Shelby Surdam can next be seen starring as Tenielle in the upcoming psychological thriller Cruel Summer. The new and intense series from Freeform is the latest from a network known to deliver tons of twists and turns for viewers. Taking place throughout three years in the 90s, Cruel Summer features an impressive cast, an intense plot, and is the latest offering from producer Jessica Biel and producing team Bill and Michelle Purple.
We spoke with Shelby about what viewers can expect from her character Tenielle, the upcoming episodes of Cruel Summer, and what it was like traveling back in time to the 90s.
Read on for our exclusive interview with Shelby Surdam below:
Hi! Thank you so much for taking the time to chat with us. I just want to say how much I am loving Cruel Summer so far. I saw the first two episodes and I think it’s going to be a hit!
Thank you so much for having me! So glad to hear how much you are loving Cruel Summer as much as I am.
What would you say initially inspired you to go into acting?
A lot of things and people inspired me to go into acting. With acting, there is so much to learn. I started in theatre and transitioned into film which is different! So it was like this bug of curiosity and wonder that I don’t think will ever go away. There’s also this part of making a person feel something, whether it be happiness, learning something, or making people feel they aren’t alone in a performance/piece that makes me love acting and this craft. I watch tons of TV shows and movies that help me and inspire me to do the same.
Can you talk a little about your character Tenielle and what viewers can expect from her? What attracted you to the role?
Well, Tenielle is one of three queen bees. She tells it like she sees it even if it’s a bit mean. She’s friends with both Kate and Jeanette and you’ll definitely be seeing how friends and people around deal with Kate’s disappearance. What attracted me to the role is I’ve never played a character like Tenielle. She’s popular, a spitfire, who is opinionated. It’s a fun challenge being someone who is the opposite of you.
Cruel Summer takes place over three different summers in 1993, 1994, and 1995. What was it like to essentially travel back in time and play a character growing up in the 90s?
It was so fun to travel back to the early 90s. I was born in the late 90s myself but don’t think I can call myself a 90’s baby. So definitely lived the dream!
What was your favorite part about filming for the time period? I personally loved seeing all the old fashion and props throughout each scene.
Oh, I loved the fashion! It was so fun going into fittings and trying everything. We had a killer wardrobe team. I wish I got to take some pieces home with me. From Tommy Hilfiger, to JNCO pants, to the jewelry, I loved it all. Another favorite were the designs of bedrooms and some of the sets which I’m so excited for everyone to see.
The drama intensifies throughout each summer and each year is so different from the last. Did that present any challenges for you when filming? How did you get into the right headspace when it came time to change your personality accordingly? Did you do anything special to prepare?
Early on I made a Cruel Summer playlist with a lot of early 90’s songs. My favorite that I would listen to is “Fade Into You.” I also watched some early 90’s shows and movies and would watch a bit of 90210 before bed. That helped me a lot to know what Tenielle would watch or listen to.
The first episodes reminded me of 13 Reasons Why with each episode showcasing a different point of view. Can you share a little about what viewers can expect from this as the plot progresses? Will we be seeing more from Tenielle’s point of view?
Viewers can expect when watching that even when you think you know the truth, you’re gonna learn something new. So be careful making judgments because you might be proven wrong. There will be an episode where we see things going on in Tenielle’s life – I don’t want to give too much away, but I’m looking forward for y’all to watch episode six.
Cruel Summer is described as a psychological thriller with many twists and turns. What would you say sets this series apart from others out there? Why should fans tune in?
It’s an innovative series that tells a story in a way we’ve rarely seen before, particularly in a show that features teenagers. It’s female driven, told from the perspective of two teenage girls. Cruel Summer is a unique experience for the audience because they will be fully immersed in the story. People will get that unusual access of seeing events from opposite perspectives. Everyone should definitely tune in!
The cast and crew is so impressive! I was so excited to see Jessica Biel producing. How was the experience working alongside the cast and crew?
The cast and crew are so amazing and talented! Jessica is that great example of an actress who can run her own production company. Michelle Purple is a force and is so hardworking and our showrunner Tia Napolitano was always there if we had any questions. I look up to all these brilliant women. The cast is fantastic and I can’t wait for everyone to see the performances. Got a lot from my Cruel Summer family and I felt truly blessed to work with everyone.
Can you tease a little about what viewers can look forward to in these upcoming episodes? What are you most excited for them to see?
Get ready for some suspense and secrets in the upcoming episodes. I am excited for everyone to see everything but I am particularly looking forward to episode six and eight – also five just because I loved being on set that day!
Thank you so much to Shelby Surdam for taking the time to speak with us!
Be sure to keep up to date with Shelby Surdam by following them on social media on Instagram.
Don’t forget to tune in to Cruel Summer premiering April 20th on Freeform.