Christopher Briney, who is only 24 years old, is already well-established, having starred in a successful romantic comedy series and having his feature debut screened at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Born and reared in Connecticut, Briney’s love for acting was initially sparked by a class he attended. His studies included acting for film, television, voiceover, and commercials at Pace University in New York.
In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, Briney graduated and started going to auditions in the hopes that something would work out. In the same year, he was cast as James in the movie Dalíland, which was about Salvador Dalí in the late 1970s and early 1980s.. As James becomes an assistant to Dalí, he is thrown into the wild, scandalous, and dramatic events that take place in the famous artist’s life. Briney received the call announcing he had been cast as Conrad Fisher in The Summer I Turned Pretty, an Amazon Prime series based on Jenny Han’s best-selling trilogy of the same name. This was during the filming of the movie in Liverpool, UK.
After the first season of the show debuted, Briney and the rest of the cast became well-known overnight. The show was promptly renewed for a second season, which started filming in Wilmington, North Carolina, earlier this summer. In between, Briney took a quick trip to Toronto to join the cast of Dalíland for the premiere at TIFF. 1883 Magazine chats with the actor to discuss his two projects, his ambitions, and what’s next.
In between, Briney made a brief trip to Toronto to attend the TIFF premiere of Dalíland with the cast. The actor speaks with 1883 Magazine about his two projects, goals, and upcoming endeavors.
Having your first film premiere at TIFF is a huge deal. Best wishes! What state are you in?
In so many ways, TIFF is the stuff of my dreams. I’ve had this long-standing dream of attending a festival where the film is independent and me participating, you know? In many respects, it was a dream come true, and I sincerely hope that this film will soon be released. What was your familiarity with Salvador Dalí before assuming this position? Did you enjoy his works?
I was already a big fan of his in general. His work can be found in a few school textbooks. In my college aesthetics class, we briefly discussed him in relation to philosophers and their conceptions of beauty. However, because he has thousands and thousands of pieces in a wide range of styles and variations, I truly had no idea how dense his body of work is. I had no idea about his lifestyle or the mind-numbing amount of work he has. To be honest, I had a lot to learn before I started this.
Do you think the movie tried to stay as true to Dalí’s life and experiences as possible, or did they embellish some parts of it?
The director, Mary Harron, and screenwriter, John Walsh, had been working on it for years. They spoke with a wide range of individuals who knew Dalí at that point in his life. Regardless of the reliability of the sources, they read every book they could find, and they used the knowledge they gained to create a movie. Although it’s unclear if Dalí said everything that has been attributed to him, some of the statements made about him were intended to be true given his later years.
Yes, James is modeled after an archetype of a person who lived close to Dalí. He was this little boy with a different name who was just lending a hand. I saw a picture of the character in this book, simply strolling beside Dalí. It was interesting to see that he was dressed exactly like I was in the movie.
Why did you find James’s character appealing?
He’s such a naturally curious youngster. I believe that’s how we are similar. Because he is thrown around the entire film, he is driven, inquisitive, and naive. He’s not unintelligent; rather, he tends to get sucked into issues that are greater than himself.
The movie takes place in the 1970s, and you looked very much like you were dressed for that era. And you got to drive this really cool car. Compared to The Summer I Turned Pretty, which perfectly captures the essence of the Gen Z demographic and way of life, what was it like to work on a period piece?
Being able to work in a world apart from my own was really cool. That’s the time period for many of the movies I love or that are among my favorites. These historical artifacts commemorate a specific cultural moment. I got to dress in historically appropriate attire, such as this YSL jacket and corduroy flares. It was just Saint Laurent back then. The prop and set teams were excellent.
Given the choice between the two styles, which would you choose?
I’m wearing a hoodie right now that’s more for comfort than anything. I mean, yes, absolutely. If I could wear those corduroy flares every day for the rest of my life, I probably would. I wasn’t allowed to keep them. In general, the way I dress leans into some classic Americana. Maybe not quite the ‘70s necessarily, but definitely some of it. .. If you could look past the camera in your face, you would truly feel as though you were transported back in time as soon as you walked onto the set. Everything about it is beautifully designed and reflects that era, even down to the car, which was imported from France. I’m glad I did it, and as you mentioned, it’s not like The Summer I Turned Pretty because we drove a 2019 model car instead of this old Peugeot and wore J. Crew jeans there. It’s equally awesome. I gained a lot of knowledge about topics I was ignorant of.
