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Lexi Underwood Speaks On Her ’90s Inspired ‘Cruel Summer’ Hairstyles, Filming In A Bikini And More! [Exclusive]

After the first season of Cruel Summer kept us on the edge of our seats, we weren’t about to miss Season 2!

Source: Justine Yeung / Freeform

We were especially excited to see that one of our favorite young actresses, Lexi Underwood, has a starring role this season. Cruel Summer, the highest-rated series in Freeform history, returns for its second season TONIGHT on Freeform. The anthology series features a brand new cast and mystery. Check out the trailer below:

Set in an idyllic waterfront town in the Pacific Northwest, the next chapter of “Cruel Summer” follows the rise and fall of an intense teenage friendship. Approaching the story from three different timelines surrounding Y2K, the season twists and turns as it tracks the early friendship between Megan, Isabella and Megan’s best friend Luke, the love triangle that blossomed, and the mystery that would impact all of their lives going forward.

Source: Frank Ockenfels / Freeform

BOSSIP’s Sr. Content Director Janeé Bolden caught up with Lexi Underwood this weekend at a Cruel Summer Season 2 premiere screening in Atlanta and the pair discussed what it’s been like for Underwood to make a series for her own age demographic for the first time, playing ‘wild child’ Isabella, the inspiration behind her character’s hairstyles and filming quite a few scenes in an itty bitty bikini.

Check out their Q&A below:

BOSSIP: This role is so different from any we’ve seen you play in the past, can you talk about what made you want to play Isabella?

Lexi Underwood: It definitely is, which is why I was so excited to be able to jump into telling the story. It was exciting. I was playing the same age that I was. Isabella was 18, I was 18 while filming, and so all those things… I guess it just felt like the parties, all that stuff, it just kind of like felt normal to me. Now that I’ve stepped back and I’ve watched it, this is just genuinely so different from everything else that I’ve done. But I think that that’s cool especially because I am 19, so it’s dope to be able to tap into the Gen Z audience. Everything that I’ve done before — Sneakerella was more geared towards younger kids. <em>First Lady and Little Fires were geared towards an older audience, so now I’m able to tap in with another market that I’m a part of and so I’m really excited for that.

BOSSIP: How much fun is it to be in a series where nobody really knows exactly what happened until you know they put all the pieces together?

Lexi Underwood: It was fun. It was a little challenging at times, just because as an actor it’s a little hard to stay on track and you want to make sure that you’re doing a good job and that you’re trusting your instincts but it’s a little hard when, you know you’re doing summer 2000 scenes and so you don’t necessarily know what actually happened or what occurred certain nights that they’re talking about until you actually get there. You just kind of hope as an actor that you’re making the right decisions. But I think that having such a great team behind it, obviously it was the same team from season one, so they knew how to navigate us and and lead us through it. It was definitely a challenge, but it was so fun as well. We were always coming up with little theories every single time that we got a new script and we were always wrong, so it was fun when we finally got the scripts for the final episode. I think only one person got it right and half of the cast still doesn’t even know yet, so the one person that did guess that, they have brownie points.

Source: Justine Yeung / Freeform

BOSSIP: The Y2K factor is huge considering you weren’t even born yet — what do you think this obsession is right now with the 90’s? There’s so many shows that are set in the 90s. What is it about the 90s?

Lexi Underwood: I think that every generation gets inspired by the previous one. In the 90s and early 2000s you had That 70s Show and during that time we got to see a lot of influences from the 70s and so now we’re tapping into the 90s and the Y2K vibe. All these trends are coming back. A lot of those icons are still alive and still making music or still creating art, so we’re always tapped in with them. Pinterest and TikTok and the power of social media are bringing all of it back. There’s a 90s nostalgia TikTok page that I follow and just looking back at those pages it looked like such a fun time. I’m very jealous that I couldn’t have been a part of it but I’m glad that as an actor I’m able to kind of live out those dreams and immerse myself into that world.

Source: Frank Ockenfels / Freeform


BOSSIP: What did you like most about playing Isabella? I think in today’s world people would probably be like, ‘Oh she’s a bad b*tch,’ right?

Lexi Underwood: Yeah! I really loved her wardrobe but I just love the fact that Isabella is so different than me. She is so confident, she’s charming, she’s alluring, she’s out-of-the-box and I don’t consider myself to be like an out there type of person. I’m more shy and reserved. So being able to play with that and play with the fun different looks in Summer ’99 and then even Winter ’99, stepping into a completely different version of her where she was kind of in that messed up state. You see she’s taking control of her destiny, she’s becoming more comfortable in her skin, she’s let down that mask, and in Summer 2000 we see how it all unravels. But I just love the fact that she’s such a complex and layered person. There are so many things during every time period that we feel as though we know something about her. There’s always something else that we discover, she’s just constantly evolving.

Source: Justine Yeung / Freeform

BOSSIP: When a woman changes her hair you know she changes her life, so I was interested in your thoughts as far as why Isabella goes from the big curly look to a more reserved dark straight style.

Lexi Underwood: It was interesting because it was a collaborative process. I was really fortunate that I was able to bring Marva Stokes, shout out to her. She was my hairstylist for  Little Fires Everywhere so she had already worked with me when it came to creating 90s-style looks. When we came into the hair trailer I showed her a reference of Scary Spice for the first timeline, just because I felt as though Isabella in that timeline is just so out there. She’s very free. She says she’s not really like a school type of person in the first episode, she’s actually more of like a student of life. So she has that mindset and I think that her hair and her outfits as well, wearing all the bright colors, she is living her best life and I think that we see that.

Then for the second timeline, my reference was Aaliyah, because I just felt as though she was kind of sinking more into who she was when she was able to let down that facade of feeling as though she always has to be perfect. She’s more chill, more in jeans.  We barely see her in a dress except for the Christmas party. But yeah just more laid back and reserved and kind of starting to feel more like herself.

Source: Justine Yeung / Freeform

Then by the third timeline, I think we all know that when we are going through something sometimes we don’t feel like doing our hair. So for that I didn’t necessarily know exactly what curl pattern we should have gone with, like going back to like the regular curls but without the blonde. Then I was thinking that especially with straightening her hair and with her being in Chatham it feels as though she was also trying to be a chameleon and fit in because of the town that she was in, there wasn’t too much diversity there. I was feeling like maybe we could show that her hair has kind of like been through it a little bit, from constantly going back and forth between straightening her hair and trying to fit in with everybody else. Then also she’s always wearing it in a ponytail.  She doesn’t necessarily feel like doing much with it, because she’s going through a lot at that point.  Honestly, it was one of my favorite looks out of all three. I thought it was just really pretty even though she’s still going through something.

BOSSIP: We talked about how Isabella is really different from you and she’s a little out there, so we do have some sex scenes, there are some bikinis,  can you talk about getting in your comfort zone for those types of scenes?

Lexi Underwood: Honestly I was a little nervous, I can’t lie.  Just cause I haven’t necessarily been in a swimsuit, I think ever on screen before. But everybody was feeling anxiety, the rest of the cast as well, so just being able to talk to one another and hype each other up and be like ‘Girl you look good, like no need to be worried, you look good.’ But yeah this character really forced me to step outside of my comfort zone which was fun. All the looks are really cute, it was fun to switch it up.

The highly anticipated season two of the smash-hit anthology series Cruel Summer will debut tonight, Monday, June 5, at 9:00 p.m. EDT  on Freeform with a special two-episode premiere before moving to its regular 10p.m. timeslot.

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