(KGET) — The task generally for an actor when they get cast in a TV show or movie is to find the right way to play their specific character. Chiara Aurelia faced having to do just that with her role as Jeanette Turner in the new Freeform series “Cruel Summer” – but in triplicate.
The series looks at the dramatic transformation of a high school student over three consecutive birthdays. She goes from being a mousy teen with a love of life to the most popular girl in school to a complete outcast. The three faces of Jeanette unfold in each episode of the drama slated to launch at 9 p.m. April 20 on the cable channel Freeform.
Aurelia found the triple acting challenge to be a unique opportunity because of the extensive evolution of the character.
“I think that each year kind of represents a different element of all of our lives. The darkness. The sadness. The youthfulness,” Aurelia says. “I think that, obviously, wardrobe and hair and makeup play a big part in it. Mentally, you kind of have to differentiate where you are and what you’re thinking and what’s going on.
“I think it’s a lot in the mindset and just trying to understand her and understanding how much people can change and what she’s going through over these three drastic years.”
The trigger for her character’s change starts with fellow classmate Kate Wallis (Olivia Holt) who is the most popular girl in high school. She’s living the kind of life Jeanette has always wanted.
Things change when Kate goes missing. Jeanette steps in to fill the void left by Kate’s disappearance and then becomes accused of being part of the mystery. All signs point to Jeanette’s guilt, but there are questions about Kate. The story unfolds over three summers and is told through shifting points of view.
Aurelia found a different connection to the three different versions of the character. The youngest version is closest to the New Mexico native’s personality.
“I can be really silly and goofy and fun. And although I might be a little bit older than Jeanette in the first year, I think I like to enjoy that opportunity to not have any worries and to feel free and free to not be scared to be who I am,” Aurelia says. “I think it’s honestly kind of sad, the evolution that Jeanette goes through, as you kind of see her becoming harder for her to be, like, the pure person that I feel like she was.
“She’s going through so much that I think it almost taints her sparkle a little bit. And it might not necessarily be the year that you find her the most popular or the most known, but I think that it’s really unique, because I think Jeanette 1993 is definitely my favorite.”
Aurelia’s past work required a more conventional approach to playing a role. Along with starring alongside Lily Rabe and Amy Brenneman in Amazon Prime Video’s drama series “Tell Me Your Secrets,” she can be seen in “Fear Street 2,” Netflix’s second installment of the “Fear Street” trilogy.
Aurelia is best known for her performance as a younger version of Carla Gugino in Netflix’s “Gerald’s Game,” for which she won a 2018 Young Entertainer Award. Other credits include “The Brave,” “Pretty Little Liars,” “CSI: Crime Scene Investigation,” “Agent Carter” and “Opal.
Her interest in acting started when she was 4 and her family had moved to Los Angeles. That’s when she started studying at the Lee Strasberg Theater.
“I always wanted to be an actress. I was like that annoying 4‑ and 5‑year‑old girl who was, like, ‘Mom, this is what I want to do with my life, please.’ And my mom wasn’t specifically into it. She wanted me to wait until I was older and go to normal school,” Aurelia says. “I had a passion for theater and drama in school and in any capacity I could explore it.
“I was very fortunate to get approached by certain people and get the opportunity to be in this place that I am now. And I am so grateful every day to be working on set with these amazing, amazing creatives and actors. And I think that in these moments, I’m still young; I’m learning from them. And I think that they will have a huge impact on my career in the future and the woman that I hope to become.”
The series – that is executive produced by Jessica Biel – also stars Michael Landes, Froy Gutierrez, Harley Quinn Smith, Allius Barnes, Blake Lee and Brooklyn Sudano.
“Cruel Summer” debuts with two episodes airing back-to-back. Single new episodes then will air at 10p.m. Tuesdays and be available on Hulu the following day.