Originally a fictional series of works from author Jenny Han, the Amazon Prime adaptation has taken over the cultural zeitgeist since its release in June with fans pledging allegiance to their favourite Fisher brother in the plot's ever-evolving love triangle. Undoubtedly, The Summer I Turned Pretty has catapulted Christopher into a brand-new realm. Ryan Williams captures the candidness of Christopher’s charm for this shoot against the hazy American sun, while Natasha Bock’s eclectically cool styling is the perfect pairing.
Having moved to New York to study in 2016, it’s a place Christopher now calls home. Surrounded by a group of friends who have taken on the role of a chosen family, they offer a support system in a whirlwind industry where the people around you become all the more important. When I broach the topic of his growing profile, Christopher is aware of the power it gives people to form opinions on him based upon nothing other than fictional characters and word of mouth. As someone who is built with integrity and kindness, it’s an element of fame he doesn’t revel in but is simultaneously grateful to be surrounded by a fan base who have made the process easy. Having previously delved into a more independent genre of filmmaking, the transition was a big one. But what those years did instil within him is a hope to direct, having developed a fascination with cinematography and possessing an innate storytelling quality in his disposition alone.
In spite of just being on the cusp of carving out his undoubtedly long career, Christopher is abundantly aware of the characteristics that not only form a good actor but also a good person. We touch upon the concept of masculinity and the societal pressures that come hand in hand with the archetype, admitting himself to how easy it is “to fall into the trap of playing it cool and being strong for other people”. It’s a characteristic mirrored in Conrad’s character and one that relates to so many other young men grappling with the maze that is their early twenties, plagued with uncertainty and facing the unknown. But Christopher is self-aware enough to do the introspective work, take a deep breath and “hope for positive things in general, that's all you can do”.
Catch Christopher Briney as Conrad in 'The Summer I Turned Pretty' on Amazon Prime now.
Can you tell us something most people don't know about you?
I don't know if people know it about me, maybe it is obvious but I'm not self-aware enough to know. I'm just a very shy person. Which is kind of funny if people come up to you or something. Everyone is nice and I'm not going to try to be rude to anybody but it just makes me anxious. I think a lot of actors tend to be that way; there are a lot of actors who are not very social instinctually.
What is your simplest pleasure in life?
I feel like that just has to be a cup of coffee in the morning, I don't think I could do a day without it. It's easy to take care of.
I completely agree, it’s a nice ritual in the morning. You grew up in Connecticut but where do you feel most at home?
It definitely has changed. It's nice to go back to Connecticut because my dad and my sister are still there but I feel more at home in New York now. I’ve lived there since I started going to school in 2016, so six years ago and I've lived there since I graduated too. I have all my friends there, so being surrounded by my friends is a really sweet thing. I live with a bunch of my friends, my girlfriend lives down the street and she lives with more of my friends. So, we just have a little community out there in Brooklyn. I don't think anywhere else feels the same.
It’s almost like a chosen family. In those years when you're growing up, the people that are your support system tend to change and then wherever they are, feels like home.
Exactly that. They're the people I feel like are going to be around me for my whole life. It's just a nice feeling, they make me feel safe and loved and all those other good things.
That’s lovely. Let’s talk about The Summer I Turned Pretty as it’s been such a success since its release earlier this summer. Going into it, did you think it would become as popular as it has?
I mean, I always wanted it to do well because when you're working on something and you feel good about it, you're excited about the material, the other people and the talented crew it's easy to feel inspired when you're on set. Then you step away from it and you're like, ‘oh, people might hate this, people might not watch it, Amazon might cancel it!’. Everything's so uncertain that I don't think I ever expected it to do well, but I definitely always hoped it would. So I feel very lucky to be able to keep doing it.
Stepping into a fictional franchise such as this one was going to come with expectations. Did you feel a sense of pressure taking on such a beloved character?
It was definitely weird. I think I was a little naive to the impact these books had on people when they were growing up. I knew it had been a very successful book series, but I'd never read it and I don't think when I was 13 I was having conversations with people about how it was affecting their youth. Fortunately, I wasn't really conscious of how much this mattered to people, so I was able to do my own work and just focus on the acting side of it. But at the same time, my first professional project was this really good independent film and working on that I remember feeling like we were working in a vacuum. Nobody really knows about this movie, no one's really waiting for this movie, no one's expecting anything from this movie and it's sort of a biopic, but I'm playing a fictional character, so there's no pressure to be anything because no one expects it. The second you step onto a TV set like The Summer I Turned Pretty, you’re like, ‘oh, man there's a guaranteed audience here’. It was weird, it was sort of yes and no, but luckily, I didn't understand the scope of it at the time.
It was probably a blessing in disguise. I imagine filming a show like this must have been so memorable, what was the atmosphere like on set? And what do you hope to see in series two?
For the first season, there was just some sort of magic in the air. We were all so excited and nervous, and we still are but last year especially so. We were going out of our minds hanging out every single night with each other, pulling pranks on each other on set. There was so much energy between everybody and we worked together a lot every single week. So far in this block, I haven't worked that much with everybody because of the way the structure works it's been more low-key. The goal is to always capture that, I don't think we'll ever be able to quite find it again and I don't know if I'd ever want to. But there is a young, excited, nervous energy you have when you're meeting people and I feel like that energy was in the first season itself too. It was nice that we were experiencing that in our lives.
