Sadie Stanley is taking Cruel Summer up a notch. The actress, who plays Megan in the Freeform series, recently sat down with us at ATX TV Festival in Austin to chat about the anthology show’s second season. In our roundtable interview, Stanley opened up about the challenges of acting in multiple timelines, preparing for a “period” role in the Y2K era, and how she separates the acting from herself at the end of a shooting day.
About Cruel Summer
Cruel Summer is a twisty and turny thriller-esque anthology series that made waves on Freeform with its first season in 2021. Season 2 of Cruel Summer follows a new cast and has a new mystery at its core. The story unfolds over three summers surrounding Y2K as we follow the lives of three teenagers: Megan (Sadie Stanley), Isabella (Lexi Underwood), and Luke (Griffin Gluck.)
Cruel Summer explores how a love triangle blossoms between them and how a dark mystery ripples across their lives and the lives of those in their small town.
Sadie Stanley plays Megan Landry in the series. When we first meet her, she’s a talented computer coder with a promising future ahead of her. She’s got blue-collar roots and a solid friend group. Megan is resentful when Isabella (Lexie Underwood), a worldly exchange student, comes to town. Things spiral, and we see how it plays out over the three timelines.
New episodes of Cruel Summer are released on Freeform on Monday nights, with those episodes available on Hulu the next day.
Sadie Stanley: from Kim Possible to Cruel Summer
Sadie Stanley is a rising star with an already impressive resume. She’s probably best known as Kim Possible in the Disney Channel live-action movie, and she’s since gone on to act in The Goldbergs and Ray Romano’s directorial debut, All the Colors of the Dark with Romano and Laurie Metcalf.
The interview with Sadie Stanley of Cruel Summer
[Editor’s note: This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.]
Ayla Ruby: “So I’m really excited that you’re here and happy to talk to you. Can you talk to us a little bit about how you prepared for this role because it was a very long time ago? How did you get into that?”
Sadie Stanley: “Sure. Well, as far as the timeline goes, it is 1999 and 2000. I was born in 2001, so I’m a little bit off. So there was, I guess, some preparation in terms of that. But thankfully, I feel like all that Y2K, those trends, and the culture of Y2K was kind of coming back a little bit. So I was already loving the throwback music. I was already diving into the low-rise jeans. All of that was already starting to come back.”
“And then, as far as prepping the character, what was new for me was the three different timelines. I had never done something like that before, and I had never really seen something like this done in this way with the timelines being so close together, so that was really interesting in the process of auditioning. I was working with the casting director and the showrunners and everybody about making those three timelines feel really different and making her feel like almost a completely different person. And so that was a lot of my prep, too; I was like, okay, well, how did she get to this point? What made her this way from the start? And yeah, it was really fun.”
Ayla Ruby: “Great.”
On playing a character that is dramatically different in time periods
Interviewer: “Well, and speaking of that appearance, your character has probably the biggest drastic difference between Summer 1 and Summer 2; how challenging was that to keep having to play back and forth between those two?”
Sadie Stanley: “Physically, it was very challenging. We were filming all three timelines in the same day, most days. So it was a lot of back and forth physically. I’m taking off black eyeliner and my fake eyebrow, piercing and unslicking my hair, putting it in a ponytail, and putting a fresh face on. So it was a lot of back and forth, but it was also emotional whiplash. It was a lot of going back and forth and trying to keep things straight, making sure I knew where my character was at—and starting the day giggling and laughing and, at the end, crying and screaming. So it really stretched me as an actor, and I’m grateful for it.”
Sadie Stanley on her comedy roots and trying something new
Ayla Ruby: “Now you’ve done a lot of family comedy work and stuff like The Goldbergs and Kim Possible, which is amazing. Can you talk about what your approach was to this, like you just said, a drama?”