James appears to be game for anything at all. He feels as though he is on a different planet after being exposed to this one, but he fits in. Do you think you’re also very willing to try new things, particularly if they involve stepping into roles that are uncomfortable for you?
It’s an actor’s dream, in my opinion, to do something very different from themselves. Though I am very similar to the two projects I have worked on, it is exciting to consider the possibility of trying something entirely new and insane. It’s exciting and scary to try new things, but who knows what my next project will be—we’re filming down here for The Summer I Turned Pretty.
How did James change as a person and a professional, in your opinion, from the start of the movie to the finish?
He learns this kind of perspective that everyone acquires as they age and experience life, but Salvador Dalí and those around him taught it to him. It’s up for interpretation, but I believe that by the end of the movie, he had also just acquired this appreciation. You can argue with me all you want, but I believe he simply developed a greater appreciation for the life he was able to lead at the time. Whether Dalí remembered him or not is inconsequential. It was him.
James’s effort to compile all of Dalí’s various signatures was what initially drew Dalí to him; James was moved by how Dalí was, in a sense, reinventing himself with each signature. When James visits Dalí when he is ill at the end of the movie, Dalí becomes emotional. Do you believe that he is reflecting on his life and all of the incarnations of himself while he looks at those signatures?
For the most part, the film is about Dalí stubbornly refusing to accept that he is getting older and clinging to his youth, life, love, sex, and the world around him. Then, his life is in such a different place when it flashes forward. He is going to die. You mentioned it. I would contend that it’s about him reflecting on his life and nearly crying for his death, but I really like the idea that it’s kind of up to interpretation.
Do you as an actor feel that you are constantly reinventing yourself to fit the parts and take a little piece of each character with you with every role you play?
I firmly believe that the characters I play are teaching me new things. I can definitely say that I learn from them, or at least from the experiences, but I also think that I do my best to bring bits of myself into them and into the world. Who knows if that’s successful or not. It’s the ability to act with empathy. You must defend the actions of your character, and if you find that difficult, you can understand why it comes easily to them.
Like James, who relocated to New York from a tiny Idaho town, you did the same for college from Connecticut to New York. You knew what you wanted to do after you realized how much you loved acting and movies, but why New York? LA, why not?
For some reason, when I was younger, I just kept telling my family that I wanted to attend college in Los Angeles, and for a while, I did. I applied to a few universities in Los Angeles, but to be really honest, a major contributing factor was the fact that I was turned down by nearly all of them. [Giggles] I then gained admission to Pace University. It occurs. I believe that there was a great deal more for me to learn.
I was humbled by college and even more so by being turned down by ten of my twelve schools. I’m incredibly appreciative of how everything turned out. In college, I made some of my closest friends and picked up priceless lessons. I currently work, which I take seriously because I am aware of how difficult it is. My friends who are not actors are far more talented than me. They are currently not operational. However, I feel like New York just found its way to me, and I instantly fell in love with it. I adore the vigor. It inspires creativity in me. It gives me the impression that I am a part of something.
I can understand that, having spent my entire life in New York. I had the same feeling that I wouldn’t truly fit in in Los Angeles.
Yes, it’s just not my taste. It’s undoubtedly not for me, but it is for some people.
You did theater and worked on a few short films in college. Did you discover that by completing that, you were adequately equipped to assume the roles that you have held? Or do you tend to pick up knowledge as you go along?
Certain things, in my opinion, are simply incapable of being taught. That probably applies to all professions. Really, all I can talk about is acting. I studied acting for four years, as well as self-acceptance and how to live with myself. After graduating, I had the good fortune to audition for a year, and I was even luckier to get the jobs that I currently have. I had no idea what I was doing when I went into the first day of preparation and then the first day of filming. I mean, I was content with my readiness to work because I had completed the tasks that I felt were necessary.
You’ve been busy filming season 2 of The Summer I Turned Pretty. How has that been going?