Sometimes you can't recreate that but, sometimes you don't always want to. It was there for a reason.
It’s there and it's still there. It's still beautiful and it's still these things, but you just can't try to recreate things like that.
There is a split loyalty among fans between Conrad and Jeremiah in the plot's love triangle but are there any parts of Conrad you see reflected in yourself?
There definitely are. When I first started reading the books, I didn't want there to be because he can be sort of a piece of shit. And then I was like, ‘oh I guess I can be a piece of shit too’ [laughs]. Especially growing up as a man, I can only speak to my experience, but it's easy to fall into the trap of playing it cool and being strong for other people, which can really just mess you up. I think it can be a very bad habit. It's weird because I grew up with a dad who would always say, "You know if you need to cry, then cry." He’s a very sweet kind, man. But somewhere in the world, I learned to be like, ‘I don't want to cry, I don't want to talk about my emotions’, I don't even have a memory of that being taught to me.
It can be absorbed from so many different parts of your surroundings. Even though the discourse surrounding masculinity is so much more open, there is still that element just innately that is picked up from the outside world.
Exactly. It's a weird thing. Looking back, talking to my therapist I was going: Why am I like this? Why? Why do I have trouble expressing myself right now? It doesn't make sense. But it's just the way the world is.
Stepping behind the screen and away from your character, what are the key characteristics that form Christopher?
It’s hard for me to answer this about myself. I try to be good to people. I try to be kind and that's the most important thing to do in this world. It really frustrates me when people aren't, and there's so much of that in the world, you see it everywhere. More than anything, I just try to be good to people. Especially working on a film set too, it's an environment where everybody's just doing their job, everybody wants to be there and everybody's excited to go to work. Every day, everybody's excited to go home, and you're all on the same page, or all have the same goal. You can get through the day and go back tomorrow and do it all again. So, if you can make somebody else's job a little easier, or somebody else's day a little easier then I think you've done your job.
It’s sad that kindness can be such a rarity. You don't realise that until you interact with more and more people as you grow up.
Yeah, you see someone saying some weird shit, and you're like: What? Where did that come from? Who are you?
In that similar realm of thinking, what do you think is the first impression that you give to people when they meet you?
People say a lot, "Oh, you're tall.” I'm not that tall, I'm 6’2, but I get that a lot [laughs]. I think I would just want people to enjoy talking to me. Life would be sad if you weren't interested in something, so I hope someone could see me as someone who was interested in something and passionate. I'd rather not be boring in life.
I think that's a very good answer. Taking it back to the beginning, what would you tell your younger self if you could have a conversation with him?
I'd encourage him to make more mistakes when he was younger because it's so okay. That was the fun thing about doing this show, these kids are all making mistakes in their lives, and it's going to be okay, they're going to figure it out. But when you're younger, there's this mentality that everything is so important. It always feels like you're on the cusp of the rest of your life and that's just not the case. Life doesn't really work like that. There are obviously big moments in your life, but there's a lot of room to mess up and learn things, especially when you're younger. That's important to being a person because you’ll think, ‘ah when I was a kid and I did XYZ and now I learned’.
I think that feeling of being on the cusp of something in your late teens or early 20s and the expectations that come with it is a universal thing. Everything’s new and scary, but at the same time, no one at this age has done it before.
It's really scary but that was exactly what it was like: no one knows what this looks like. You just think they do - you think everyone has an expectation.
I wanted to ask you about the concept of fame and everything that comes with it. How are you finding the rather sudden rise into the public eye? Has there been a moment when you realised things have changed?
I don't think I've changed personally which is a good thing, but it can be weird sometimes. I was listening to a Matt Damon interview a long time ago, where he was talking about how weird it is to walk into a room where other people already have opinions about you, and you have no idea who they are. That's a weird sensation. I feel really lucky because the fan base of this show is really sweet, I haven't had any bad interactions - I've had nice conversations, and people are really excited. But it's just a weird thing for someone to think they know who you are because they saw some of your work. It's a blessing in a lot of ways but it's also just a weird sensation to feel like someone's watching you.
Especially because the things people see of you most are also fictional. So of course, you're not going to be like that character, or this character, or whatever. It must really play with people's opinions, which is interesting.
Yeah, I was talking to Jenny [Han] about this and people get attached to these characters, and then they want to see more of these characters. But season two won't come out until next year so they're looking for it in all of our daily lives. They'll project that on to us and be like, "Oh, they're hanging out?" It's like, "Well, yeah of course we are we’re friends!” It has nothing to do with the show.
Is there any anxiety for you that surrounds the idea of lending over more of yourself as not only the show but also your personal profile as it begins to grow?
