The abduction of Kate Wallis (Olivia Holt) in 1993, 1994, and 1995 is used in Cruel Summer to portray the dramatic changes in its teenage characters during those years. According to cast member Allius Barnes, the show represents the transitions that every adolescent goes through from year to year.
“From the ages 15 to 18, I think those are some of your most identity-shifting years,” Barnes told UPI in a phone interview. “It’s as if I was changing almost every month, trying to find my footing and find my crowd.”
The 22-year-old Barnes plays Vincent, a friend of Jeanette (Chiara Aurelia) in 1993. When Kate is rescued by authorities in 1994, she accuses Jeanette of finding her, but neglecting to rescue her or notify authorities.
By 1995, Jeanette is the plaintiff in a lawsuit against Kate for defamation of character. Jeanette also has distanced herself from friends like Vincent, and the whole Texas community is reeling from the crime committed in their midst.
“You watch Vincent go from this bright, involved, quirky, funny, young wholesome kid to this sort of quiet, reserved shut-in,” Barnes said. “When there’s no one left, he’s left with himself and his thoughts. He spends most of his time either at work or at home.”
Barnes has many ways to differentiate Vincent in each year. The hair department changes his hairstyle, the wardrobe department dresses him differently and Barnes alters his speaking voice.
For the 1993 scenes, Barnes makes his voice higher. Barnes said he figured Vincent’s voice deepened between 1994 and 1995.
“It’s a lot less projected,” Barnes said. “He’s a quiet guy, and I think that also just causes his voice to not be as high.”
Barnes said the 1995 Vincent requires the most intense changes. Vincent wears his hair in dreadlocks in 1995, unlike Barnes’ current hair. Barnes said the look is a physical manifestation of how much the events of Cruel Summer changed Vincent.
“I think in ’95, Vince is a completely different person than he was in the beginning,” Barnes said.
Aurelia also said the changes you see in the characters at different ages.
“I think that each year represents a different element of all of our lives: the darkness, the sadness, the youthfulness,” Aurelia said. “I think it’s honestly kind of sad.”
Though Jeanette and Kate’s drama consumes Cruel Summer, Vincent has his own dramatic subplot. Vincent is gay and is hesitant to come out in public.
Barnes said that he worked hard to portray the threat Vincent felt as a gay man in Texas in the 1990s in a subtle manner. Barnes said he hopes fans notice that Vincent and his boyfriend go to a private location where no one will see them holding hands.
“I think that speaks volumes, just looking for a place where you can hold someone you care about’s hand without feeling like your life is in danger,” Barnes said.
Of the three versions of Vincent he plays on Cruel Summer, Barnes said he relates to the 1993 incarnation the most. Barnes said Vincent in 1993 dressed more for activity, in this case bike riding, than for fashionability.
“There was a time where I dressed like Vince in ’93 because I didn’t really care about my appearance that much,” Barnes said. “I was going to go skateboarding and get dirty anyway.”
Cruel Summer airs Tuesdays at 9 p.m. EDT on Freeform.