Why The Cruel Summer Season 2 Cast Looks So Familiar

"Cruel Summer" fans rejoice! The mystery series is back for another season airing on Freeform and Hulu. That shouldn't come as too much of a surprise considering that its first season broke a record for Freeform back in 2021. "It's the biggest series debut in Freeform's history, and the audience response has been overwhelming," the president of Freeform, Tara Duncan, told Entertainment Weekly.

Despite the success of Season 1, the show's creators decided to change things up in a major way by making "Cruel Summer" an anthology series. That means the show has an entirely different storyline and setting. This time, the story takes place around the early 2000s in a seaside town located in the Pacific Northwest and focuses on a friendship turned love triangle turned mystery. Yet, the show does still follow the same timeline formula as Season 1. "I know that nonlinear storytelling is such a big part of why this show is so fun and so we're going to keep that," Tia Napolitano, the show's past showrunner, explained to People.

What's probably the most shocking change though is that the newest season of "Cruel Summer" even has a totally different cast. While fans will no doubt miss its former stars like Olivia Holt and Chiara Aurelia, Season 2 does have several super-talented cast members who many viewers will recognize from other TV shows and movies. So with that said, let's break down why the "Cruel Summer" Season 2 cast looks so familiar.

Sadie Stanley made her debut as Kim Possible

"Cruel Summer" may be Sadie Stanley's first time leading a TV series but it's not her first time in a starring role. Stanley made her acting debut in the 2019 Disney movie "Kim Possible" where she played the live-action version of the cartoon character. She admitted to Seventeen: "The first audition for Kim Possible was my very first audition in LA and so I was a little out of my league."

Stanley did have a goal of being on the Disney Channel which she began pursuing at 13. However, it wasn't just about becoming famous. She told The Hollywood Reporter: "Acting, for me, is so therapeutic. Something about it really fuels me like nothing else ... I love it." Stanley is good at it too and went on to star in the Netflix movie "The Sleepover" in 2020 and later landed a role in Ray Romano's film "Somewhere In Queens." She also had a recurring role on "The Goldbergs" from 2020 to 2023.

It seems that "Cruel Summer" is the biggest boost to Stanley's career yet, not only because it already came with a huge fan base from Season 1, but because she also got to prove herself as an actor. With the show's darker material, Stanley has made it clear that she's come a long way from playing Kim Possible. "So much has changed," she told Teen Vogue. "And now here I am ... doing everything I ever dreamed of."

Lexi Underwood has starred alongside A-list actors

Lexi Underwood is probably one of the more recognizable cast members from Season 2 of "Cruel Summer" thanks to her role in the popular TV mini-series "Little Fires Everywhere." The show launched Underwood's career and allowed her to work alongside Hollywood powerhouses Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington, who left a lasting impact on her. "Something that both Kerry and Reese taught me was essentially how to lead a set," Underwood told Teen Vogue, adding that they always maintained a positive atmosphere. 

That wasn't the last time an A-lister would help Underwood come into her own as an actor either because she later worked with Viola Davis on the TV series "The First Lady." "The biggest thing I learned from her is to not be timid and show up authentically," Underwood told Byrdie. Fans may also recognize Underwood from more kid-friendly entertainment too, since she's appeared on Nickelodeon's "Henry Danger" and in Disney shows like "Raven's Home" and "Walk the Prank."

More notably, Underwood had a starring role in the 2022 Disney+ movie "Sneakerella," which is a modern-day remake of the fairytale with Underwood playing the "prince." When it came to why that role reversal was important to her, Underwood told Hollywood Life: "Telling young girls that you don't need a man to accomplish your dreams ... I think that's an important message." As far as what's been Underwood's favorite role to date, she told Teen Vogue it's been her character in "Cruel Summer."

Lisa Yamada appeared on several TV shows

Chances are you've most likely seen Lisa Yamada on your screen before since she's appeared on a few popular TV shows over the years. Yamada told Wonderland that she's been acting professionally since age 8 with her first part being in a National Geographic documentary. Before landing a role on "Cruel Summer" though, Yamada had parts on teen series like "All American" and "Never Have I Ever" as well as another Freeform show "Party of Five." She's also appeared on "Little Fires Everywhere" alongside her "Cruel Summer" costar Lexi Underwood. 