It’s good. It felt really rough at the beginning for me because I hadn’t really been acting since we finished season one. I was just in New York, hanging out with friends, and auditioning. And so to be back, and then all of a sudden be in the same character that I was last year, but like a different point in his life, it was a weird thing because it was familiar in some ways and really scary in others. It’s good. It felt really rough at the beginning for me because I hadn’t really been acting since we finished season one. I was just in New York, hanging out with friends, and auditioning. And so to be back, and then all of a sudden be in the same character that I was last year, but like a different point in his life, it was a weird thing because it was familiar in some ways and really scary in others. But it’s been good. It’s been going. We’re almost done.
There are only a few weeks left, and already life has been quite the roller coaster. Still, I’m content with what we have. I’m hoping that others are, too. It was enjoyable. Being here is always a good thing.
When you started filming season one, what did you do to get ready for the role of Conrad? Have you read any of the books?
- That was my initial course of action. Reading all three of the books was very helpful to me because it helps me to understand where a character starts and ends up, even if that is three or six seasons later. Conrad was just doing some shit, man, so I had to try to like him too. As if he actually It’s good. It felt really rough at the beginning for me because I hadn’t really been acting since we finished season one. I was just in New York, hanging out with friends, and auditioning. And so to be back, and then all of a sudden be in the same character that I was last year, but like a different point in his life, it was a weird thing because it was familiar in some ways and really scary in others. But it’s been good. It’s been going. We’re almost done.
- I gave it a lot of thought and wrote a lot about it. I didn’t want that to be true because I believe we are very similar. I’m not proud of some of his traits, but I do love him now. I would defend him till the end of my life. All it took was a short while.
- What was it about him that annoyed you? Because when I read the books, I really did have a grudge against him.
- As an actor, playing a complex character is always exciting because it means you get to do more work and have more fun. It’s good. It felt really rough at the beginning for me because I hadn’t really been acting since we finished season one. I was just in New York, hanging out with friends, and auditioning. And so to be back, and then all of a sudden be in the same character that I was last year, but like a different point in his life, it was a weird thing because it was familiar in some ways and really scary in others. But it’s been good. It’s been going. We’re almost done. Conrad seems to be standing in a ditch and trying to reach the other side of the earth by digging himself deeper and deeper rather than reaching out to someone for help. You might ask yourself, “What am I doing?” when looking at this from the outside. However, trying to hide and flee is normal. I believe it to be a very human experience, and I also believe that while he hasn’t moved past it yet, I am in my own life. Or, at least, not in the first season.
That’s true. He’s definitely dealing with a lot of difficult issues, especially with his family.
Even though there are many highs and lows, I like how it turns out. I think all the characters, especially Conrad, have a lot of growth. I believe he goes a long way to reach his destination, and it’s thrilling that we’re currently at a particular stage of that journey—filming, for example, and it’s enjoyable to just go slowly toward the finish.
What was it like to be back together with all of the cast and crew?
It was quite lovely. We hang out a lot when we are in New York because a large portion of the cast is based there, but it’s amazing. It’s good. It felt really rough at the beginning for me because I hadn’t really been acting since we finished season one. I was just in New York, hanging out with friends, and auditioning. And so to be back, and then all of a sudden be in the same character that I was last year, but like a different point in his life, it was a weird thing because it was familiar in some ways and really scary in others. But it’s been good. It’s been going. We’re almost done.
The year I returned to New York, I thought, Why am I missing Wilmington? There are only the people! Here, we have a great time, and working is enjoyable. We get into some mischief. Being here is just a really enjoyable experience. How fortunate I am.
For you, what’s next?
It’s a valid question. What I’m going to do next is beyond me. But I hope it’s something different. I don’t mean to belittle the show or the work I’ve done; rather, I hope I get to try something new, thrilling, and daring because I always want to be pushing the boundaries of what I can do.
So, what would be your dream role?
The response could change every day. However, it’s always some indie film, such as Dalíland, where Mary made a comment. She made a special effort to guarantee that she had creative control over everything in order to tell the story she intended to tell, and it was incredibly lovely. Because there are fewer cooks in the kitchen, I would contend that independent film produces the most interesting work. These artists are producing nothing less than what they truly desire. It’s their work, and there’s something lovely about unprocessed work, so who’s to say if others will appreciate it or find it tasteful or what?