The hit book trilogy and subsequent Amazon Prime television show The Summer I Turned Pretty is all about firsts. First loves, first heartbreaks, and every other first experience that teenagers go through. And for actor Sean Kaufman, the show marks his first breakout performance. Two seasons into the widely acclaimed show, Kaufman continues to breathe life into the complex and compelling Steven Conklin, the witty, high-achieving, and protective older brother of the show’s protagonist Belly.
His character doesn’t have a dedicated storyline in the books, but Kaufman saw that as an opportunity to make the role entirely his own. Heartfelt discussions between him and Jenny Han, author and creator of The Summer I Turned Pretty, helped him to fully flesh out a character that reflects many of his own traits and personality. “It’s been one of the greatest gifts I could’ve received,” Kaufman says. “I think every actor wants a character who is complex and multidimensional, someone who they feel they can really take a bite out of. Steven has been a gift to me, and I can’t wait to see how his story continues to grow.”
In the latest season, Steven deals with isolation from his friends and feelings of intense grief. With Kaufman’s personal connection to his character running deep, Steven’s struggles allowed the actor to embrace an authentic balance between fiction and real life. “Having to play someone who is going through the same thing as you can be a challenge for any actor and I was no exception,” Kaufman admits. “Vulnerability is scary, but that’s the beauty of acting with fully fleshed-out characters.”
Nurtured by unwavering support from his family while growing up amidst the vibrant energy of New York City, Kaufman’s journey of self-discovery led him straight into the arms of acting. He acknowledges the temptation to get caught up in the pursuit of perfection and the pressure to avoid making mistakes while navigating the complexities of the industry. But to stay grounded, he reminds himself of the reason he embarked on his path: the immense joy it brings.
“Whether it’s throwing frisbee with the sound department, shooting hoops with the props department, or pulling massive pranks on fellow castmates, every single day on set is a day I get to spend doing the greatest job in the world with the greatest people,” he says. “How can I not have fun?”
Photography Henry Kornaros
Fashion Emma Oleck
Makeup Tomoyo Shionome using TARTE COSMETICS
Hair Leonardo Manetti (SEE Management)
Manicure Candice Idehen (Statement Artists)
Photo assistants Tatum Dorrell, Garrison Block
Stylist assistants Natalie Cohen, Fabrice Laguerre
Makeup assistant Shoko Kodama
Hair assistant Mimi Romero