The Cruel Summer premiere is now Freeform’s most-watched series debut ever. The cable network had a multi-platform release for the show on April 20, with 3.81 million viewers tuning in to the two-hour premiere on-air, on Freeform’s website, the network’s app, Hulu, and on-demand within seven days of the original release. Those viewers have since taken to social media to share their thoughts on the series’ first season, their fan theories, and overall support for the hit Freeform show. 

The Jessica Biel-produced Cruel Summer is set over three consecutive years in the 1990s and follows the story of a teenage girl named Jeanette Turner (Chiara Aurelia) after she’s accused of being an accomplice in the disappearance of a well-known girl from her high school named Kate Wallis (Olivia Holt). Kate went missing after she was abducted by the town’s new vice principal, Martin Harris. The series takes place in the fictional town of Skylin, Texas, and each episode focuses on the same day over the span of three years, switching between Jeanette and Kate’s viewpoints. 

Cruel Summer is a psychological thriller that is not a teen show, but instead, is a show about teenagers. The series accurately depicts the loss of innocence that takes place within those four high school years, except in this case, the characters are forced to deal with a traumatic experience that drastically changes them between the years 1993, 1994, and 1995. Complex spoke to Cruel Summer’s stars Chiara Aurelia, Olivia Holt, Allius Barnes, and showrunner and executive producer Tia Napolitano about how the show became an instant hit, what makes it special, and how the cast and crew were able to overcome the hurdles of creating a show during a pandemic.