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Blake Lee Reveals Which IRL Serial Killer Inspired the Cruel Summer Kidnapper

In an exclusive chat with E! News, Blake Lee opened up about his Cruel Summer character and the show's non-linear storytelling style. See what he had to say.

By Alyssa Ray May 25, 2021 3:00 PMTags
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A villain you wouldn't expect.

In an exclusive chat with E! News, Blake Lee opened up about his villainous character on the new Freeform hit, Cruel Summer. For those who've yet to tune into the popular new drama, the show takes place during the summers of 1993, 1994 and 1995. What's so interesting about those summers? Well, they include the kidnapping of popular girl Kate Wallis (Olivia Holt), her return and the accusation that nerdy-girl-turned-queen-bee Jeanette Turner (Chiara Aurelia) may've known about Kate's whereabouts the whole time.

While the Parks and Recreation alum made it clear he loved working on the teen thriller, calling it an "awesome working experience," he also revealed that playing vice principal turned kidnapper Martin Harris was pretty emotionally draining.

"We were dealing with really, really serious subject matters and so, you know, it was really heavy at times," he told E! News. "It was exhausting at times. It was very emotional. Olivia Holt, who I do most of my stuff with on the show, was an amazing scene partner."

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As to how he got into the mind of the Cruel Summer culprit? Blake credited Netflix's true crime documentaries.

Per Blake, although Martin is "a made-up character," real-world crimes helped shape his kidnapper character. "I did go and watch all of these Netflix documentaries about kidnapping. What was the one? Abducted in Plain Sight," he shared. "And I did watch the Ted Bundy Tapes."

Freeform/Frank Ockenfels

Speaking of Ted Bundy, Blake compared his character to the infamous serial killer. "With the Ted Bundy one, that actually helped me a lot because he was such a charismatic person who was doing these horrible things," he explained. "The thing I think I took from watching that documentary was seeing this guy, who repeatedly did the worst things and kept getting away with it for so long, and would kind of talk his way out of it. People would be like, 'Oh wait, it can't be that guy. He's the nicest, he's handsome.'"

According to Blake, he wanted to infuse some of those characteristics into Martin. He also credited showrunner Tia Napolitano with helping him keep track of his character's mindset.

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"Our show isn't told linear, you know, it's not told in chronological order," he concluded. "So, it was kind of hard to sometimes keep track, but we had a great group of people that would kind of go, like, 'So, at this point, X, Y and Z have happened.' That was really helpful."

In addition to Blake, Olivia and Chiara, Cruel Summer stars Froy Gutierrez, Harley Quinn Smith, Allius Barnes and more.

Cruel Summer airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. on Freeform.

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