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ATX TV Fest 2023 Interview-Cruel Summer Season 2 Stars Talk Y2K, The Details That Matter, And A Final Twist

Originally posted June 16, 2023, and updated July 10, 2023.

Ahead of the Cruel Summer Season 2 premiere, I sat down with Sadie Stanley, Lexi Underwood, and Griffin Gluck. They spilled all the dirt on who could be trusted, what details matter, and the secrets to the season’s biggest mystery. The talented trio is at the center of Freeform’s teen thriller and plays themselves in three separate timelines. Like Season 1 of Cruel Summer, every episode has wild twists and turns. While they couldn’t or wouldn’t tell me what happened to Gluck’s Luke Chambers, they did give me enough hints to have me rewatching every episode for clues.

Cruel Summer Season 2
CRUEL SUMMER – Freeform’s Cruel Summer stars Lexi Underwood as Isabella, Griffin Gluck as Luke Chambers, and Sadie Stanley as Megan Landry. (Freeform/Frank Ockenfels)

For Gluck(Locke & Key), the timelines were only an aesthetic thing. He plays Luke, a wealthy high schooler on the cusp of adulthood. In Episode 1, we learn things don’t end well for Luke, and his childhood best friend, goodie girl Megan Landry(Sadie Stanley), and her exchange student best friend Isabella LaRue(Lexi Underwood) may be the cause. He explained that although technology and clothes were different, the issues everyone faces are universal. “Love triangles, teens getting in dangerous positions” are relatable regardless of your era. He “tried to leave his phone in his apartment” to immerse himself in Luke’s world. Gluck said, “Life felt a lot quieter.”

One of the essential themes of Cruel Summer Season 2 is the idea of double standards and misogyny that ran rampant in the late 90s and early oughts. It was discussed often that despite it feeling “gross,” so much of what the teen boys say and do in the series is exactly how things were then. In light of how things begin turning in Cruel Summer Season 2 Episode 6, Luke’s behavior starts to lean heavily in that direction.

Gluck hopes that people see that Luke “is never operating with menace. He’s a stupid kid. He’s dumb and doesn’t recognize the consequences of his actions.” He desperately wants to be better than his powerful father and toxic brother. When he realizes he is no better than them, he is ashamed. It will be interesting to see how that shame plays out now that the girls know what he has been saying.

Stanley’s(The Goldberg’s) Megan begins in July 1999 as a sunny, hopeful girl. She is in control of her life and strives to be perfect. Stanley said, “It was intriguing to play three separate characters.” She explained that it could feel like emotional whiplash going from each version of herself in a single day. She credits her work in Cruel Season 2 for making her a better actor.

Megan is a gifted hacker, and Stanley relied on her family to inform her performance. Along with YouTube videos and research, she made it all look natural. When asked what details are important she cheekily replied that “every scene is purposeful and everything that every character says is important.” She confirmed that there would be a jaw-dropping moment at the end of Cruel Summer Season 2, similar to the one at the end of Season 1. Clear until nearly the end did she know if she “was the bad guy.”

Lexi Underwood(Little Fires Everywhere) is Isabella, the gorgeous daughter of diplomat parents in town as an exchange student. She lives with Megan, and the two quickly form a tight bond until secrets come out and lies get in the way. The Isabella we first meet is “confident and charming.” Underwood says July 1999, Isabella is a duck on a pond, though. She appears to be calm and have it all together, but she is paddling like crazy below the surface. The facade starts to crack as she is forced to deal with her past. Isabella is looking for a sister and a connection she can count on. As a result of tragedy and some faulty decisions, she finds neither by the time a year is over.

Underwood explained she made playlists for each timeline to help flesh out who Isabella was in each time. She further explained that the viewer can relate to “every single character.” That relatable makes it challenging to determine who or what really happened to Luke. When I asked Underwood which character she would be, she said, “Maybe Luke.” She explained Megan is uptight, and Luke is there for a good time”. She said she definitely wouldn’t be Isabella, as she did some questionable stuff in 1999. We know she may have been involved in her friend’s death, slept with that same friend’s brother behind her back, and chose to protect Megan in the sex tape scandal. Is Underwood hinting there were other things Isabella did that we don’t even know about yet?

Cruel Summer Season 2 is in the back half of its season, and there is a real sense of urgency to every episode now. What happened to Luke and who was involved is starting to take shape. Whether we see it coming is another story, but knowing there will be one gut-punching gotcha moment as it ends fills me with anticipation. I was shocked by Jeanette leaving Kate to remain hostage. Will I be as shocked by the sophomore season’s finale? What has felt scattered is now becoming orderly. I hope that everything will come together. Find all our Cruel Summer coverage here.