The Summer I Turn Pretty is an adaptation of the beloved Jenny Han novel of the same name following a teen love triangle between Belly Conklin and her two childhood friends, brothers Jeremiah and Conrad Fisher. The Amazon Original Series debuted on June 17th to overwhelmingly positive critic and fan reactions, with many reviews appreciating the timeless quality of the first season, likening it to popular teen shows of the 1990s.
The coming-of-age series is able to deliver a story that is both modern and nostalgic, paying homage to classics like My So-Called Life and Dawson’s Creek, though portraying themes of sexuality and womanhood through a 2022 lens. While the charismatic cast is undeniably the main reason The Summer I Turned Pretty has resonated with so many, it’s hard not to wonder what the show would’ve looked like during the glory days of youth-oriented networks of the time like The WB.
Kristin Kreuk As Isabel “Belly” Conklin
Belly Conklin, the main protagonist, realizes over the course of one fateful summer that things will never be as they were before. Previously thought of as one of the boys, Belly’s development into a more mature teenager finds herself at the center of a love triangle between her two close friends.
Kristin Kreuk was not well known before her starring role on the hit WB show Smallville, but the actress would have undoubtedly been the best choice for the character. Kruek’s sweet and caring demeanor perfectly mirrors that of Lola Tung’s, ultimately crafting an onscreen lead that most viewers would relate to and cheer for.
Josh Hartnett As Conrad Fisher
Conrad, the eldest of the brothers, is struggling with his developing feelings for Belly and trying to digest the news of his mother’s recent cancer diagnosis. Unable to accept the changes to his life, he begins to act out, often hurting those closest to him before ultimately speaking his truth.
Josh Hartnett was one of the most popular teen heartthrobs of the 1990s, making girls all over the world swoon. He appeared in hit movies like H20, The Faculty, and Sin City, one of Hartnett’s best movies. Often starring as the rebellious or sullen teenager, the role of Conrad would have been pitch perfect for the young actor.
Devon Sawa As Jeremiah Fisher
Fun loving, facetious, and fiercely protective, Jeremiah is able to easily charm everyone he comes in contact with. His effortless suavity and compassionate heart makes Belly question her lifelong crush on Conrad and thus creates the central conflict in the show.
From playing a friendly ghost in Casper to a green-haired rebel in SLC Punk, Devon Sawa was quite the popular actor in the 1990s, charming critics and audiences. Considered a heartthrob by many, Sawa could easily convey the high-spirited and sweet demeanor of Jeremiah while also nailing the more emotional aspects of the character.
Michelle Yeoh As Laurel Park
Belly’s mother Laurel is newly single and struggling to figure out what her next move is. As a successful author, she can’t seem to find inspiration for a new book, but in the meantime, she ends up finding a summer fling in the form of a handsome writer.
Michelle Yeoh is currently wowing critics and audiences alike in Everything Everywhere All at Once, which is not only considered to be Yeoh’s best role, but also one of the best films of 2022. However, Yeoh’s career spans decades and is a prime example of just how versatile and beloved she is. Her ability to play both loving and formidable characters would work well as Laurel, who finds herself constantly switching from caring mother to strict overseer.
Michelle Pfeiffer As Susannah Fisher
Susanna is a wealthy housewife who discovers that she has cancer for the second time. Unwilling to put herself through chemo, Susanna accepts her tragic fate and decides to have one last perfect summer at Cousins. She is strong-willed, loving, and passionate about her art, which acts as an emotional through line in the show.
Michelle Pfeiffer lovely and endearing manner encapsulates that of Susanna’s. Susanna Fisher is a fun and sassy character that decides to grab a hold of her life and be in charge of its trajectory. In addition to Pfeiffer’s role in Scarface, which is widely referred to as Michelle Pfeiffer’s best movie, her roles in Dangerous Minds, and One Fine Day also showcase the drive and agency that perfectly coincides with Susanna’s character arc over the series.
John Leguizamo As Cleveland Castillo
A successful novelist, Cleveland Castillo heads to the town of Cousins to research sailing for his next book. Once there, he instantly connects with Laurel and finds himself falling for her while also acting as a surrogate father to Conrad, allowing him a safe space to open up about his mother’s cancer return.
It’s not surprising that many believe Cleveland is the most likable character on the show. Kind, wise, and also incredibly charming, there’s not many actors from the ’90s that could pull off what Alfredo Narciso did in the role. However, there’s one actor from that time period who always exudes charm, and that’s John Leguizamo. An incredibly talented and diverse performer, Leguizamo would flawlessly convey the character’s extremely high emotional intelligence and his yearning for Laurel.
Devon Aoki As Shayla
Shayla is not only the most sought-after teenager in Cousins, but she’s also the most stylish. A budding fashionista, Shayla uses her knowledge of labels to be the most put-together debutante of the season. Struggling with her relationship, Shayla begins to look outside of her narrow worldview and see things from a less glamorous perspective.
Devon Aoki might’ve gained attention as Suki in 2 Fast 2 Furious, but long before that she was a successful fashion model. No stranger to designer labels, the similarities between Aoki’s stylish past and Shayla’s fashion aspirations are too compelling to ignore. Not only could she bring so much insight to the role, she would be able to make it her own.
Mena Suvari As Taylor
Taylor is Belly’s best friend and remains loyal to a fault, but sometimes it proves to not always be a good thing. Taylor is brutally honest and always up for a good time, making her a great person to befriend but a terrible person to make an enemy.
Mena Suvari would be an ideal choice for Taylor, as she has a lot of experience playing the best friend. Starring in movies like American Beauty and Sugar and Spice, the latter co-starring The Summer I Turned Pretty actor Rachel Blanchard, her filmography shows her to be quite the talented actress who has experience being excellent in similar roles.
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