Interview: ‘Cruel Summer’ Actor Nile Bullock Talks Season 2’s Big Mysteries and More

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Following the huge success of Cruel Summer‘s first season, Freeform announced that season 2 will explore an all new mystery. Season 2 will once again approach the story from three different timelines this time surrounding Y2K. This season focuses on the early friendship between Megan, Isabella, and Megan’s best friend Luke, the love triangle that blossomed, and the mystery that would impact all of their lives going forward.

Nile Bullock recurs as one of the members of Megan’s inner circle, Jeff Pope. Jeff is the shy, introverted friend who has a passion for filmmaking. He often catches interesting moments on his camera at various points leading to more than one twist in the story. We sat down with Bullock to talk about the upcoming season, his character Jeff, and what fans can expect from season 2.

Nerds and Beyond: Let’s start with you telling us a little about your character and this season’s story, keeping it spoiler-free of course, but what drew you to the role of Jeff?

Nile Bullock: So when I got the opportunity to take on the role of Jeff, I actually did not know much about Cruel Summer and the first season. I definitely had seen it stirring, the trailer and everything across my TV screen and online, but it wasn’t until I got the opportunity to take on the role where I was like, “Okay. I have to go back and binge.” When I binged, I was hooked just like everyone else. It just blew me away. The cast, the crew, the storyline, it was unlike anything else I’d seen before. It was so unique and when I found out about season 2 and the role of Jeff, I was just stoked.

Jeff is this aspiring filmmaker and kind of a film geek who wants to go on to be a director and make movies of his own. He always has a camera on him and he’s always involved in what’s going on. He’s taping everything that you see going on in the show. I feel like when I found the character there was a lot of relativity with his passion to make films. I’m an actor and I would love to make films of my own one day, but without giving too much away, you see him fall into a relationship/love triangle between Megan and Isabella’s character and Luke in the show. His role there, y’all have to tune in to see where that goes. There’s some juicy stuff on the show, but Jeff was super fun to bring to life and I feel like it found me when I needed it the most. It made sense with what was going on in my life at the time, so it was really fun to develop him. I think people are going to love him in the new season.

Nerds and Beyond: You’ve acted in movies, indie films, and streaming series. Did you approach this network series production any differently from an acting standpoint?

Bullock: This is now my longest role I’ve had on a TV show so far, so I like to say yes, it definitely gave me a lot more time when it came to playing with the character and developing him. I like to say I treat each role the same no matter what the theme is, no matter what the personality of the character is. That’s my role as an actor to bring that character to life. I definitely feel like being involved in the show for so long and having time to get to know everybody, it gave me a lot more time to play with layers and really take the time to figure out who Jeff was and how I could bring that character to life over the months that we were recording. I definitely feel like it’s where I put in some of my best work personally for me. I felt like the more and more I got to know the cast and dive into the story, the more I fell in love with the season and the show in general. It’s where I feel like I’m giving you my best work and I hope that people think the same when they watch the show.

Nerds and Beyond: You said you binged season 1, so I have to ask: whose side were you on while you were watching it? We had quite animated debates at Nerds and Beyond every week. Who were you rooting for?

Bullock: Oh, man, that’s a hard question. It was probably definitely with Jeanette’s character. Most definitely from the beginning with her character. Just watching her life change and fall apart due to the situation that she was in, it was such a rollercoaster of emotions [that] it made you really feel for her character. Just like the rest of the cast, I feel like it did a really good job in capturing what each person, all the supporting roles, were going through in that show and how they all intertwined and connected to each other. Season 2 definitely follows that same concept, so I feel like people are going to be looking forward to that in this new show, but I was definitely team Jeanette.

Nerds and Beyond: What makes season 2 different, and what can fans expect as the season unfolds?

Bullock: A smorgasbord of a bunch of situations! If you guys thought that season 1 was some crazy, insane things happening, season 2 is pretty much the same concept. We see relationships get ruined, family secrets get put out, there’s a lot of mystery. It follows that same concept even though it’s a completely different storyline, and I feel like people will be super excited to see new faces. We have a really diverse and unique cast this season. Everyone is so talented and there’s a lot of new faces that I feel like people have not seen on their big screens as much. Definitely some powerhouses coming in this season and just some extreme talent. I feel like people will be super into watching all those characters come to life. It’s going to be a banger, so everyone needs to be tuned in.

