I’m like, “Yo, where is the respect for Stefan cause that guy was good through and through, all the way to the end, and Damon’s all like crazy!” So I was definitely team Damon growing up. As far as maturing now, I think I would have to switch it up, but I think that’s the beauty of it. It depends on what stage of life you’re in, I think the demographic and they’re all teenagers and young adults, and I think the stage of life switches weekly almost so sometimes it can be hard to decide like Conrad/Jeremiah, Damon/Stefan. That’s kind of what makes the show enjoyable to watch because you are always flipping it back and forth. Yeah, it’s a lot of fun.

Peter Taylor/Prime Video

Those ending moments for Jeremiah were so emotional, I can’t imagine diving into that as an actor. What was that like for you? What was it like to see the final version of it?
I remember that day, perfectly, especially the email scene. I think I was just kind of sitting in my trailer for like, six hours before going, they just brought me in early and I was just sitting there and I’m just like going over it. I really just was trying not to think about it and distracting myself, playing my switch, and just doing all kinds of things and finally, I got to set with my suit and everything, and it just hit me. The set was so somber and quiet, there’s not a lot of people, and I was just able — I think Erica, the director, I love that woman, she played such an amazing song that really just perfectly captured Jeremiah’s feelings and moments. It just brings me to tears, even when watching it again, I was like it brings me right back to that moment of realizing and it definitely took me like 30 minutes to recover. I literally couldn’t stop crying for 15 minutes and then I just got up, I put my headphones in, I sat alone, and I was like just looking over the pool. Actually, Erica has such a cool photo of me in my suit just kind of standing over the pool by myself, just looking at the stars. I mean that night was perfect. I think that scene in particular really hit home for me and was probably the most anticipated scene for me because I knew it was going to be such a challenge and so much fun. Yeah, I mean, I loved it.

The show has been renewed for a second season, is there anything that is not in the books that you would like to see for Jeremiah?
I don’t want to — because I kind of know what’s gonna happen in season two, so I’m not gonna say anything but I am excited for where season two is going. I think it’ll leave people like on the edge of their seat, not knowing what’s what, and that’s gonna be the fun part is, again, Jenny’s brilliant. It’s gonna be a constant switch between the two. You’re gonna love Jeremiah, you’re gonna be like, “Bro, what are you doing?” You’re gonna do the same with Conrad, you’re gonna do the same with Belly, and even Steven. So I’m gonna put a pin in that but it’s gonna be fun to look forward to, so you guys have a lot in store.

Lastly, is there anything you personally took away from Jeremiah after playing him?
It was fun doing scenes with Lola and really with everyone, like, the individual scenes were my favorite because every single scene, every single take, I was learning something about Jeremiah, which would help me learn kind of where my headspace was in the past because I feel like we’re always kind of thinking, renewing our thought processes a little bit from when we were younger and we’re always refining ourselves. I think understanding more of what Jeremiah was feeling was helping me understand what I was feeling back when I was a teenager, and it just allowed me to really work through some of that stuff and bring stuff up that I’m like, “Whoa, I didn’t think I had that problem still.” And I’m like, “Woah, this is really interesting.” So yeah, I think it just opened up a lot of my past and helped me understand it, and that’s just something that Jeremiah — because him and I are so similar, I think, it was a treat because I’ve learned so much about myself, just the little things and so much about Jeremiah. I’m excited to go back for season two, I think it’ll be very fun.