While Yamada even made it on the big screen in the 2023 thriller, "Missing," she said that becoming a series regular on "Cruel Summer" really changed her life. "I've been in the game for over a decade and 'Cruel Summer' is my biggest role yet. I've had so many "pinch me" moments," she told Wonderland. 

However, it's worth mentioning that Yamada was apparently debating leaving the entertainment industry for a different career before she got the Freeform gig. She revealed to Just Jared: "Before booking 'Cruel Summer,' I was taking classes to become a nurse! ... I was on track to start nursing school in the following semester." Although Yamada would probably make a great nurse, it seems that acting is what she truly loves to do.

Griffin Gluck worked with comedy legends

Griffin Gluck may be one of the youngest cast members in "Cruel Summer" but he already has an impressive movie career under his belt. At just age 9, Gluck starred alongside Adam Sandler and Jennifer Aniston in the 2011 comedy, "Just Go With It," which was unsurprisingly a very memorable experience. He recalled to Pop-Culturalist: "I got to experience my first workday and I was exhausted. I remember Adam kept saying, 'You're doing great, buddy. Just stay awake. Keep working.'"

That seemed to be good advice too, considering that Gluck did keep working. From there, he landed more high-profile movies like the Bryan Cranston and James Franco comedy "Why Him?" and the Netflix hit "Tall Girl," as well as its sequel. Most recently, Gluck even got to work with Pete Davidson and Machine Gun Kelly in the 2019 film, "Big Time Adolescence," which he told Elite Daily was "the best experience of my life." He explained: "They became like big brothers to me. We spent the whole summer just messing around and having fun."

Gluck has a background in TV too, starring in "American Vandal" and "Locke & Key" on Netflix. When it comes to his role in "Cruel Summer" though, Gluck told Nerds & Beyond that he was really into his character and the story, even though he didn't initially watch Season 1. "But it was a good thing," he said. "I was glad that I liked the show without having seen it."

Braeden De La Garza has famous cousins

If you're wondering why Braeden De La Garza's last name sounds familiar, it's probably because the Texas native has some pretty famous relatives. De La Garza is a cousin of pop star Demi Lovato, as well as her sister, "Desperate Housewives" actor, Madison De La Garza. Yet, you might have seen Braeden De La Garza's face on TV too since he made his professional debut in the Disney+ series "The Quest." When it came to that role, he told Digital Journal: "It was an incredible way to break into the industry in a big way."

De La Garza isn't just an actor though. Like his cousin, Demi Lovato, he's a musician too. While he told Eclair Magazine that he plays multiple instruments like piano, guitar, and drums, he said in another interview with Untitled that he's not quite ready to release any of the songs he's written. Instead, he seems to be focusing on his acting career. However, for De La Garza, "making it" in Hollywood doesn't necessarily mean becoming the biggest movie star. He explained to Untitled: "I just want to be respected for my work, and be able to work consistently on projects I think mean something."

It's safe to say that "Cruel Summer" will definitely help De La Garza accomplish some of his dreams. "It has definitely been my favorite project to work on thus far," he gushed to Digital Journal. "And I can't wait for people to see it."

KaDee Strickland reunited with her Private Practice costars

KaDee Strickland is no stranger to the small screen having starred on multiple TV series throughout her long career. While her first major role was in "Girl, Interrupted" in 1999, she's probably better known for her starring roles on shows "Secrets and Lies" and "Shut Eye." But Strickland's most noteworthy work was definitely the "Grey's Anatomy" spinoff "Private Practice" which she starred in from 2007 to 2013 and earned major critical acclaim. When discussing the series with The Hollywood Reporter in 2011, she gushed: "I am beyond excited to be on a show that is so good at relating to the human experience."

"Private Practice" has continued to bring excitement into Strickland's life to date because she was thrilled to work with her former costars Griffin Gluck and Paul Adelstein again on "Cruel Summer." When it came to reuniting with them, she told People: "I was screaming ... Because Paul and I had just seen each other and talked about, 'Wouldn't it be wonderful if...' Because we really have a really great ease with one another on set."

