*Editor’s Note: This interview was conducted prior to the SAG-AFTRA strike going into effect. Awards Radar stands with the actors, their union, and wishes for a resolution that helps the working actor live a better life. Union Strong!*
Anyone who is a fan of Freeform’s hit series Cruel Summer knows to expect the unexpected until those expectations are flipped on their heads. The psychological thriller anthology series executive produced by showrunner Elle Triedman, Jessica Biel and Michelle Purple has a something for wa wider audience combining the intensity and intrigue of a thriller with the emotional stakes of a drama.
With only one episodes left, season two has delivered a whole a new cast, new mysteries and a murder that has kept everyone guessing right up until the end. The story is set in an idyllic town in the Pacific Northwest during the Y2K era and revolves around a pair of friends, Megan (Sadie Stanley) and Isabella (Lexi Underwood) who are intertwined in the suspicious death of their friend and love interest Lucas (Griffin Gluck). Watch the full video interview with Underwood and Stanley at the bottom of the article.
Days before the SAG/AFTRA strike was announced, the two actresses playing the troubled friends at the center of the mystery sat down to speak with Awards Radar about their characters as well as the challenges and opportunities the series provided them as actresses. One thing they would not reveal was who killed Lucas, keeping tight-lipped about that and other show secrets.
Both actresses continue to take on challenging roles that expand their catalogues of work and . For Underwood, whose breakout role in Little Fires Everywhere was followed by Showtime’s The First Lady, this series seems like a natural progression for her as an actress, breaking free of the younger image people have of her.
“A lot of people like to kind of keep me in that zone – they remember me as the 15 year old from Little Fires. It’s cool being able to step into more mature content,” said Underwood “I’m 19 and I’m doing scenes where I’m kissing boys and I’m in a bikini. It is just allowing people to grow up. I think for people who have seen Sadie, Griffin, and me since we were younger, it’s refreshing to see us in a light where you also get to see our age and to see us being how we really are behind the scenes as well.”
Underwood expressed why Isabella is a character she and fans can connect with, “I think it’s really cool that regardless of what generation you’re in, you can relate to each character in some way, shape, or form. Because, at the end of the day, we all know what it’s like to be a teen and not have all the tools and to make mistakes and mess up and to be a part of messy relationships and the friendships and everything that comes with that.”
For anyone unfamiliar with the series, the themes are certainly much grittier than those many young adult dramas tackle and address real world subjects. Last season revolved around the adult grooming a minor, while season two tackles friendship, betrayal, loyalty and how far you would go to protect your loved ones.
Like season one, the unique approach to the storytelling adds layers of depth and complexity as we watch the same characters played during different periods of their lives. “I think what drew me to the project initially was the format. The formula of the show is something I’ve never seen done in this way before with the three different timelines,” explained Stanley. “It’s a learning curve at first to get comfortable switching back and forth like that. But in the same vein, as an actor, it was it was interesting and intriguing to have to get comfortable switching back and forth like that as well.”
Stanley, who previously played more family-friendly roles, continued, “That’s fascinating to me – and it’s really, really fun to play as an actor. I got to play essentially three different characters. That was exactly kind of what I was looking for. I wanted something that was a little bit darker, a little bit more mature, something to sink my teeth into, as people say.” The actresses also enjoyed her “goody two shoes” Megan’s growth as a person. “I think it’s really fun to watch her open up and blossom into like a young woman and figure out what she wants and break some rules for a change. And I think it’s I think it’s a really fun process that a lot of people go through when they’re growing up. And every teenage girl I think does and I definitely did. So I think I relate to her in that way.”
Watch the full interview with Sadie Stanley and Lexi Underwood below where they describe how they relate to their characters, their favorite part of the Y2K era, as well as collaborate to answer one question with a very revealing sentence that describes the Cruel Summer season two finale in ways I did not anticipate – and more. Even though we touch upon a lot of subjects, the interview keeps most of the series’ secrets under wraps to preserve all the mystery.
You can catch up with season two of Cruel Summer before its season two finale on July 31st on Freeform. If you have not watched season one yet, no worries since each season tells two completely different stories. You can watch them in which order you choose. Both are now streaming on Hulu.