Nerds and Beyond: Jeff is part of the inner circle surrounding the main mystery for the season, what was it like getting to know the other actors and working with them to bring the season to life?

Bullock: It was such a dope experience getting to know everybody over time. We all come from a bunch of different places across the country and it was dope. Everybody was super talented, super creative. Some people did music. There was a whole bunch of extracurriculars that people were doing. We found that because the whole cast and crew was so down to earth, it made it easy for us to really bring that story to life. The more that we went out, we would find bonding time, whether it was watching movies or getting food, or just joking around on set. It played a huge part on set of the foundation that everyone had with each other. Everyone really played the hell out of their roles. I feel like a lot of people are going to see that going into this season. It was so dope to get to know everybody and see what each person had to bring to the table. It was a big family most definitely.

Nerds and Beyond: Like season 1, the events take place over the course of a year with glimpses into specific days about 6 months apart. What was your technique for infusing the growth teens go through at that age while filming? Obviously 1999 Jeff and 2000 Jeff are going to have some differences.  

Bullock: That’s a good question. It’s funny because while we were shooting this, a lot of it was being written while we were shooting. There were a lot of times we’d have to go back to redo something or reshoot, whatever it was, in order to keep the motion going and the story building. That was one of the coolest things that stood out to me about the first season in how it was shot between the different time periods and the different aesthetic and coloring that it had with each year. I found us jumping around with the shooting, and even with it being so bouncy at times, I feel like it kind of helped with the back and forth and the super quick changes that a lot of the characters went through in the show. Everybody was really on top of it, and even going back and doing research on the culture or whatever it was in between those time periods helped me play into that character and the rhythm of the show.

It was also super fun to play Jeff. You see him go through a lot of emotional changes and shaping as a character, so being able to play a little bit of the edgier side of Jeff that you might see on the show with him being this shy kid was fun. I also believe that everybody has a little bit of that edgier side, a little bit of that yin and yang, so it was fun to play with that different speed and different rhythm. Being able to work with such an amazing crew — shout out to Bill Purple and Ben Hernandez and just everybody that was a part of it really helped.

Nerds and Beyond: What I love about your character so far (I’ve only seen the first seven episodes), is how he’s a bit shy and hides behind his love for making videos with his camera. As the shy friend, I really related to Jeff. Was there a particular element about Jeff you really enjoyed playing?

Bullock: There was so much relativity that I found in Jeff, that I really appreciated when it came to taking on the role. You ask anybody who’s known me through my life people will say, “Oh, he’s an extrovert, he loves everybody, he loves going outside.” Which I do, but I can also be a huge introvert and shy to certain people depending on the settings I’m in. You see Jeff wanting to be the nice guy and wanting to be the one that gets along with everybody but also wanting to be involved in a lot of the things going on in the show. I feel like I’ve definitely fallen into that spot in my life where I wanted to be involved and not having any grudges with people. Even with him having this little crush that you see on Megan, mustering up the strength to say something to somebody, that’s all things that people have experienced and we’ve all been through. So, being able to bring that to Jeff created a relationship with the character and even him just being super anxious to make films and constantly have his creative impulses flowing, that’s me 24/7. Every time I step outside the house I’m looking for art or I’m at home messing around with the camera making videos or making music. I definitely feel like there’s a lot of relativity that people are going to find in all the characters. They’ll find a piece of themselves in each person.

Nerds and Beyond: I have to ask, did you know the full storyline from the outset or did you find yourself trying to unravel the mystery as filming was happening?

Bullock: Oh yeah. [laughs] I did not know anything, for one. As far as the outcome of the show, they kept everything locked in a box. There were so many times I was trying to figure it out too like, “Okay, maybe it’s going to go this way.” When we were getting down to the last three episodes, we were like, “Okay. What’s going to happen? What’s this? What’s that? How is this going to all fall out?” I still don’t know what the outcome of the show is going to be, and I’m happy to say that as well. [laughs] We’re all literally going to be watching with y’all on the edge of our seats waiting to see what the heck happens. But I was in the dark with most of it for the closing of the show and again with everything being written as we were shooting. They did a great job keeping a lot of stuff secret. I’m super excited to see the whole thing.

Nerds and Beyond: Did you find yourself rooting for one character or another?

