Sadie, Lexi and Griffin weigh in on their cold, ‘Cruel Summer’
The 10-episode teen drama thriller “Cruel Summer” became the most watched series debut ever on Disney Entertainment’s Freeform when it premiered two years ago—with good reason. Told over three eventful summers in the 1990s, it chronicles the events that take place when a popular girl goes missing and another, previously awkward high school girl soon “rises to the occasion” and mysteriously takes over her life.
As soon as “Cruel Summer” was released, critics loved the show as much as its viewers—in fact, it had a 94-percent approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. So, it comes as no surprise that the drama anthology’s Season 2—which premieres today at 9 p.m. ET—is just as eagerly anticipated.
This time, the sophomore season of “Cruel Summer” follows the rise and fall of an intense friendship shared by three high school students—Megan Landry (Sadie Stanley), her best friend Luke Chambers (Griffin Gluck) and new girl in town Isabella Larue (Lexi Underwood)—and the love triangle that would lead to unspeakable tragedy. Indeed, while they may look likable, something dark lurks beneath their pretty, perky façade.
Channeling their dark side
Set in an idyllic waterfront town in the Pacific Northwest, the gripping series follows the lead trio’s shocking story from three different timelines surrounding Y2K: July 1999, December 1999 and July 2000.
When Inquirer Entertainment spoke to Sadie, Lexi and Griffin a few weeks ago, we asked them how they channeled their characters’ dark side.
For Lexi, it was music that significantly helped her get into Isabella’s frame of mind. “Music was a really great tool for me,” she said. “I had a playlist for each version of Isabella for summer 1999, winter ’99 and summer 2000. So, my playlist for summer 2000 was really dark.
“I would listen to things that would get me in that mindset, and I made my trailer kind of dark while I sat with all the thoughts and feelings that Isabella was going through.
“But hair, makeup and wardrobe also helped a lot. It’s hard not to immerse yourself into that version of the character when you’re looking so goth and dark and depressed. They help you switch into that mode.”
“I totally agree,” said Sadie, chiming in. “It does come down to what you have on the outside reflecting the way you’re feeling on the inside. But for Megan, especially, she’s using that hard exterior to mask what she’s going through to protect herself from the outside world.
“More than that, it’s really all in the script. If you look at the page, you’ll see what these young girls are going through, so it’s not hard to imagine how difficult that would be and just tap into that.”
As for Griffin, he shared, “I never really got to explore the dark side as much as these gals did—although it gets a little darker for my character Luke later on in the season. So I just had fun with it and threw a bit of spice in there—like, ‘OK, I’m going to play someone who’s really depressed.’
“But everybody has these feelings and emotions inside them. I see these moments as an outlet reminding us of the angsty times in our lives. And I’m like, ‘Yeah, I’ll just let it roll!’”
Our Q&A with Sadie, Lexi and Griffin:
There are a lot of layers to discover about your character as we go through the different time periods. Was there anything you were surprised to learn about yourselves because of your character?
Lexi: It made me realize how important it is for me to be a “ride-or-die” sort of friend. Isabella takes things a little too far sometimes, but she’s a hardcore friend who doesn’t mess around.
In my case, I make sure I show up in other people’s lives, even when I’m working in places like Vancouver—where we shot this series. I always check up on the people around me. I have loyal friends … and I love showing that loyalty back to them.
What were your favorite episodes this season?
Sadie: When we get toward the end, around Episodes 7, 8 and 9, we start looking at what happens on the night of New Year’s Eve and on New Year’s Day. It’s kind of the climax and those were some intense shooting days for us.
We really leaned on each other because there were a lot of night shoots and big emotional scenes. They weren’t necessarily fun to film, but they were really rewarding. So those were my great memories with Griffin and Lexi, even though they were a little rough.
Lexi: I agree. Those were my favorite scenes to film, even though they were also the hardest. Like, we were all crying together with the whole ensemble (laughs). We’ve become such a big group of friends doing, like, the pool party scene together.
But we all had a blast! It genuinely felt like we were actually partying together and were just having fun—those are the best kind of moments where it actually feels authentic.
Griffin: I would echo that. But I actually think I’d go for the earlier episodes because I really enjoyed it when we were all just getting to know each other. We would have those crazy long night shoots.
There’s no better way to get to know people than to work with them for two weeks straight, from 4 p.m. to 5 a.m., in a freezing pool in Vancouver (laughs). That’s when you see every version of a person over two weeks—how they are at their happiest, how they are at their most stressed, and how they are when they’re completely delirious!
You’re all going through that at the same time. It’s the fastest way to get closer to somebody. The night shoots were brutal, but since we were all going through them together, they became really fun.
I mean, there were nights when all seven of us would be huddled together around a single heater. And there were also nights when Paul [Adelstein], Braeden [de la Garza] and I brought our guitars and we’d serenade everyone. We’d play four songs over and over again—like, 100,000 times—till it got annoying (laughs).
When you were talking about filming in a “freezing-cold” swimming pool, what time of year was it in Vancouver?
Griffin: It was hilarious. We were shooting all the timelines at once. Early on, during the summer-heavy scenes, we were shooting at the end of winter—like, it was almost springtime—so it was really cold. And we were wearing summer clothes!
Then, in the winter scenes, it got unbelievably hot—and we were all wearing four layers of sweaters and jackets (laughs)!
Did you ever find yourself judging your character? How did you separate yourself from that judgment?Griffin: Yeah, I’ve judged Luke all the time, personally. He makes a lot of silly decisions. He’s got some big issues to work through. But that’s OK because he’s young and dumb. So I always had to justify his actions even if I didn’t agree with them … and even with his clothing choices.
As a mild example, I’d go, “I hate wearing this [outfit]! This looks bad.” But in the back of my mind, I’m going, “OK … but Luke likes wearing this. He feels comfortable in it. And he thinks that it looks good on him.”
It’s like, you apply that to every scene because you have to be your character’s biggest advocate. Even if you personally don’t agree with what he’s doing, saying or thinking, you have to recognize that, at the end of the day, he believes in it full-heartedly.
That’s who they are as a person. So, you have to find a way to excuse it and justify it to yourself, so that you can justify it for the scene and for everyone else.
Lexi: To piggyback on what Griffin said, I feel like it’s our job as actors to be our character’s keeper. It’s never our job to judge our character, regardless of what they’re going through or the choices they’re making.
While I may not necessarily do the same things that Isabella does, what she decides to do is something that she chooses—and I can’t judge her. All you can do is go with the flow and trust that your character is somewhat making the right choices, even if you don’t agree with them.
Sadie: Absolutely. Lexi and Griffin said it best—you are your character’s biggest advocate, so you have to love your character. I love Megan wholeheartedly, even though she can be immature or handle things incorrectly at times.
After all, Megan is just a teenage girl, so I can understand where she’s coming from and why she wants what she wants. INQ