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The Summer I Turned Pretty: Elsie Fisher on Skye's Big Moment and Representing the Non-Binary Community

And whether she's Team Conrad or Team Jeremiah

Max Gao
Elsie Fisher, The Summer I Turned Pretty

Elsie Fisher, The Summer I Turned Pretty

Erika Doss/Prime Video

[Warning: This story contains spoilers for The Summer I Turned Pretty Season 2, Episode 6, "Love Fest." Read at your own risk!]

Elsie Fisher has seen some of your theories about Skye in The Summer I Turned Pretty. From the moment it was announced that Fisher and Kyra Sedgwick were joining the second season of the hit Prime Video romantic drama, online fans, who have pored over every last detail in Jenny Han's book trilogy, began speculating about who they would play in the screen adaptation.

Han, who serves as creator and co-showrunner, had created new characters to expand the second novel of her trilogy, titled It's Not Summer Without You, but those details were mostly kept under wraps until the premiere last month. "There was a teaser poster that dropped and everyone was like, 'Oh, whoever people are looking at is their crush this season.' So a lot of people thought that I was gonna be Jeremiah's new love interest," Fisher told TV Guide with a laugh. "And I was like, 'Oh, God. Nope, nope!' Jeremiah [is a] lovely, lovely boy, but we're family, so not that."

Now more than halfway into the sophomore season, fans have discovered that Fisher plays the nonbinary cousin of Jeremiah (Gavin Casalegno) and Conrad Fisher (Christopher Briney), whose mother Susannah (Rachel Blanchard) recently died of breast cancer. To make things even more complicated, Skye's mother, Julia (Sedgwick), who is also the older half-sister of Susannah, has spent the last few weeks attempting to sell the Fisher family's beloved house in Cousins Beach — but not necessarily for the reasons one might expect.

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"I know you genuinely believe that you're gonna get closure by selling this house, but you're not," Skye tells their mother in a final plea to back out of the sale of the house, which Susannah and Julia inherited from their shared father after his death, in the sixth episode. "Because you're not selling it for closure or for money or any of the other reasons. You're selling it for confirmation that we could never belong here."

With Julia refusing to budge on the sale, Skye decides to stay behind and joins the rest of their new friends by throwing one last party in the Fisher house. The party marks a turning point for many characters: Belly (Lola Tung) feels more conflicted than ever between choosing Conrad or Jeremiah and tearfully calls her mother, Laurel (Jackie Chung), to explain what has happened to the house; Steven (Sean Kaufman) and Taylor (Rain Spencer) make their relationship official after a public tussle with Taylor's ex-boyfriend; and Skye has their first kiss with Cameron (David Iacono), the Cousins Beach local who dated Belly in the first season. (It remains to be seen what the recently sold house will look like the morning after the party.)

On a call from New York City before the Screen Actors Guild began its strike for fair wages, Fisher spoke about Skye's first kiss and relationships with their estranged cousins, her fondest memories of shooting with the younger cast, and where she personally stands in the love triangle at the heart of the show.

How aware were you of Jenny's original book trilogy and the overwhelming success of the first season before you signed on to this project, and what do you remember from the process of auditioning for this show?

Elsie Fisher: It was so funny because I remembered recently [that] when I was in my eighth-grade English class, my teacher used to tell us about Jenny, which is so crazy to think about. I actually got to meet Jenny personally a couple years ago, so I've been super aware of her and in her circles for a minute, and my process of joining the show was really cool. I didn't really have the typical auditioning process, which was very flattering and cool for me. I just had a lot of discussions and conversations with Jenny about what she wanted from the character. The whole process moved really quickly, and I found myself getting shipped from New York City to Wilmington, North Carolina. My circumstances kind of ended up being similar to what Skye goes through this season, where I come into the group from across the river or whatever, but everyone was so accepting, kind, and wonderful.

Since Skye wasn't in the original books, what were some of those important considerations that you and Jenny had in mind when bringing your character to life?

Fisher: It was just so important for us to hit the mark because there are a lot of specificities and I just wanted to get it right, and I think Jenny and [co-showrunner] Sarah [Kucserka] felt the same. Obviously, there's the big conversation of Skye's identity as a nonbinary person, and I was always just very conscious of, "Oh God, I want this to feel like a good representation and make sure that the character feels like a whole person separate from their identity." So I think that was a huge consideration. Skye's own relationship with romance this season was pretty important because obviously, romance and young love is a huge focus, and that's a story that's being told so many times throughout the entirety of the series.

One of the things I found refreshing about Skye's introduction as a character who is nonbinary was how their identity was accepted immediately, in spite of what was happening with their mom. It reminds me of how Jeremiah's sexuality was introduced in the first season and then just accepted as part of his character rather than his defining characteristic.

Fisher: Yeah, I always try to advocate for my characters if anything feels off as an actor, but I'm always open to having that whole discussion. Part of the beauty of Skye to me is that, yeah, their [gender] identity really is not at all the focus of their story, whether it's with their mom or with the kids. Having it just be this underlying presence that isn't referenced too heavily but is still fully who they are was really nice because I also feel like, for any LGBTQ+ character but especially trans characters, that [label] can just sort of put people in a box. That's basically the biggest thing I wanted to avoid with Skye; I never wanted to put them in a box. I want them to feel like a fully three-dimensional character who could be a real person and has space to grow.

