How the 19-year-old star secured a major role in Jenny Han’s universe.
In Elite Daily's series At The Moment, celebs dish on their current projects, pop culture hot takes, and everything taking over their group chats. In this piece, Lola Tung opens up about texting with Jenny Han — oh yeah, and starring in the iconic author’s new TV show, The Summer I Turned Pretty.
Lola Tung knows how important her first big acting job is. The 19-year-old newcomer is taking on the lead role of Isabel “Belly” Conklin in Prime Video’s adaptation of The Summer I Turned Pretty, the beloved YA book series by author Jenny Han (who also penned To All The Boys, NBD). With a built-in fanbase of viewers who grew up reading the novels — not to mention the expectations following the mega success of Han’s *other* major book-to-screen adaptations — Tung is feeling the pressure. But she’s also feeling ready.
“I want to make the readers happy, because so many people grew up with the books and have that really special connection to them,” Tung tells Elite Daily. “So [I’m] feeling a little bit of pressure, but I’m so proud of all the work that we did. Having Jenny be so involved in the process was even more special.”
The Summer I Turned Pretty (out June 17) marks the first time Han wrote the screen adaptation of one of her books, and she was heavily involved behind the scenes. She’s even the one who told Tung she got the lead role. “Jenny said, ‘You’re our Belly,’ and I completely froze for a couple seconds because it was such an incredible feeling,” Tung says. “I called my mom crying afterwards ... and then freaked out with my roommates.”
It’s a dream scenario that almost didn’t happen. Tung was in the middle of her first semester at Carnegie Mellon University when her manager encouraged her to audition for The Summer I Turned Pretty. “I was like, ‘All right, I’ll do the tapes, but I’m very focused on school and that’s my priority,’” Tung says. Thankfully, starring in the series provided a ton of hands-on education.
“It was really one of the best learning experiences to be on set and watching all the moving pieces and to see how all of it comes together,” Tung says. Working so closely with Han in particular was enlightening. “We were all just living down in Wilmington, North Carolina, so like, just having [Han] there to ask anything about the character, about the story, about life — because it’s kind of a life-changing opportunity — was really, really incredible. She’s such a wonderful person.”
As Tung prepares for the inevitable fame that’s to come with starring in a much-hyped teen rom-com series, she’s “taking everything a day at a time.” But she’s also already prepping for the upcoming Season 2 of The Summer I Turned Pretty, which was greenlit before Season 1 even premiered. She can’t give away much about what’s to come for Belly — or for the two brothers Belly is stuck in a love triangle with, Conrad (Chris Briney) and Jeremiah (Gavin Casalegno) — but she drops a hint: “You [will] get to see the relationships between Belly and the boys develop more,” she says.
As for which brother she hopes Belly ends up with? “I’m very much in support of her doing what she feels is best for her, and both of the boys are really wonderful, Conrad and Jeremiah — and Chris and Gavin in real life, too,” she says. But Tung insists on remaining neutral. “I’m Team Belly.”
Below, Tung answers some rapid-fire questions about what’s going on in her life at the moment.
What is your sun, moon, and rising sign?
I’m a Scorpio sun, a Cancer moon, and a Sagittarius rising.
What is your favorite app on your phone?
My photo app. I love looking through photos.
What kinds of TikToks dominate your For You page these days?
Cooking, makeup, fashion, and a little bit of Summer I Turned Pretty in there, too.
Who was your first celebrity crush?
I was a big Disney girl when I was younger. I loved High School Musical. Maybe Zac Efron or Corbin Bleu.
If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Mac and cheese.
What is one thing you need in the morning to start your day?
Water. Or sunlight, that too.
What is your least favorite Gen Z stereotype?
That we’re lazy and only care about social media and what’s on our phones. I feel like this generation is just the opposite of that.
What is your most-used emoji?
A little red heart.
Who is the last person you texted?
I texted my sister last. But I did just get a text from Jenny, so that’s cool.
What is your song of the summer?
I love “Be Sweet” by Japanese Breakfast. That’s been on repeat for me.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
A lot of people with the show coming out now have said to me, “Just enjoy it and have fun.” Sometimes it’s just as simple as that, to not overthink everything and to just live in the moment and be present and enjoy it.