A dynamic and versatile performer, Sadie Stanley is quickly emerging as one of the entertainment industry’s brightest young talents. She was listed on Variety’s 2022 Power of Young Hollywood list of next generation talents and in was highlighted by The Hollywood Reporter as the ‘Next Big Thing‘ in 2023. She is currently starring as the lead in the second season of Freeform/Hulu anthology series ‘Cruel Summer’, which premiered on 5th June and will be releasing internationally on Prime Video this summer.
Sadie, you’re the lead star in the second season of ‘Cruel Summer’, which just premiered its second season. How excited were you to be cast in this anthology series?
I am so grateful and excited to be a part of season 2. Season 1 did so well, I absolutely loved it. The way that they use the three different timelines in this format is something I’ve never seen done in this way and it’s really effective and fun to watch. This project is kind of exactly what I was looking for. I wanted to dive into something a little more mature, darker, grittier, something that would stretch me as an actor. I’m especially grateful to work with this team of creators.
Tell us more about what can we expect from the second season.
The second season of ‘Cruel Summer’ is going to have all of the great elements and devices that were so effective in season 1. We have the 3 different timelines, this time set in 1999 and 2000, which adds such a great nostalgic feel. This season is centered around a compelling and complicated friendship between two young girls, a murder and the investigation of how it all got to that point. We also touch on topics like sexism, which was especially prevalent in that time period, the issue of class and how money and power can affect relationships and justice, and of course just juicy love triangle high school drama. Fans can expect to be left shocked and suspicious of someone new at the end of every episode.
In the series, you portray Megan, one of the two leading ladies of this season. Who is Megan? What is her story?
When we first meet Megan, she is your classic, straight-A student. She is a talented coder, ambitious, a bit of a tomboy and had to grow up really fast to help her single mom take care of the bills and her younger sister. She’s never had the room to mess up. Isabella comes along and she’s everything Megan has never been able to be, carefree, charming and a little rebellious. She gives Megan the encouragement and space she needs to let loose and be a regular teenage girl. This also opens up the possibility of something more with her best friend Luke, who’s never looked at her this way before. Neither Isabella or Luke understand Megan’s big dreams and plans for her life, or how her family’s struggle with money has affected her. In the third timeline, we barely recognize her. She has a new dark, hard exterior that is a mask she is using to protect herself from everyone who’s looking at her after Luke’s death. She thinks if she can look tough on the outside, maybe she can handle everything that she’s going through on the inside.
How was it filming a love triangle story for this show?
The love triangle is really fun. It feels very juvenile and full of drama, but also relatable. What I love is that we didn’t go the route of having these two girls fight and ruin their relationship over a boy. It’s much more complicated than that. That would feel so cliche and not the kind of story we want to keep telling. These girls aren’t going to let a boy come in between them. Other things, however, eventually break the girls apart.
How does the story of the second season differ from what we’ve been able to see in the first season?
I love the first season. It was so well done. It’s not about replacing it or trying to one-up it, we are just bringing an entirely new story together with the same formula and tone. I might have to say the stakes of our season feel a little higher. I also love that unlike the first season, our two leading girls are actually going through it all together, side by side. In season 1 the two girls felt worlds apart. It’s an interesting change and lets us focus on their relationship and how it changes more.
You started your career as the title character in Disney Channel’s live-action feature ‘Kim Possible’. Have you always known that you want to be an actress?
Yes and no. I started doing musical theater at my school and a community theatre in my hometown of South Carolina when I was in middle school. I loved it, I loved the creativity and the community, but my stage fright was awful. Doing theater definitely helped me come out of my shell as a kid. I started getting really interested in film and TV maybe around 13 or 14. I was obsessed with watching behind the scenes videos and interviews about my favorite movies. It felt like an impossible dream, but I took matters into my own hands and with the support of my amazing parents I was able to get started. I think I found more comfort and safety in front of a camera than I did on stage and it just clicked. I knew it was for me.
Portraying what kind of characters intrigues you the most? How do you prepare to take on new roles?
I’m most interested in characters that have a lot of layers you have to peel back. I’m very interested in psychology and studying people, so that’s what I do with my characters. Anything to do with mental health and understanding why people are the way they are is very interesting to me. I love things that are a little darker and rawer, so I definitely want to keep moving in that direction.
Preparing for roles for me mostly consists of getting to know my character as much as possible. What did their childhood look like? What circumstances have changed them as a person? I like to journal from their perspective, make playlists of music they would listen to and study the script to understand how my character is moving the story along in each scene and what tone we are trying to achieve.
Sadie, you have a twin sister. What was the most exciting thing about growing up with a twin? Did you encounter any challenges due to that?
Honestly, it’s really interesting. The older I get, the more I realize how having a twin sister really made me who I am. We were and are so close. She’s my best friend and we did everything together growing up, including dressing in matching outfits until 4th grade. I always had a partner, but I also had to learn how to think for myself and separate my identity from her as we got older.
Besides acting, what are some of your other passions in life?
Storytelling will always be my main passion, in whatever way that manifests. In my personal life, I love pottery and painting. Both of those are very therapeutic to me, to get to use my hands and create something that’s only for me. I also love to read. Aside from art, I’m very passionate about mental health and want to be a part of changing the stigma of mental illness, therapy and getting people the resources that they need.
What can you share with us about your other exciting, upcoming projects?
I’ve been focusing on press for a majority of this year. I had a movie, written and directed by Ray Romano, come out in theatres, which I’m very proud of. Now I’m focusing on something new and looking for material that I find interesting. I’d love to get into producing my own projects. I want to be a part of finding a story and building it from the ground up. Jessica Biel really inspired me when we spoke about how her production company with Michelle Purple came about. She wasn’t getting cast in the roles she wanted to and she didn’t want to wait around for someone to say yes to her anymore, so she created the opportunities herself. Not only that, but she’s also creating the opportunities for other young women like me to play interesting, complex characters. I’m very grateful to know her and have learned a lot from her.
Talent: Sadie Stanley
Photographer: Nick Rasmussen
Stylist: Marisa Ellison
Make-up: Kara Yoshimoto Bua
Hair: Rena Calhoun
Photography assistant: Argel Rojo
Styling assistant: Tosha Harzig
Studio: The Ivory Space
Lit with Aputure
Editor: Timi Letonja