Next Big Thing: Sadie Stanley Digs Into Y2K Murder Mystery in ‘Cruel Summer’ Season 2

In season two of Freeform’s murder-mystery anthology hit Cruel Summer, Megan Landry (Sadie Stanley) has big plans. It’s a sentiment that Stanley understands well.

“[Megan’s] kind of had to grow up pretty fast, so I can relate to aspects of that,” says Stanley, 21, who moved to Los Angeles at 18 to pursue acting. In the show, Megan is a computer coder and straight-A student, raised by a single mom in a small town. “She’s going through some really rough things. Her whole life and all of her plans for her life are really falling apart.”

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While season one was set in the ’90s, season two (premiering June 5) is set amid the backdrop of Y2K in a waterfront Pacific Northwest town. The story revolves around the friendship between Megan and new girl in town Isabella (Lexi Underwood), the love triangle that comes between them and the tragic mystery that changes their lives forever.

“Acting, for me, is so therapeutic,” Stanley says. “Something about it really fuels me like nothing else. I don’t understand it. I have no idea why, but I love it.”

At 13 years old, she recalls, she asked her parents how to become an actor, a dream that seemed out of the question to a family in South Carolina with no connections to the industry. “Every 13-year-old wants to be on Disney Channel, you know?” Stanley says. “I just wouldn’t let it go. I started doing my own research and figuring it out on my own.” A talent agency here, an acting convention there led to Stanley’s move to L.A. over three years ago. In 2019, her Disney Channel aspirations came true when she landed a job as the live-action Kim Possible, a TV movie role that set Stanley’s career in motion.

Like the first season, Cruel Summer‘s sophomore run takes place across three different timelines, hopping from one to the next throughout each episode.

Stanley with Griffin Gluck in season two of Freeform’s Cruel Summer.
Stanley with Griffin Gluck in season two of Freeform’s Cruel Summer.

“I had to be really vigilant and quick on my feet because we were filming all three timelines every single day,” Stanley says. The third timeline sees her nearly unrecognizable, with piercings and dark, slicked-back hair, along with a new attitude hardened by trauma. Of course, that was Stanley’s favorite part of the role.

“I got to really challenge myself. I love doing things that are darker, that have a bit more grit and depth to them. I want to do more of that,” says the actress, who also appeared this spring in Ray Romano’s directorial debut, Somewhere in Queens. Stanley sees the film as a highlight of her budding career. “Definitely a huge moment for me,” she says of filming the family comedy-drama opposite stars Romano and Laurie Metcalf. “Working with [Metcalf] is like a master class in acting. She is so tapped in, so honest the whole way through.”

Up next? “I would love to do a horror movie,” says Stanley, lighting up. “Bloody, dirty, screaming, crying — I haven’t gotten to do that. That’s one that I want to check off my actor bucket list. Like an A24 horror movie, anything A24.”

This story first appeared in the May 24 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.

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