Bullock: Definitely. I’m not going to say who, though, because there’s a lot going on in the season and it’s almost hard to root for certain characters. There is so much stuff going on, I’m telling you guys, and I’ll be watching with y’all.

Nerds and Beyond: Even though you don’t know how the series mystery ends, is there a particular episode or moment you are most excited for fans to watch?

Bullock: That’s a really good question. [laughs] There was a lot of stuff in the episodes and I don’t know if anything was reworked later or what the synopsis is. I can definitely say the closing of the season and there’s somewhere smack in the [middle of the] season as well, around episode 6 or 7, when stuff gets really juicy. The whole show is juicy, but there are a lot of turning points we see during that time of the show. But you just have to watch the whole season head to toe. It’s going to be a ride.

Nerds and Beyond: Keeping this spoiler-free: however, there is a surprising scene when Jeff and Megan get up to a little bit of mischief that could have repercussions for them later. Were you surprised to see that side of this shy character?

Bullock: Yeah! Yeah, that was one of the times we step into the “oh shoot, Jeff has a little bit of a rebel in him.” That was super fun to take on because I’m a rebel in certain things. I don’t want to say I’ve been a mischievous kid, but we’ve all been through that [laughs] period in our lives. It’s super cool watching him, and I feel like that’s a way that Jeff can relate to Megan as well in the show, when you see them both being the goody two-shoes, the ones that you don’t see as the wild kids. They have that urge to come together and let that steam off and explore their wild side a little more. You’ll definitely see that in the show surrounding Jeff, Megan, and all the other characters.

Nerds and Beyond: If you could describe the season with three words, what would it be?

Bullock: Oh man. That’s a really good question. I want to say intense, energetic, and I want to say suspense. Most definitely. Energetic suspense. There’s a lot of going on and I want to use a whole bunch of other words, but that’s definitely how the season strikes me. It’s really unique and if you’re returning from season 1, you’re really going to like this season.

Nerds and Beyond: I remember when they first announced that the series was going to be an anthology there was a lot of discourse among fans, some good, some bad. For fans who are skeptical of season 2, what would you want to tell them to get them to tune in?

Bullock: Mmm, well I feel like for those who did see season 1, it felt like they wrote that story and that season to its entirety. They really followed the lives of the characters to when the reality kicks in at the end, everybody goes and deals with it. Everything takes that turn and they have to go off and live their lives and with it. I feel like this new season is literally going to bring that exact same energy. The characters have so much relativity and it’s so relevant to what this generation deals with in these times when it comes to just raising awareness about whatever it is. Last season we talked about kidnapping, this one one really follows more on the toxic relationship side and foundation when it comes to friends and family. That’s something we also see in the first season. It’s the same energy times 100, and there are so many new faces and powerhouses that you’re going to love and be so eager to see. Definitely come watch, it’s going to be a banger and you do not want to miss it. It’ll be right there with season 1, if not even better.

Nerds and Beyond: I like to always close my interviews with a fun question. We’re Nerds and Beyond and love all things nerdy, so what’s something that you nerd out to or something you’re really passionate about?

Bullock: I feel like it would be cliché to say the art, because I’m a nerd when it comes to my craft, my acting, music, everything. I feel like when it comes to action movies and things like that, I’m a really simple dude when it comes to movies. I love my action movies, my Michael Bay, my J.J. Abrams type movies. I’m a big action movie geek, The Matrix, Transformers, Fast and Furious. Music right next to that, I’m a big music nerd. I release music under the handle nb.talented, so I have a lot of music on the way, singles, visuals, and hopefully an album coming out soon.

Season 2 of Cruel Summer will air Monday, June 5, at 9 p.m. ET with a special two-episode premiere before moving to its regular 10 p.m. timeslot. Stay tuned for additional coverage of the series.

Brianna
Brianna
Brianna works full time in the publishing industry, passionately building books to bring to the masses. Her first fandom was Harry Potter, which she joined at age 11. Her love for books took her abroad to earn her Masters Degree at University College London, after which she lived in New York City, and now resides in Austin. She loves all things fandom including Supernatural, Doctor Who, and more. Ever the introvert, she can usually be found reading, playing with her dog, listening to music and practicing yoga. Brianna joined the Nerds and Beyond staff in 2018 where she unites her love for all things "nerd" with her passion for writing. Find her on Twitter here: @bookbag09

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