Yeah, there's always some sort of anxiety with me just always with people in general. It's hard to do things. More than anything, I'm excited by the prospect of maybe this opening some doors to new opportunities. The goal of every actor or artist is to share their work with people however, it's to whatever scale they want that to be on. I love walking down the street and not thinking about other people knowing who I am but at the same time, I want to be a part of really interesting and cool things. Hopefully, people will also want to share those really interesting, cool things. So there are two sides to it, because there's obvious anxiety about other people's opinions because other people's opinions can really hurt sometimes and you can really start to believe them. But at the same time, it's not going to stop me from doing the things I want to do and if other people have opinions that can help me do what I want to do, that's even better.
In the 21st Century, social media tends to go hand in hand with this industry. What is your relationship with that like?
It’s definitely changed. I don't think I've ever loved social media as an idea. At least as I've gotten older, I'm like ‘oh shit it's really toxic’, it just consumes all my time and I don't feel good about the time I spend on it. So I don't love social media but it's sort of a necessary evil, I think. Because there are a lot of positives to it -you can stay connected to so many people and you can have a connection with an audience. That's just the weirdest thing, now my social media has this audience. I never really posted much but if anything, it was just me sharing pictures of my friends, not that I can't do that anymore but I had about 700 people that followed me, and I knew who all of them were. Now that is a tiny fraction of the following I have so it's not for just me anymore, I think is what I have to accept. But I'm going to use it to promote the things I care about when I can and stay off it as much as I can. Otherwise, it's weird to see somebody else posting your face. The first time I saw myself on TikTok, I was like, ‘how did that get here?’ [laughs].
As someone who is beginning to define their career, where do you hope to see your trajectory as an actor and the roles you play heading in the future?
A huge part of the reason I act is because of the movies I fell in love with when I was younger. As I get older, that leans further and further towards independent film, and I know it's a very underfunded area but I think it’s some of the purest art. It's just directors that do what they want to do without restriction. The first project I ever did was an independent movie, I love it to death, just the idea of creating something unique and artful really excites me. I really do want to direct at some point, I really would love to write and I'd love to shoot something. Cinematography is really exciting to me.
I imagine it’s impossible to not be inspired or intrigued by other parts of the industry when you’re surrounded by such creativity.
I do find it impossible not to think about that. So much about directing or shooting something, I've done so many short films with friends. There was a point in my life where I wanted to go to school for filmmaking or cinematography, there are very limited majors for cinematography, but for filmmaking in general there were a bunch and then I had a teacher who told me I could try acting. I was like, ‘oh, I'll do that’, but there is a big part of me that wants to direct and I just love movies too much not to want to direct. When you see something that inspires you and it just makes me think about making someone else feel that way.
When you're not working, how do you unwind?
Well, when I'm here I play a lot of video games with Sean [Kaufman] who's also on the show - we live together right now. So we just come home and play video games if we have downtime. I also listen to music a lot on set. Last year, because my energy was too high, I couldn't bring myself to sit down and watch movies and enjoy them but I've finally been able to watch a few movies this year so far, which feels really good. I used to like just driving with nowhere to go but gas is expensive and now you start thinking about the environment. I can't do that anymore [laughs]. I always did it going out with my best friend. Every single day, we’d just get in the car, drive and listen to music. We wouldn't talk, sometimes we would, but there's something so beautiful about just driving.
What makes you emotional?
Everybody's emotional in their own way. As an actor, you have to be emotional and at least have opinions about things, but I don't know if I can always identify in my own life what is making me emotional. One of my greatest fears in life is letting the people around me down. This might not be healthy but I'll work on it [laughs]. If I ever feel like I have, that really puts me in a bad place because I'm like: Fuck, did I do something to somebody else? Did I hurt somebody else? That's not something that happens often, but it's a feeling I have felt and do not ever want to feel again. Also, sometimes a good movie will speak to you for no reason.
Sometimes it takes crying at a movie to figure out what you’re actually crying about in your own life. [Both laugh]
Oh yeah absolutely, out of nowhere. You'll just be watching the movie and it's like, ‘why am I thinking of my dad, right now?’ [laughs].
Can you share any personal remedies you have for when it feels like life might be getting a little tough?
I don't think you can ever go wrong with just trying to tell somebody else how you feel. I feel very lucky that I have a lot of people in my life who are excited and willing to listen to me if I have some shit I want to say. People that won't judge me for having feelings and opinions and will call me out if I'm not broadening my perspective enough. I feel really lucky but I think I just ask for help. I lean on the people around me and obviously would do the same for them. But having a good support system, in general, is something I would never take for granted and I'm very grateful to have.
It circles back to what we said earlier about how a chosen family plays such a large role, especially when you’re young.
It can be hard to find. I feel lucky to have as many friends as I do.
What does the next decade look like for you in an ideal world?
I hope to stay happy and healthy and maintain my relationships. I hope I can just keep working, I think that is the truth of it. I hope I can keep acting and working on projects that excite me and find time to work on my own projects. 10 years from now... I feel like I can get some stuff done [laughs]. I feel like there's time there to explore new things. I want to learn some things and I never want to stop learning. 10 years from now, I want to have a movie at a festival. I want to have a movie of my own at a festival that I directed. I'm manifesting that right now. I'm hoping for positive things in general, that's all you can do.
We’re speaking it into existence.