'Cruel Summer' Star Olivia Holt: We Tried Not to Glamorize Kate's Trauma

olivia holt cruel summer
credit: Olivia Holt/Instagram

Although trauma porn is all the rage on TV right now (ahem, Netflix’s Grand Army), Freeform’s Cruel Summer has no intention of falling into that trap.

Rather, Cruel Summer hopes to tell a genuine story about a girl who has lived through something truly horrific: being kidnapped as a teen.

Actress Olivia Holt, who plays the abducted Kate Wallis, told People,

“I know that we didn’t want to glamorize anything. We wanted to make it as authentic and as real as possible.”

In order to do so, Olivia took every precaution to prepare for the role. She explained,

“[I was] doing a lot of research and educating myself in gaslighting and manipulation and the tools needed in order to move on from traumatic experiences. … Just really soaking up as much knowledge as possible.”

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Olivia Holt as Kate Wallis in ‘Cruel Summer’

But researching is one thing, actually having to get into that headspace as an actress is quite another.

She explained,

“I really struggled trying to get into that headspace, obviously, because I had never been through anything that traumatic.”

She added,

“I remember, when having to shoot those heavier emotional scenes, just having a really difficult time getting into that space because it was really intense.”

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Olivia with co-star Froy Gutierrez, who plays her boyfriend Jamie Henson in ‘Cruel Summer’

Of course, the show is still for entertainment purposes and doesn’t lack drama. Olivia even compared the series to Pretty Little Liars, which says a lot about the twists and turns you can expect this season.

The central mystery revolves around a “she said, she said” situation and ultimately comes down to who you believe.

The conflict begins when Kate is rescued and claims that Jeanette Turner, her soon-to-be nemesis, saw her locked up and yet did nothing about it.

A year later, it’s Jeanette who is turning the tides, however. Jeanette sues Kate for defamation and now it’s Kate’s story that is put into question.

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Olivia in ‘Cruel Summer’

As the series unfolds, viewers are constantly challenged to decide who they believe is telling the truth and who they believe is lying. It’s a mystery with endless surprises that spans three summers and will have you guessing until the end. Olivia even admitted that she herself guessed wrong multiple times while reading the script.

Although many have speculated that Cruel Summer is based on a true story, the show has been confirmed as 100% fictional.

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Olivia in ‘Cruel Summer’

Although still in its freshman season, Cruel Summer already has a 90% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes. The show’s large cast includes Chiara Aurelia as Jeanette Turner, Harley Quinn Smith as Mallory Higgins, Allius Barnes as Vince Fuller, Blake Lee as Martin Harris, Froy Gutierrez as Jamie Henson, Nathaniel Ashton as Ben Hallowell, and Barrett Carnahan as Derek Turner.

Cruel Summer currently airs on Freeform, Tuesdays at 10 pm EST. You can also watch episodes the next day on Hulu.


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Lena Finkel
Lena Finkel is the Editor and Founder of Femestella. Prior to starting Femestella, she worked at People, InStyle, Tiger Beat, and Sesame Workshop (aka Sesame Street). She loves all things Real Housewives and Vanderpump Rules. When she's not busy binge-watching TV, you can find her hanging out with her tuxedo cat Tom.