Family, Faith, and Film: A Chat with “The Summer I Turned Pretty” Actor Gavin Casalegno

Starting off as a young actor in commercials, Gavin Casalegno talks about his love for family and acting while sharing some stories regarding the latest series he starred in, “The Summer I Turned Pretty”

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Like most kids of his age, little Gavin Casalegno grew up watching television with his parents and discovered the fascination of commercials. Turned out, it was a moment of epiphany: After telling his parents about his interests in commercials, they took him to a local audition and Casalegno tried out. The rest, as they say, is history.
Born in 1999, Casalegno began his acting career when he was six years old, appearing in a number of commercials. His acting journey, interestingly, was actually preceded by a modelling career. So far, Casalegno has starred in various television series and motion pictures, including “I Am… Gabriel,” “Dead Still” and the epic drama “Noah,” in which he plays a biblical character. Recently, DA MAN had the opportunity to talk with Casalegno about his acting journey while discussing how family and faith play an important role in his search of peace and solace.

DAMAN: Times flies and we’re now about to enter the second half of 2022. How has life treated you so far this year?
Gavin Casalegno: Honestly, I can’t complain! Although the last couple of years have been difficult and different, it’s forced everyone to reconsider what is important to them. For me, it was spending a lot more time with my family. I also enjoyed playing sports like soccer, volleyball and horseback riding.

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Outfit by Versace

DAMAN: You famously began your acting career from a very young age. Can you tell us what your childhood was like?
Gavin Casalgeno: I guess I had a pretty normal childhood. I went to school, hung out with my friends, went to church and played sports.

DAMAN: How did your childhood influence your acting career?
Gavin Casalegno: I was around six years old when I started appearing in commercials. I always found it fascinating. And once I did my first commercial with Sony, I fell in love. I mean, you get to be yourself and have fun with other people and people film it … what more could you ask for?

DAMAN: Can you tell us what or who inspired you to become an actor?
Gavin Casalegno: I loved watching TV as akid with my parents. I found commercials fascinating and I told my parents it looked fun. They took me to a local commercial audition and I booked it. Since then, I never looked back.

DAMAN: The past decade has seen you in a variety of series and films, one of them the biblical drama “Noah.” What was it like to be on set for that epic movie?
Gavin Casalegno: Oh, man! “Noah” renewed my passion for acting. To work with Sir Anthony Hopkins, Emma Watson, and Russel Crowe was
a dream come true. This was my acting debut. It was also meaningful as I grew up going to church and learning about this biblical story. So, it was even more special to me.

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DAMAN: More recently, you play as Jeremiah in “The Summer I Turned Pretty,” the upcoming young adult series based on the novel of the same title by Jenny Han. Can you share a bit about your character in the series?
Gavin Casalegno: Jeremiah is definitely the foundation for a lot of the relationships in the series. He is reliable, a good friend, brother and son. In my opinion, he definitely undergoes the most change in the series. He goes through a lot of character development and revelations, which I have the writing to thank for. Essentially, he goes from being the life of the party to the broken-hearted.

DAMAN: What has been the most memorable scene from the series for you?
Gavin Casalegno: Well, there were plenty of scenes I could go on about, but I think my top two are the dinner scene with Cam Cameron a.k.a David Iacono and the scene with my mother and brother towards the end of the film. Every time I watch that scene I get choked up.

Sunglasses by Tom Ford

DAMAN: What aspects do you like the best from your character?
Gavin Casalegno: Jeremiah and I actually have so much in common. We both have a “go with the flow” personality, can have fun anywhere and just enjoy being lighthearted … most of the time. It was really special to feel like I can be myself and go along with the emotional journey that Jeremiah was going through. He also has this big brother complex with people and wants to take care of people which is so important to have. It balances out his free spirit. I think I just enjoy being Jeremiah sometimes.

DAMAN: Personality-wise, do you see any major similarities between you and Jeremiah?
Gavin Casalegno: For one, we both have strong family values.

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DAMAN: Christopher Briney plays Conrad, Jeremiah’s brother. How did you two build a chemistry as brothers on set?
Gavin Casalegno: Chris and I hit it off kind of early on, He’s a super easy-going kind of guy and is the life of the party.

DAMAN: What do you think is the most unique or memorable role you have played so far and why?
Gavin Casalegno: I would say the most unique role was my first role in “I Am… Gabriel.” This role changed my life in so many ways. I still get messages from people around the globe of how that film inspired them. And I think that’s what I actually want to do in life: To inspire people to be better versions of themselves and to learn something.

DAMAN: And what would you say has been the most challenging role or character you have ever played?
Gavin Casalegno: The most challenging is probably Jeremiah. It’s easy to play roles that are so drastically far apart from the person you are, but it can get confusing being someone just like you with subtle differences that change the entire way you think. You really need to be in tune with your thoughts and your heart posture to determine if it’s actually you or the character you are playing.

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DAMAN: Different roles indeed come with different challenges. In general, how do you cope?
Gavin Casalegno: My philosophy is different than most, but I believe if you can get in the headspace of the character and the mood of the scenes you are in, nothing else matters. There are hundreds of motives and emotions you go through with every scene, so to narrow it down to feel what exactly you are feeling can sometimes be challenging. But, I would normally write thoughts of the character or change my music choice to be more in-line with the characters.

DAMAN: Do you have dream roles you would love to try playing, or perhaps other genres you would dive into?
Gavin Casalegno: This is going to sound cheesy but I am a sucker for romantic films. I love stories of people finding true and genuine love.

DAMAN: Besides acting, what are some of the things you are most passionate about?
Gavin Casalegno: Well, I definitely have a love for volleyball again because of the show. I found myself being more of an introvert and reading which has been oddly fun.

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DAMAN: If you had gone on a different career path, what would you be?
Gavin Casalegno: I would have loved to play soccer or a different sport on a professional level.

DAMAN: How do you de-stress after your daily hustle and bustle?
Gavin Casalegno: I think it’s important to find the things in your own life that give you peace and joy. For me, it’s my faith … but I also find it being with people I love and care for.

DAMAN: Back to the film industry, we have seen more rising stars in the past decade and the industry has seemingly opened greater opportunities for new talents. Do you have a piece of advice for those who are just beginning their career in this biz?
Gavin Casalegno: The thought that has brought me the most peace in this industry of rejections is that if it’s yours, it’s yours. If it’s not, it’s not. If you were meant to have it, it’ll come; if not it won’t. So, don’t stress yourself if you didn’t book that role you really wanted; obviously it wasn’t the right place or time.

Outfit by Coach; shoes by Off-White

DAMAN: Do you have any upcoming projects you can share with us?
Gavin Casalegno: I am in the process of starting to work on season two and I’m looking forward to other opportunities for my next hiatus.

DAMAN: Last but not least, what do you wish to achieve in this year?
Gavin Casalegno: I would love to dip my toes in other industries and expand my mind in other industries and job types, like directing or real estate … or who knows? I just love learning more about the world and inspiring people!