Being part of "Cruel Summer" appears to be important to Strickland for other reasons outside of just getting to reunite with old friends. That's because she told People that she could also relate to her character on the show. "I love Debbie Landry's fierce desire to have her children be happy ... Now that I'm a parent, I fully understand it," she explained.

Sean Blakemore spent two decades on General Hospital

Daytime drama fans have probably known Sean Blakemore long before he scored a role in "Cruel Summer." That's because he starred in the popular soap opera "General Hospital" for almost 20 years. While Blakemore has been acting since at least 1996, his most significant role has been Shawn Butler in the hospital drama. Fans were apparently even shocked when Blakemore finally left the show, which he wrote on Twitter was "because of other obligations."

"Cruel Summer" was presumedly one of those obligations, yet Blakemore did do other projects during his time on "General Hospital." For instance, he's had recurring roles on the TV series "Greenleaf" and "All Rise" as well as a part in the 2019 Brad Pitt movie "Ad Astra." Despite his long career, Blakemore has been open about the challenges he has faced in Hollywood though. He explained to People: "To be a diverse actor as an African American male ... they can very easily want to lock you in the box." He continued: "And you have to make sure that you're seen as a vast character, not just a strong image."

It seems that Blakemore was particularly drawn to take the role of Sheriff Jack Myer on "Cruel Summer" because he is such an interesting character who has an important part in a complicated and shocking mystery. Blakemore told Cosmopolitan: "Him doing his job and trying to figure it out is going to ruffle a lot of feathers."

Paul Adelstein was part of The Menu's ensemble cast

It's safe to say that Paul Adelstein is the most famous cast member on Season 2 of "Cruel Summer" because he's been involved with a wide variety of popular TV shows and movies. Adelstein got his big break on the 2005 drama "Prison Break" and later became a series regular on shows like "Private Practice," "Scandal," "Girlfriends' Guide to Divorce," and "I Feel Bad," to name a few. He even reflected on how far he's come since "Prison Break" to SoCalPulse: "I wanted to make a living as an actor ... and those things have happened, so that's pretty great. I'm really lucky."

As mentioned, Adelstein isn't just a TV actor but has been in movies like "Bedazzled," "Be Cool" and more recently, "The Menu" in 2022. That appeared to be a crucial moment in Adelstein's career too, considering that he acted in an ensemble cast that included Ralph Fiennes, Nicholas Hoult, and Anya Taylor-Joy. "I was dying to be in it because it just seemed like so much fun, while also having full of amazing characters," Adelstein told Awards Radar. "[It] was a perfect opportunity to be in a great ensemble."

Adelstein appears to be just as excited for fans to watch him in "Cruel Summer" where he told Cosmopolitan that he plays a powerful guy in town. "When something bad happens, he wants to know why, who, how, all of that," he explained.

Nile Bullock is an up-and-coming triple threat

Nile Bullock is another rising star in Season 2 of "Cruel Summer" but he actually began his career as a dancer. "Dance was the first thing that felt natural to me," he told Rolling Out, adding that it was his parents who initially pushed him into acting. However, once he started taking classes and auditioning for roles, Bullock said he found that "spark" that made acting another one of his passions.

While Bullock only started getting acting work in 2018, you might still recognize him for his roles in "Seven Seconds" or "Power Book III: Raising Kanan" as well as the Disney+ movie "Chang Can Dunk." He's also a musician who records songs under the name NBTALENTED. "My style consists of a lot of hip hop, trap, RnB, pop, and rage music," he told Popternative.

Despite Bullock's many talents, it appears that "Cruel Summer" has been a launching pad for his Hollywood career. And he apparently feels it'll give the rest of the Season 2 cast some much-deserved recognition too. He told MovieWeb: "I think people are going to be super excited just to see the new cast and the talent that we have." It's clear that the Season 2 cast of "Cruel Summer" is filled with both up-and-coming and seasoned actors who are recognizable from past TV shows and movies. However, it'll be exciting to see how they continue to come together now to give this anthology series new life.