Sadie Stanley: “I mean, I was so excited. This project is kind of exactly what I was looking for. I wanted something a little bit darker, a little bit grittier, something that I kind of really sink my teeth into as an actor. Thankfully, right before I filmed Cruel Summer, I was able to work on an indie movie with Ray Romano, and that was more of a drama as well. It’s a dramedy, but I got to do a little bit more of that, that’s digging deeper and doing something a little bit more raw. So I think that kind of helped me too. Yeah, I love this stuff. I love dramas, and I love darker stuff, so it was pretty easy for me to tap into.”
Stanley on letting go at the end of the day after filming
Interviewer: “You mentioned emotional whiplash; as an actor, do you prefer to live in that space through the whole shoot, or what do you do at the end of the day when they wrap to calm down, to get rid of that?”
Sadie Stanley: “I like to let things go. I don’t need to hold onto it most of the time. And it really just depends, like towards the end of the season when we were doing a lot of night shoots, and we were doing a lot of really hard scenes like some of the darker ones, and in those times when it’s really back to back days of staying in that space, I might stay in that headspace a little bit more. And trying to keep my energy level down; it just helps to keep it consistent.”
“But other than that, I’m really the type of person that can put it away at the end of the day. It might take me a second, but I’ve gotten better at that just listening to music or talking to my friends, or just doing something to take myself outside of Megan for a second.”
Freeform’s “Cruel Summer” stars Sean Blakemore as Sheriff Jack Myer, Braeden De La Garza as Brent Chambers, Sadie Stanley as Megan Landry, Griffin Gluck as Luke Chambers, Kadee Strickland as Debbie Landry, Paul Adelstein as Steve Chambers, Lisa Yamada as Parker and Lexi Underwood as Isabella. (Freeform/Frank Ockenfels)
On her Cruel Summer character Megan Landry and her transformation
Ayla Ruby: “Can you talk about Megan without spoilers? You mentioned there’s a transformation. Can you talk about that at all?”
Sadie Stanley: “Yeah, sure. When we first meet Megan, she is a straight-A student, a goody two shoes, a little bit of a tomboy, and she’s never really made a mistake in her life. She has a single mom and a little sister, and she works a job and goes to school. She’s very ambitious. She helps with the bills. She’s like a little mini-adult. And then Isabella comes to town, and into timeline two, we watch her kind of just unfold a little bit and let go. She’s finally given this space and the chance and the encouragement to be a regular teenage girl and to kiss a boy for the first time or to try alcohol or all those little things that everybody does growing up.”
“And we see her kind of come into her own and be a little bit more confident, a little bit more girly. It’s very fun; it’s very cute. And then, unfortunately, in that third timeline, we see a much darker, much harder exterior of Megan. That hard exterior is just to mask what’s going on inside. I think she uses it to protect herself from the world around her. She has a lot of people looking at her. And I think she thinks if she can look tough on the outside, then maybe she can be tough on the inside and handle what’s coming her way. Yeah.”
On whether or not she knew what was coming next in the story
Interviewer: “And we, as the audience, are kept very much in the dark on what’s happening to cause things in the future from the past. Did they loop you in on, like, here’s the whole arc so you can play it, or were you just going with, like, here’s this week’s script, I don’t know what’s next?”
Sadie Stanley: “A little bit of both. Lexi and I, whenever we got the chance, we were pestering Bill [Purple], and Elle [Triedman], and Michelle [Purple], and Jessica [Biel] for any information at all. But they didn’t want to tell us because things were constantly changing, so they didn’t want to give us too much. But we knew what we needed to know. We probably knew more than some of the other cast members. But also, a lot of it was a guessing game. We didn’t know either. We were getting those scripts with our jaws on the floor too.”
Ayla Ruby: “Thank you very much.”
Sadie Stanley: “Thank you, guys.”
New episodes of Cruel Summer are available every Monday. The fifth episode, “All I Want For Christmas,” airs on June 26th.
What do you think of Cruel Summer season 2? Do you have any theories about the mystery? Join the conversation with us on Twitter @MyCosmicCircus or our Discord.
Want to read more from ATX TV Festival in Austin? Check out all of our coverage of the event here.