I’ve just butchered an American accent in front of Rain Spencer. “It wasn’t too bad,” laughs the legitimate American. Whenever there’s a space in life for a Mean Girls quote, the opportunity must be fulfilled, and on the compliment of my jacket and its origin, I couldn’t resist saying the quote (only true fans will know). While conversations between strangers often kickstart by lamenting over the weather – why do we do this? – with Spencer, there’s an immediate sense of familiarity, despite our paths only crossing for a brief 30 minutes. As we quickly establish we’d like to swap cities, from LA to London, and a shared love for Nina Simone, Spencer seems anything but the self-proclaimed “extreme introvert” she was throughout her childhood.
Born in Germany, “an army baby,’ she recalls, Spencer moved around North Carolina, growing up in Wilmington – befittingly a place she would later return to in life to film her breakout role – before settling in the city of palms. In keeping with her journeyed upbringing, today, Spencer dials in from Portland, Oregon,while filming a sci-fi horror movie. Her lips remain sealed on that one. But rest assured, Rain Spencer will be reigning over screens this summer in the Amazon Prime hit show, The Summer I Turned Pretty,for its anticipated second season. In the midst of describing an intense dream about aliens, “I was feeding this creature Captain Crunch cereal in my dreams last night” Spencer reflects on adjusting to stardom, the importance of balance and the art of overcoming rejection.
Scarlett Baker:Kickstarting your acting journey at five years old is a resilient feat. How did you get into it at such an early age?
Rain Spencer:I think I was like an extreme introvert from a super young age and only really broke out of my shell around five years ago. Around 18, I was like, “Okay, now I’m ready to socialise.” It was really hard for me to make connections and friends. I started doing community theatre and was able to hide behind characters and express myself through them instead. Even if it was like the Christmas mouse or some random role they made up for me. It was a real form of self-expression. I remember there was one audition when I was around five or six years old. I was auditioning for The Wizard of Ozand didn’t get the role. I came home and cried my eyes out - that’s the only time I’ve ever cried about an audition but I think from that moment I realised I was never going to pour my entire soul into an audition again. Like, if I get it, I get it. If I don’t, I don’t.
SB:Did you foresee yourself going any further with acting when you were becoming more aware of it being a profession rather than just a fun activity as a young child?
RS:It was always something I felt like I had… I always had the drive for it. It wasn’t like I found it when I was watching movies aged 13 or something. It was just always inside of me and I knew that this is how I was going to creatively express myself.
SB:You’ve been doing auditions for over a decade now, how do you find it?
RS:I’ve gone through ebbs and flows with it. I think at a certain point in my life, it was really challenging because I was so socially awkward. But the real thing was I think I was giving my power away. I’d walk into the room and completely give my power away to the casting director or to the producers. I’d put them higher than myself and feed off the crumbs. But as soon I switched that in my head, the idea that whatever’s meant to be will be, I was able to flow the motions a lot easier.
SB:With the second season of The Summer I Turned Prettytaking to screens, how has Taylor evolved as a character?
RS:In the first season, Taylor actedas an adult. She was a little girl trying to act like she knows what she was doing, but in the second season, she’s really matured majorly. I think Taylor is a really good person with a lot of walls up and defence mechanisms. I think attitude is one of them. She’s very scared of you knowing her true feelings and what she really wants. Like, if she is in love with someone, she's never going to say. She just doesn't care if she breaks their heart. But in this new season, you can see her crack a little bit. She definitely speaks her mind and is different. But she’s funny, she speaks her mind in some ways but she’s also really bad at emotional communication.
SB:How does it feel returning to the role?
RS:When Jenny [Han] and I were first talking about this role, she said to me: “Listen, you will love to hate to Taylor in the books. But I want you to go on this journey with me. I have really bigs plans for Taylor.” It’s been really fun. I’d just gone from filming the movie Good Girl Jane, which is a really dark movie where I’m addicted to substances and a person that’s not great for me. It was a lot more introverted. So when it came to Taylor, it was so different. I never saw myself playing a character like her. I didn’t think I could. She’s just so extroverted and I never thought I could be seen in that way. I’m really grateful to return to Taylor. I think she deserves to be a little more understood as a person. She’s not just this “it girl” who’s flirty and mean. She has feelings too and hard things that have happened to her in her life.
SB:Has playing Taylor helped you in any way? Do you ever carry her with you?
RS:Sometimes I go to these events and I get so scared. I’d literally text my manager and he’d be like “Play Taylor.” As soon as I make that switch, I feel like I can literally talk to anyone, like I don't care anymore which has really helped me a lot. The goal isn’t to just play Taylor in these moments, but it’s from her I’ve learnt to care less.
SB:How do you navigate life outside of the show, winding down from the success of the first season and the anticipation for the next one?
RS:We shot the second season in five months, so when I get home I definitely take a month. It's a very long time to be on set, so it really does take a second to get out of. This is all super new for me. I’m enjoying finding the balance between my private life and my shooting life and other aspects of my career too. I’m enjoying figuring out the boundaries.
SB:Do you watch the show back?
RS:I like to see the whole show once. But in doing that, it’s not about me. I want to see the editing, I want to hear the music, I want to see my friends' performances. It’s not about what I did, there’s nothing I can do about that so there’s no point worrying about something I have no control over.
SB:Did this season challenge you in a way that was different to the first season and landing your major debut on screen?
RS:Filming season two I was like, “Oh god. I definitely have to look at some things in my personal life.” It’s funny because when I do the work, afterwards I just completely let it go. But with Taylor, it goes into a more personal level. I’d question what I could bring to her from my life and what emotions she needs for it.
SB:Despite Taylor’s reputation in the books, Twitter’s going mad for you. Someone wrote the other day: “Rain Spencer made me love Taylor.”
RS:[Smiling] That makes me so happy.
SB:Well enough of the heavy. What’s a film that you treasure and wish you could’ve starred in?
RS:Silver Linings Playbook.
SB:Pretty heavy! Is there a musical artist that has affected you?
RS:Erykah Badu. I started listening to her in eighth grade, and she changed my perspective on things. [Laughing] You’re so trying to keep this light and I’m like, “No! I’m not going at the light!”
SB:What is light anyway? What can we find you doing in your downtime?
RS:You’ll probably find me in nature with my dog, Ozzie. I love her.
SB:What’s your death row meal?
RS:How is that light? I’m about to die!?
SB:I didn’t really think that one through, did I?
RS: I’m going to say sushi.
SB:Favourite karaoke song?
RS:Oh, I’m waaaay too afraid to do karaoke in front of other people. I’d need Taylor or a duet.
Photography by @bynickrasmussen
Fashion by @itsmerazzie
Words by @scarlintheshire
Editorial Director @charlottejmorton
Art Director @Harry_conor
Production Director @bencrankbencrank
Hair by @nastasiia.terebova
Makeup by @lilly_keys
*This feature was finalised prior to the commencement of the SAG strike.*