Is “Cruel Summer” based on a true story?

The twisty teen drama, Cruel Summer, premiered on Freeform on April 20, 2021, and has been a hit ever since. You are not alone if you have been wondering whether the American thriller television series is based on real-life events. Fans the world over are equally puzzled!

The show’s production team has done an excellent job of making this psychological thriller feel as real as possible. The dates, the 90s theme, background music, and cinematography all point to a ”based on a true story” narrative. 

But is Cruel Summer based on a true story, or is it a really good-for-TV fictional story? Well, the answer might surprise you. Read on to find out.

What is the point of “Cruel Summer”?

Freeform’s psychological drama Cruel Summer is set in Skyline, a small town in Texas. The Jessica Biel-produced series revolves around two teenage girls, Kate Wallis, a popular schoolmate and friend, and Jeanette Turner, a nerdy wannabe.

Kate Wallis disappears one summer after being kidnapped by Martin Harris, Skylin High’s vice-principal. Jeannette, the school nerd, is accused of not reporting the kidnapping, resulting in everyone in the town hating her.

Bert V. Royal, the show’s creator, places the thriller in three different summers, and it goes back and forth between these summers showing us Kate and Jeanette’s perspectives through the years. 

In the episodes we have watched so far, we have seen the events that culminated in the kidnapping of Kate Wallis and how she ended up returning to the town.

We also witness how this affects Jeanette Turner, Kate’s dorky classmate, who is now a different person from the nerd she used to be. Since Kate’s kidnapping, Jeanette takes over Kate’s place as the popular girl and even goes on to date Kate’s boyfriend. 

Speaking to Deadline, Bert V. Royal said he hoped the story would “spark some interesting conversations about how our society can upend a person’s life before and sometimes despite the facts.”

So, is Cruel Summer based on a true story?

Several aspects of this thriller, executive-produced by Jessica Biel, seem to be based on real-life events of the 2 small-town Texas girls. The most telling detail is how each episode starts with a typed note: “The events that are about to unfold take place on approximately June 21, 1993, 1994, and 1995.”

The precise date and months keep shifting to focus on key events across those three summers. The back and forth aims to show the audience how at one point, Jeannette went from being the dorky girl next door to the it-girl in school and then to the most hated girl in America. 

The limited series centers around serious issues that real families and communities are battling, including teen depression, social barriers, jealousy, and the need for validation, making it convincingly real. 

But, the truth is, Cruel Summer is not based on a real story.

The show’s creators and production company remarkably draw us in, engage us, and make us almost believe that a real-life story inspires the events we witness. While the premise of the teenage drama series can happen to anyone, we can breathe a sigh of relief knowing it is all fictional. Skyline is also not a real town in Texas!

Bert V. Royal wrote the script for the Freeform series out of his imagination. But, he did want the American teen drama thriller to convey an important message about how we perceive the truth and how quickly society can judge a person even before understanding all the facts about them.

Royal is known for the hit teen comedy Easy A, starring Emma Stone. He said the comedy was inspired by real-world experience, despite being primarily fictional. He also wrote the original script of Dog Sees God, an off-broadway production, and another Freeform series Recovery Road.

Will there be season 2 of Cruel Summer?

If season 1 of Cruel Summer was satisfyingly chilling for you, you are probably desperately vouching for season 2.

So, what’s the deal? Will there be season 2 of Cruel Summer? Well, given that the series was not advertised as miniseries or a limited series, there is a chance for more upcoming seasons. After all, this was the most-watched overall series debut in Freeform’s history. 

Speaking to HollywoodLife, showrunner Tia Napolitano, touched on the topic of a second season. She revealed, “What I love about season 1 is that we tell you all the answers and deliver everything about what takes place in the fictional town of Skyline. We lay it all out there because we do not want it to be a show that will be stringing you along forever.”

Napolitano added, “All of these clues that we’re teeing up, we pay them off.”

If we get all the questions answered in season 1, the question still begs whether there will be a season 2 of Cruel Summer. If fans are lucky enough to be gifted with a second season, there is no doubt that there will be more dark twists to witness in this captivating story.

Nicole Colombie produced Cruel Summer, with Jessica Biel as the executive producer. Other directors include Daniel Willis, Max Winkler, and Bill Purple. The cast includes little-known but equally talented actors such as Olivia Holt, who plays Kate Wallis, and Chiara Aurelia, who plays Jeanette Turner. Others include Harley Quinn Smith, Froy Gutierrez, Blake Lee, and Brooklyn Sudano.

The action-packed series airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. EST on Freeform.