‘Cruel Summer’ — Cast talks new season, new dynamics and fresh crime

Cruel Summer season 2

Another ‘Cruel Summer’ season, another three-level timeline full of mystery, damaged characters and some twists and turns along the way.

If you tuned in to the first rendition of this anthology series, you know the format: A crime happens and to unfold just what went wrong, viewers will see three different timelines play out. But in Season 2, the focus is on three main characters—though only two of them make it through the full season alive. 

‘Cruel Summer’ this go-around follows Megan (Sadie Stanley), Isabella (Lexi Underwood) and Luke (Griffin Gluck) and takes place over the summer of 1999, winter of 1999 and summer of 2000.

Cruel Summer

Megan and Luke have been friends for years in their Pacific Northwest town, though they come from different parts of it. Luke’s family is prominent and wealthy, while Megan is the first in hers to go to college. Isabella, on the other hand, is more of a jet-setter, and for his first summer in the States, she’s staying with Megan’s family. And throughout her time there, she and Megan grow close. 

“I think my favorite relationship to explore was the one with Megan and Isabella,” says Stanley at a round-table interview when asked about dynamics on the show. 

Stanley continued: “I really love to see a strong and intense female friendship portrayed on screen, and I think it’s done in a way that [hasn’t] been done before. We really dive into what that looks like in two young people, and how that can get super messy. So, I love their friendship, even when it gets messed up, it’s still super interesting.”

The first episode of the second season starts to show the cracks in relationships, and not just with Megan, Isabella and Luke—though that triangle ebbs and flows in its own teen-angsty right. Ultimately however, Underwood agreed with Stanley’s answer. 

“I love that over the span of three timelines, the friendship goes through so much. Being able to see that arc and just as actors getting to play that out in real life, it was really fun to be able to explore,” she adds. 

For Gluck, the more interesting arcs for Luke came from his character’s family. 

“I personally really enjoyed Luke’s relationship with his family members,” the actor explained. “[Mainly] his dad and his brothers, and how that evolved and also how that fits into the larger picture near the end of the show.”

‘Cruel Summer’ reveals a lot of the story that sets up the plot of this specific season in the first episode. Megan, Isabella and Luke are living in a time when the double standards of sex, class and money are fairly prominent much like today, but back then, they weren’t exactly talked about in the same light.

You see how the girls are treated after an illicit video resurfaces, and likewise how the boys are seen. You also see a lot of the reputation of money and how that can affect one’s life, and, one’s crimes. 

“I’m super glad we touch on [those] themes in the show,” explains Stanley. “We touch on class and the way that affects things. Luke comes from a pretty predominant family in the town, and they have a lot of money and power…And we see later in the season how they use that power against people who don’t have it.”

Each character this season has their own flaws and traits, and for Gluck specifically, he notes how it was difficult to play someone for six months who, for all intents and purposes, comes off a bit toxic. 

“Luke has a lot of issues. He is damaged, but you don’t really know that off of the top when you first meet him,” Gluck says. “Me personally, I thought that was really interesting, just seeing him develop and seeing him evolve throughout the show, and knowing that it was going to start one way and end another way with how you perceive him. I thought just that was really interesting.”

Along with the drama of it all, the show also lives in nostalgia of the times—from the music to the fashion to the references. And according to Underwood, it wasn’t hard to dive into that time period. 

“The beauty of right now is a lot of those trends are coming back. Even the shows and movies from the 90s—you see the sounds or edits on TikTok. So, it wasn’t very hard to do our research and tap into that realm, and I feel like through fashion and music, it helped us immerse ourselves into that world,” she finishes. 

And audiences will ultimately see three different sides of it from most of the characters, as they note just how different each version of Megan, Isabella and Luke are after what they all go through. And their looks reflect just that. 

Ultimately, ‘Cruel Summer’ Season 2 follows the format of the freshman season, but it found its own footing in terms of stories and characters—and the dynamics are vastly different. The intrigue and mystery of it all? That remains the same.

Catch ‘Cruel Summer’ Season 2 Mondays on Freeform at 10 p.m. The first two episodes premiere June 5 (starting at 9 p.m. on that night only) and are available to stream on Hulu the next day.