The characters on Cruel Summer season 2 made it through Y2K, but the end is approaching for the anthology series set in 1999 and 2000. Star KaDee Strickland spoke exclusively to Us Weekly about what viewers can expect from the final episodes.
“What ran through my head [reading the finale script] is, ‘There are answers. We have an answer, thank you very much!’ But what’s great is they did not shoot just one ending,” Strickland told Us in an interview conducted days before the actors joined the SAG strike. “I haven’t seen the final episode for that reason. I want to do it in real-time with the audience. I think that’s so much more fun. And that was the experience I had with Private Practice and particularly with something like this, I think it’s so much better to savor every episode and be surprised.”
Strickland revealed that there’s been scenes cut throughout the season and confirmed that the cast filmed episode by episode instead of chronologically despite the show being set in summer 1999, winter 1999 and summer 2000.
“When we watch it, there’s scenes that we filmed that aren’t in the show. Whether they were necessary or not, the final edit is different than what I read or filmed, sometimes,” she said. “And that’s also great. I mean, that’s part of the joy of doing this. I need to be the audience too sometimes when the story’s this compelling.”
Season 2 of Cruel Summer follows three different timelines, documenting the relationships between teens Megan Landry (Sadie Stanley), exchange student Isabella (Lexi Underwood) and Luke Chambers (Griffin Gluck). (Strickland plays Megan’s mom, Debbie.) Luke, who has romantic relationships with both Megan and Isabella, is found dead in the lake after New Year’s Eve 2000.
“Relationships at that age — and typically, same gendered — tend to have so much at stake. They’re so deep. The dive is so deep. And then when you tease in that relationship from Isabella’s past, that is really interesting to me,” Strickland said, referring to Isabella’s former BFF also drowning in the past. “But when you look at that character exploration and how they give the audience that food for thought of, ‘Is she a serial deep dive friendship person who then becomes obsessive? Is this one of those relationships or is this just a typical teen relationship where everything in your life feels at stake and like it is the most valuable lesson and the most valuable relationship?’ Because the intention of my character was to open [Megan’s] world [through Isabella]. Particularly in the beginning, they’re very at odds or Megan’s very resistant. [I love] how a part of her really does flower as a result of this person coming in and exposing her to things.”
While the “kids” have their own drama going on, Debbie begins dating Luke’s dad, Steve (Paul Adelstein). The romance reunites Strickland and Adelstein as love interests after six seasons of playing Charlotte and Cooper, respectively, on Shonda Rhimes’ Private Practice. (Gluck joined them in season 5 as Cooper’s love child.)
“It’s funny. We would occasionally go, ‘Are we too Charlotte and Cooper right now? No, we’re not. OK.’ We’d check each other because you’re talking about six years of playing those characters,” Strickland explained. “Even if it’s been a 10-year lapse that Paul and I have such an unconscious second nature way [and] the ease that is allowed is wonderful and it’s rare.”
Strickland told Us that the two costars would spend time in Isabella’s camper and “reminisce,” telling “Hollywood tales.” She added that it’s been “a strange, funny and wonderful” thing to see Gluck grown up and able to enjoy cocktails with his former onscreen parents.
“I think his work on the show is incredible. I knew when he was a kid that he was really talented, but to see that evolve as he’s grown up has just been so special,” she said before gushing returning to the “mutual respect” that she and Adelstein share from their Shondaland days.
She continued: “He was always so generous and protective and loving and when we had to give each other, you know, a fit, we could with full permission. And that’s also been really interesting to do it [on Cruel Summer] ‘cause I feel like Deb and Steve have a very different energy as people. I mean, very different. So that was also really exciting to me when I found out Paul was doing the role, I thought, ‘Oh, my God, what a great challenge.’ Because we’re gonna have to really craft how we behave with each other and really shift the dynamic.”
Cruel Summer airs on Freeform Mondays at 10 p.m. ET.