Interview: ‘Cruel Summer’ Stars Sadie Stanley, Lexi Underwood, and Griffin Gluck Talk Season 2’s Mystery at ATX Television Festival


At season 12 of the Austin Television Festival, Freeform brought the upcoming second season of Cruel Summer to fans with a screening of the first episode of the season. Set in an idyllic waterfront town in the Pacific Northwest, season 2 focuses on the rise and fall of an intense teenage friendship. Approaching the story from three different timelines surrounding Y2K, the season twists and turns as it tracks 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.

During the festival, we had the opportunity to participate in roundtable interviews with the three series leads. We spoke with stars Sadie Stanley (Megan Landry), Lexi Underwood (Isabella), and Griffin Gluck (Luke Chambers).

Lexi Underwood

Freeform/Justine Yeung

Nerds & Beyond: Tell us a bit about what drew you to the role and why you decided to take on season 2 of Cruel Summer.

Lexi Underwood: I was a fan of season 1, just like a lot of other people. I was excited that they were doing a season 2; as an actor, it was the mere fact that the other actors were given the space to create these characters and go on that journey where you see them start off at one point and end at another place. For me, when I read the script, I heard more about where Isabella’s storyline was going. I was incredibly excited to jump into her character because she’s very different from the other characters that I’ve played before. It’s really fun to step outside my comfort zone and try something new, and I think I did that with this.

Nerds & Beyond: You said you watched season 1, so I have to ask whose side were you on while you were watching it?

Underwood: I was on Jeanette’s side, but then Jeanette let me down sadly. I feel like a lot of people watching that side, it was kind of a bummer how she let us down.

Nerds & Beyond: Me too, it felt like such a triumph until the last five seconds.

Underwood: Literally, it was the last five seconds of it! I’m like, how did you make us believe? When she was on the talk shows, I’m like, “You go, girl, clear your good name,” all for her to let us down in the last five seconds.

Nerds & Beyond: We see different time periods again this season, and I spoke with Nile Bullock, who said filming was a little bit of jumping around daily to film various parts of the timeline. How did you, as an actor, juggle jumping from Summer of 1999 Isabella to Summer of 2000 Isabella quickly?

Underwood: Yeah, it was really interesting. It was interesting having to navigate and stay on track because there were days where we would film all three timelines in a day. Having an incredible team, especially the same team from season 1 who already knew the structure and how chaotic it can feel as an artist, they guided us every step of the way. I don’t feel as though I’ve ever had to trust a director or a writer more than I have in that moment. It feels as though you are going on a journey kind of blindly, but I think that’s also really cool because us as human beings never know, we can’t predict the future, we never know what’s going to happen. So especially for timeline one and timeline two, it was great because I had no clue what was going to happen to future Isabella.

Griffin Gluck

Freeform/Justine Yeung

Nerds & Beyond: Tell us a bit about what drew you to the role and why you decided to take on season 2 of Cruel Summer.

Griffin Gluck: You know, I feel this was a good thing, but I was interested in the character when I got the audition for season 2 without having seen season 1. I just really liked the storyline, and I obviously watched the show after I got the audition for context, and I finished the show once I actually booked the role. What’s funny is I’m actually friends with Chiara Aurelia, who plays Jeanette in season 1, she’s a good friend of mine, so I had to apologize to her like, “Sorry I slept on your show for so long it was actually really good.” But it was a good thing, I was glad that I liked the show without having seen it. I liked the concept of it, the structure, and the character description as well, although that changed over time.

Nerds & Beyond: Just a little bit. They gave us seven of the episodes, so that’s all we’ve seen.

Gluck: I got seven of them too, but I’ve seen [episodes] 8 and 9, but I haven’t seen 10 yet.

Nerds & Beyond: Obviously, you can’t give spoilers, but is there a particular episode or moment that you are most excited for the fans to watch?

Gluck: You know, I don’t think this is that crazy of a spoiler, I think I can say this. Because in episode 1, Luke and Megan are not together in the first timeline, and they are in the second, and I think episode 7 is a really beautiful episode. It shows the drastic differences between the very beginning of the relationship and closer to the end of the relationship. I think 7 might be my favorite episode for that reason because there’s a lot of really cute moments and there’s a lot of heavy-hitting moments. Oh, and wait until you get to 8 because the way 7 ends is dramatic. 8 is heavy; it’s the one I’m most nervous for people to see.

Nerds & Beyond: If you had only three words to describe this season of Cruel Summer, what would they be?

Gluck: Let’s see. I would say I’m going to hyphenate one of them. Teen-angst, mystery, and nostalgia. I think those would be my three words.

Sadie Stanley

Freeform/Justine Yeung

Nerds & Beyond: Tell us a bit about what drew you to the role and why you decided to take on season 2 of Cruel Summer, and had you seen season 1?

Sadie Stanley: I had not seen season 1; I knew of it, but I hadn’t watched it yet. I think what first intrigued me was the three timelines, though, even having not seen the first season, just reading the first script was like, “Wow, this is really interesting.” I’ve never seen timelines and flashbacks being done in this way, in this format, and it was really cool to me. They stressed to me in the audition process from the very beginning, they wanted those three different timelines to feel very different and for Megan to feel like she really changed a lot. I was basically playing three different characters; who doesn’t want to do that? That’s so sick. I loved that aspect of it, and as soon as I booked the role, I then sat down and watched all of season 1 in like three days. I think I just didn’t want to psych myself out or get myself too excited, but then after that, I was like, “This is what I’m getting into, ok, I love it! Let’s do it!”

Nerds & Beyond: Like you were saying, you are playing essentially three different characters crammed into one day sometimes. How did you balance that as an actor going from, say, 1999 to 2000 Megan?

Stanley: Yeah, it was definitely challenging at first, it took some getting used to. There’s obviously all the physical changes, like Megan has a vastly different style in every single timeline, which is really fun for me. I get to play around, but on the day when we are switching back and forth, it can be a little bit exhausting to take all the black eyeliner off and the piercing off and unslick my hair and put it in a ponytail and reput my make up on. So there’s those physical changes, but also there’s the emotional aspect. It’s emotional whiplash one day going back and forth, crying in the middle of the day, laughing at the beginning of the day, screaming at the end of the day. It was challenging; it really stretched me as an actor and forced me to be on top of things and really know my character and be able to tap into things quickly. I came out of it a better actor, for sure.

Nerds & Beyond: Going into it, did you know the outcome of the story, or did they keep it from you to where you saw what happened as you got scripts and filmed?

Stanley: I knew a little bit. It’s not just who did it, it’s everything that leads up to it. It’s so much more complicated than that, so I knew a lot but not everything. That was difficult at times because I didn’t even know if I was the bad guy, so it was kind of crazy to play those scenes and not even know what part she had in it.

Nerds & Beyond: That keeps it kind of authentic, though, because 1999 Megan wouldn’t know.

Stanley: Yeah, but in those third timelines, she would know because it’s post-event, and I didn’t even know. In that case, I had to really put my hands up and put a lot of trust in the showrunners and directors, and be like, ok, as long as I’m getting different options of different performances, they can find what works based on the editing. Yeah, like, I know my character, and I’m just going to show up as Megan, and that should be enough. It was really fun but a little scary, though.

Cruel Summer airs Monday, June 5 at 9 p.m. ET so be sure to tune in for the highly anticipated second season!

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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