The Summer I Turned Pretty

The Summer I Turned Pretty

Erika Doss/Prime Video

The bulk of the second season plays out over the course of a few days before the start of the summer, but the characters still undergo a noticeable change during that time. Was there a specific moment when you noticed a shift in Skye, in terms of their decision to go against their mom and take the side of their cousins in this contentious sale of the house?

Fisher: Yeah, my whole role as Skye this season is playing mediator, I guess, so Skye may disagree with the sale or whatever, but their mom is kind of their whole world, so there's a lot of tension, of course. But in terms of marking an actual shift, I think [it was] when Skye's able to connect with all the kids, but especially when they see how everything has affected Conrad and Jeremiah specifically. When it comes to Susannah's whole situation, it's not like Skye really knew her and [Skye] probably struggles to connect with her personally, but there are some really nice moments between Skye and Conrad especially where I think the reality of why the house is so important is able to really set in, and I think that's a big part of their shift.

Are there any specific moments between Skye and Conrad or Jeremiah that stand out to you and maybe offer more insight into Skye's backstory or personality?

Fisher: I think one of the biggest ones is everything at the boardwalk. That's really the first time that they hang out, but Skye, in general, is a character that hasn't spent much time with people their own age anyway, so this is a very enlightening experience. It's funny because I think so many of the characters this season experience growth by becoming more mature and becoming more of an adult, but Skye's kind of the opposite in that respect because they start as pretty reserved and basically feel like they're on the same level as the adults and sort of "grow down" in a sense and learn to be a kid.

Since you mentioned shooting the boardwalk scenes in Episode 4, what are some of your memories of establishing who Skye was within that group dynamic that was so well-loved in the first season? I also heard you guys could only shoot at the boardwalk a few days each week, so you ended up shooting there over the course of a month.

Fisher: Well, it was kind of nice because it was mirroring my own experience of joining the show, and the boardwalk stuff was a lot of the first stuff I really shot. My very first day on set shooting was when Belly and Jeremiah were doing the hoops game. But it was kind of brutal. Like you said, we only had so much time on the boardwalk because it was still open to the public, or we could only shut it down for so many hours on so many days, so it did extend longer than some of the other sequences in the show, but it was wonderful there. We got free ice cream some days — that was pretty killer — and were basically paid to play arcade games for hours on end, so not too shabby if I say so myself. [Laughs.]

Apart from shooting on the boardwalk, do you have a specific memory of working with the cast that seems representative of your experience of shooting the second season?

Fisher: It's such a hard question because all the memories do sort of blend together, but at the same time, I can't help but look back on the whole experience so fondly. Anything that had all of the cast together was really fun, really treasured, and I think especially by the time we got to shoot the stuff on the golf course, [that] was pretty, pretty well into the season and it was all of us together. It was funny because it was night shoots, which can be kind of brutal on the soul and the psyche, but at the same time there's this sense of delirium where you can't help but go crazy and have fun. So I think all this stuff on the golf course just felt like such a perfect tippy-top to the whole show.

Leading up to the party in Episode 6, Skye ends up asking Belly and Taylor about what it's like to kiss someone. There was something very endearing about watching Belly talk about her kisses with Conrad, Jeremiah and Cameron, and then watching Skye ask for a play-by-play and some pointers about what to do in the moment. What was it like for you to work with Lola and Rain, first and foremost, and what did you enjoy most about playing out the lead-up to Skye's first kiss?

Fisher: The whole experience was so much fun, and it was really cute because everyone on set was really rooting for my character too, so I felt a lot of warmth in terms of the lead-up. But oh my god, Rain and Lola are just superstars. I adore them so much. It was funny because I feel like Skye is such a logical character, [and] I think, as a person, I'm not [as logical] and I'm much more felt. Skye could also fall into the nerd archetype or whatever, which, again, was another thing I was conscious of. It was just very sweet with the first kiss though because the buildup is emotionally big, I suppose, but it all just felt very low stakes and very organic in this really nice way. Skye's 16 at this point, so it's a little bit of a late first kiss, but hopefully, other people in life can relate and maybe not feel so weird about being a bit of a late bloomer when it comes to that stuff because society creates so many standards [and expectations].

There's something also really innocent about Skye asking Cam for their first kiss because, as far as I know, Skye is not looking for a relationship right now. They just feel a sense of connection with Cam, because they urged him earlier in the day to go beyond the borders of Cousins Beach and pursue his dreams as a sailor.

Fisher: Yeah, I think part of that specific speech is both [Skye] hyping Cam up and probably words that Skye themself needs to hear. I love the Skye/Cam relationship so much because first of all, talking about how the show only takes place over so many days, it's like, "Well, of course, they're not like Romeo and Juliet." They barely know each other, but it was all so sweet because they're both outsiders a little bit in this group of kids. I think both of them are old souls, and to find that like familiarity with each other was really nice. And Cam's the Boy of the Month; everyone's a big fan of Cam. So that was very exciting for me. [Laughs.]

Out of curiosity, since we are talking about Cameron, who dated Belly in the first season, do you have an opinion about who Belly should end up with? I'm really asking you, are you team Conrad or team Jeremiah?

Fisher: [Laughs.] I think they're all teenagers, and the world is a big place. I want Belly to take some time for herself. She's been around these boys her whole life, and she needs to go be free for a little bit. But that being said, there is something very gut-wrenching and very striking and beautiful to me about the Conrad/Belly relationship. I don't know why, but I watched the trailer and it really hit me, so I'm a diehard Con-head!

The Summer I Turned Pretty is now streaming on Prime Video. New episodes premiere every Friday through August 18.