Oh, youth and it’s unfiltered joy. Its swigs of Fireball straight out of the bottle, skinny dipping under a full moon, falling in love with the mysterious lifeguard, and the peeling from the worst sunburn you’ve ever had. When you’re a teenager, you feel everything with such intensity that you might crack into a million pieces. Heartbreak is tragic and happiness is a high you can’t come down from. 25-year-old actor Christopher Briney gets to live in the fervent world of youth every day on the set of the Amazon Prime series, The Summer I Turned Pretty.
“Youth in general is passionate,” the actor confesses. “It’s a lot easier to be a passionate person when you’re young because everything feels so new and fresh and intense. I think it’s sort of fiery to be taking chances as a young adult.” Both of us linger on the idea of being in our 20s, in limbo between juvenile adventures and sophisticated maturity. What does it mean to be young? After a few moments with Briney, my conclusion is that approaching life with youthfulness and passion is a choice, and we are only victims of age if we want to be.
Although Briney has spent years perfecting his craft in New York at Pace University, where he received a BFA in acting, he is relatively new to the film and TV space. The actor made his film debut starring opposite Sir Ben Kingsley in Dalíland as James, Dalí’s young gallery assistant. Recently, he wrapped production on the upcoming Paramount+ Mean Girls movie musical, produced by Lorne Michaels and Tina Fey, where he is starring as the dreamy Aaron Samuels.
However, Briney is best known for his role in the sunkissed series, The Summer I Turned Pretty, based on Jenny Han’s novel trilogy of the same name. It follows Isabel “Belly” Conklin’s (Lola Tung) annual trip to her family friend’s beach house where she and her brother Steven (Sean Kaufman) join friends Jeremiah (Gavin Casalegno) and Conrad (Briney) for what feels like an eternal summer. Along the way, she develops a puzzling love triangle with the two brothers.
Briney plays the moody yet sweet Conrad Fisher who carries the weight of a secret that no one else in the friend group knows about. “I think he puts too much weight on his shoulders, which is something that I’ve done in my life before,” Briney reflects on his character. “He really thinks the world has to rest on his shoulders, and I think there’s a lot of things about him that I’ve grown out of because he’s, at least in the first season, about five years younger than me.”
The second season premiered this summer and introduces new experiences of tragedy, young love, and the transition into adulthood. Briney expertly hones in on what Conrad might feel as he tackles his mother’s battle with cancer and explores his feelings for childhood best friend, Belly. “It was just finding the parts of him that are not qualities of mine and then trying to see what that looks and feels like for me,” he says on prepping for the role. “Like if he gets angry in a different way than I do, what does that look like? And how does that feel for me?”
Being on set felt a lot like being a teenager on summer break for the actor. He recalls the awkward first week of filming with his castmates, akin to a first day of school. “Maybe it was out of necessity to make friends, but we immediately started just getting up to dumb stuff. We snuck into a pool, we went to the beach, and we had conversations,” says Briney. Now, he finds himself playing video games every week with co-star Sean Kaufman and lobbing a volleyball back and forth between scenes. It is the chemistry and tight-knit friendships they formulated off-screen that has us all longing for those small-town escapades captured in the show.
Duality is something Briney has come to master. Going from a biographical drama film to a coming-of-age romance to a witty musical demonstrates an impressive adaptability. He is impossible to put into a box, eager to leave us breathless with surprise. He tells me about one of the hardest scenes he’s had to film thus far in his acting career. Picture this: You’re in Spain, it’s summer and the breeze is a welcome break from the otherwise scorching temperature. You are walking along the shore and the water is tantalizing. It is blissful. This is what the scene Briney was filming for Dalíland was supposed to evoke, except it was frigid and he only had a light denim jacket shielding him from the relentless wind. It was Briney’s first experience filming in extreme conditions. He thought the elements might skew his performance, after only training in school buildings up until this point, and the scene presented a challenge.
“All of these factors made it so difficult,” he remembers. “I was really falling on my face, and I left that day feeling like I was a failure. I was like, ‘I could really just run to the airport and not tell anybody,’ but the next day was great and everything felt possible. It taught me that I could do it, that I could feel bad about my work, and then still wake up the next day and do it again.”
While Briney has become America’s new heartthrob, social media was not much of a draw in his coming up. He admits to not having an Instagram until his sophomore year of high school. “I wasn’t formed around social media,” he says, “which kids sort of are these days, so I feel lucky I’m a little removed from it. But it’s still a part of work, especially in the space that The Summer I Turned Pretty occupies.” His attachment to lived experiences and memories outside of the digital world is what makes Briney feel indestructible.
When asked when he feels like his best self, he says, “Whenever I feel safe.” He mentions watching movies with his girlfriend, or playing video games with friends, as moments when he feels free to be unconditionally himself.
As far as Briney is concerned, he just wants to create. His demeanor is astoundingly humble, and he is the kind of person who creates because it truly brings him unshakable joy. “If I do something that will never see the light of day, it’s fine by me,” Briney reflects. “I just want to stay creative and try to not get absorbed by social media.” He is not concerned with perception; instead, he chooses to live like a teenager who just had their first kiss—swimming in that giddy feeling of uncertainty and the resolute assurance that the future holds a spark—or many. Needless to say, Briney might just be immortal.
This interview was completed prior to the 2023 SAG-AFTRA strike.
Photographed by Sophie Elgort
Styled by John Tan
Written by Eloisa de Farias
Location: Moxy Lower East Side