Cruel Summer stars Olivia Holt and Blake Lee unpack episode 9's game-changing ending
"This episode was the most challenging for us because that was Martin and Kate's turning point," Holt says.
Cruel Summer (TV Series)
Warning: This article contains spoilers for Tuesday's episode of Cruel Summer, "A Secret of My Own."
It turns out Kate Wallis has actually been telling the truth on Cruel Summer. Only there's a lot she's been omitting from her story - and the whole truth is finally coming out.
Episode 9 of Freeform's dark thriller painted quite a different picture from what Kate (Olivia Holt) has been telling everyone about her time being held hostage by Martin Harris (Blake Lee) in his basement. For starters, Kate ran away from home and went to his house willingly, staying there for six months in an inappropriate relationship for an underage girl and the assistant principal of her high school. It was only after she tried to break up with him and leave that he locked her in the basement in the episode's tense closing scene, finally becoming the kidnapper Kate has said he was from the start.
Below, Holt and Lee unpack that game-changing moment for Kate and Martin and tease what fans can expect from next week's twisty finale.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: That ending had my jaw on the floor! What was your reaction to it when you read the script for the first time?
BLAKE LEE: It was overwhelming to have the lead-up the whole season and then to see it exploding on the page like that. I just remember being so shook, and then at the very end when I finished, I called Olivia and we were both almost laughing. There was so much excitement and terror in our voices because we knew what we were about to have to do, and also just knowing when the audience gets to episode 9, their minds are going to explode.
OLIVIA HOLT: Yeah, we got the script and we immediately dove into every element of it. This episode in particular was something that we really wanted to execute in an honest and transparent way, and I think that's why we dove so desperately into it.
What was it like bringing those scenes to life where Kate gets deeper and deeper into this grooming relationship?
LEE: At this point we had been in Texas shooting the show for five months, and so Olivia and I had so much trust with each other. From an actor's standpoint, I wasn't worried about that and I don't think, Olivia, you were either. We felt so comfortable with each other to just try anything. It just became an open dialogue between myself and Olivia and Alexis [Ostrander], our director, and Tia [Napolitano], our showrunner; we would tell personal stories, any questions that came up, and then it was also just sending each other the research that each of us had done on grooming and manipulation and power dynamics. We knew that this episode was coming for a while, so we were preparing for it and having those conversations throughout the entire process.
HOLT: All of the layers of the onion were peeled back in this episode, so ultimately this needed to have a lot of communication and a lot of trust and a lot of knowledge on the themes of the show, which is manipulation, gaslighting, grooming. We just wanted to be as real and honest with it as possible.
LEE: When Olivia and I signed on to do the show, one of the things that was so refreshing was that we were honestly depicting this type of relationship, that we weren't glamorizing or romanticizing it. It's so rare to see a show where you're not supposed to root for that, like the older man and the younger girl. We found it extremely refreshing to show the reality of it, and that it isn't okay and that grooming is something that happens all the time and as a society we should be talking about it more. I actually really loved watching your stuff, Olivia, and the therapist, because I wasn't present for those scenes. It helps to show the aftermath of someone going through a traumatic experience like this, and how Olivia's character is dealing with this for years after. In real life, someone would have to deal with it for the rest of their life.
LEE: I was really impressed by those scenes.
What was the most challenging scene for you to film from this episode?
HOLT: This episode was the most challenging for us because that was Martin and Kate's turning point, but especially the end when Kate makes the decision to leave and Martin makes the decision to lock her in the basement. We shot a lot of this in chronological order, so everything was just light and fun, we're enjoying each other's company, up until those last few scenes. That last day is when we started shooting the Christmas dinner scene. That was probably the most challenging, putting life and air into that scene in particular because that is what has changed Kate's life forever and what has changed Martin's fate forever.
LEE: That scene was one of the hardest to shoot, especially because I hadn't heard you do the scene from the other point of view yet. When she goes downstairs and I lock the basement door, my side of the scene was shot on location at the house and then the basement is on a soundstage, so we shot them separately. But Olivia was there, on the other side of the door when I close the door at the actual house, and it was really hard to stay in it because hearing you scream and having to go over to the record player and turn the record player on and just drown out your screams, it was a very emotional, heavy evening. I remember sitting there, hearing you scream over the music - it was very, very difficult to listen to that. I've never experienced anything like it in my career.
We finally see how Kate got Jeanette's necklace - what did you think when you found out that Kate has been lying about Jeanette [Chiara Aurelia] seeing her this whole time?
HOLT: There's obviously so many twists in this show, and this is one of those moments we were wondering about for so long, how Kate got the necklace from Jeanette. I know that there were a couple theories where Kate went to the mall and just bought another "you go girl" necklace, which is kind of genius. [Laughs] It's interesting, the dynamic between the two of them, in the finale, seeing them walk through what both of their truths are is going to be really fascinating for everybody to witness.
Is there even more to the story of Kate and Jeanette that we haven't seen yet?
HOLT: One hundred percent. Yeah.
Wow, okay! So what can you tease about what's coming next, in the finale?
LEE: You'll get to see a lot of questions answered. Up until the very moment, truly up until the last scene, there are surprises. You'll see more of Kate and Martin in the basement and what happens after, the lead-up to her being rescued. Olivia, what else?
LEE: [Sings] Annabelle! Sydney, what is your theory on Annabelle? I'm going to go like this [covers face] so I don't give anything away.
I've got two prevailing theories. One is that Kate became pregnant and the baby's name is or was Annabelle. Or Annabelle is the persona Kate gave to herself for everything that happened to her after she was locked in the basement, and that's how she's blocked it all out from her memory - like it didn't happen to her.
LEE: [Smiles] Okay. I'm excited for you to see what happened. I don't remember when we found out who Annabelle was, but I remember immediately picking up the phone and calling Tia, our showrunner, and being like, "We need to talk!" Just in such shock.
HOLT: I don't think I read it in the script, I think I was told. Jaw dropped. You know what is interesting is it took me a long time to process a lot of the questions that I had that have been answered. The finale episode, I needed like a couple of nights to decompress from all of it. [Laughs] Maybe that's just because I was living it for five months.
What do you hope people take away or learn from watching Kate and Martin's story and how it ends?
HOLT: That it wasn't okay. Now that people witness this and the way that we executed it, I'm hoping what happens is that they're more aware of this situation, whether you're in it, whether you're a witness of it, and to speak up about it. Just stop the stigma around this conversation.
LEE: Yeah, I agree. Also I hope that it encourages other shows to be responsible and to show these types of relationships this way rather than glamorizing them. In entertainment and TV and film, there's a responsibility we have because people watch our shows and watch movies to escape and we have such an opportunity to put out good things. We're doing such a disservice to people if you're glamorizing something like this. I would hope that more shows are responsible and can show this type of relationship this way rather than how they have in the past. I think subconsciously, it messes with people's brains when you're like, "Wait, should I be rooting for this relationship?" No! It should never be okay. You should never be questioning that. I just think it's time that TV and film reflect what's real and the way we should be viewing these types of relationships.
The Cruel Summer finale airs Tuesday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Freeform.