No actor has skilled as a lot profession whiplash as Blake Lee. Four months after Lee broke floor on Lifetime for starring within the community’s first LGBTQ+ Christmas film, the actor appeared in Cruel Summer, the place he captured one of many creepiest characters of the yr. And as Episode 9 exhibits, when you thought Martin Harris was unsettling earlier than, you don’t know the half of it.
“A Secret of My Own” is a break from the remainder of Cruel Summer. Instead of darting between three totally different timelines, it nearly fully centered on the connection between the kidnapped Kate Wallis (Olivia Holt) and her vice principal and captor, Martin Harris (Lee). Up till this level, we’ve been bought a sure narrative about Kate’s kidnapping, a narrative that concerned an unhinged man cruelly grabbing a damsel in misery and locking her away in his basement. The actuality captured on this bottle episode is much extra unsettling. Over the course of 42 minutes, the episode chronicled precisely how Martin groomed this teenage lady into pondering she had to choose: Martin, or the skin world.
It’s a chilling installment that works largely as a result of Lee’s restrained efficiency that deftly walks the road between giving his character humanity and by no means forgetting the monster inside. Decider spoke with Lee about what it was like filming this standout episode, how Ted Bundy characterised his efficiency, and what’s forward for the present’s finale.
Decider: This have to be a loopy few months for you. You made historical past with Lifetime’s first LGBTQ+ vacation film, The Christmas Setup, and then you definately circled and performed one of many creepiest characters in TV.
Blake Lee: It’s been a really weird yr. And then wrapped up in a pandemic? It’s been wild. It’s a kind of dream years as an actor to play such totally different roles, to be in a romantic comedy that’s set round Christmas with my husband and Fran Drescher. And then I get to go play essentially the most evil, darkish, manipulative, creepy man. It’s been it’s been a fantastic train in appearing, for certain.
Since you could have gone to those two extremes, which do you like?
I wouldn’t say I favor one over the opposite. The lighter romantic comedy stuff is certainly simpler for me, it’s in my wheelhouse. This was me stepping out. I’ve by no means gone to those locations as an actor ever. I used to be actually excited to take this job to have the ability to do this. It sounds bizarre to say I used to be enthusiastic about it, however to play a personality like that is so uncommon, and I haven’t had that chance earlier than. So I used to be actually wanting ahead to it. Then doing it, working with Olivia (Holt) on this present has been simply essentially the most unbelievable expertise. It was a extremely collaborative expertise between the writers, administrators, producers, and the actors, extra so than I’ve ever had on any present.
Tia (Napolitano), our showrunner, had an open door coverage and, because the scripts would come, we may attain out. We’re type of sharing a mind along with her. I’ll communicate for myself, however for Martin’s character, Tia and I do know extra about what he’s pondering most likely at any second than anybody else. So it was nice. I might name, and I’d be like, “I don’t know. In this scene this bumps for me,” after which she’d be like, “OK, let’s discuss it.”
You definitely really feel that collaboration in “A Secret of My Own.” I’m actually blown away by your efficiency on this episode. You give Martin such stunning empathy, and but it by no means appears to overshadow or excuse all of the trauma he’s brought on Kate. How did you stroll that line between giving him a little bit of like empathy, however nonetheless conserving him a monster?
When I first auditioned for it, I didn’t play him as a villain as a result of I used to be like, “I don’t think any villain presents as a villain.” A nasty man isn’t like, “I’m a bad guy.” I used to be like, I’m going to play him as an individual. I’m certain he thinks he’s a pleasant man. I’m going to only play the great man. And they have been like, “That’s so creepy. You have the job.”
Going into it, I did a handful of analysis on, not essentially pedophiles, however I watched The Ted Bundy Tapes and I watched Kidnapped in Plain Sight. Especially from The Ted Bundy Tapes, it was this one that was doing these horrible, horrible issues, who then may go to the grocery retailer and go to the films and go order a espresso and had the night time earlier than brutally murdered somebody. Where is that separation?
That made me suppose loads about Martin. He’s capable of go to work, and he’s capable of go to the grocery retailer and do all these regular issues, figuring out that there’s an underage lady that the complete group is searching for in his home. How does he do this? Basically, I simply was like, “I’m going to make it an obsession.” He loves this particular person. I attempted to make Martin do every thing from a spot of affection. But as an viewers member we all know that’s not true. He’s manipulating her and grooming her. But I believe that he’s additionally satisfied himself that it’s love… I believe that’s the one means he was capable of proceed residing his life and never blowing his brains out in some unspecified time in the future. Because how do you reside with your self when you are able to do this to a toddler? That was the factor. It was him convincing himself that I really like this particular person. I really like this particular person. I really like this particular person. Any of the empathy or stuff that comes via, I believe that that’s possibly the place it’s coming from.
This is the episode the place we discovered that for half a yr, Kate wasn’t locked up, and he or she was allowed to roam Martin’s home. How early did you be taught that their relationship wasn’t the stereotypical kidnapper and sufferer relationship we have been led to consider?
I discovered it once we have been taking pictures the pilot. The creator of the present, Bert V. Royal, talked about to me, “This is where we see the character going, and you won’t find out until later in the season.” I didn’t know it might be this bottle episode that basically solely highlights that.
Tia Napolitano, our showrunner, referred to as Olivia and me, and we had a Zoom. She went via the entire story. I believe that Olivia and I have been simply mouth agape, for 20 minutes simply silent. Like, what? Oh my god, what are we getting ourselves into? There was an pleasure to have the ability to go there as actors, however there was additionally a worry since you wish to inform an sincere depiction of this story. You don’t wish to glamorize or romanticize this. That was actually essential to Olivia and I, and our entire inventive staff, truly. We don’t ever need the viewers to root for this relationship. That was actually refreshing to us as a result of it’s uncommon. Lots of TV exhibits and films spotlight, or they need the viewers to root for, underage relationships, which is simply insane. It’s insane that’s been acceptable for therefore lengthy. So I used to be very completely satisfied to be a part of a present that was not doing that.
It is wild. I’m rewatching Gossip Girl proper now, and I’ve misplaced monitor of the variety of instances like an adolescent is with an grownup.
I’m curious if the brand new Gossip Girl will do this.
That’s what my good friend and I’ve been speaking about endlessly. But again to the episode, there’s a really particular arc the place we see Martin and Olivia’s honeymoon part right down to the collapse of their relationship. How did you method this bottle episode with Olivia?
Once we received the script, Olivia and I met outdoors of labor on a weekend. We have been like, “Let’s read the whole script, beginning to end and talk about it after.” We sat within the park and tried to wrap our brains round the entire thing and the place our characters have been mentally in every scene.
Alexis Ostrander, who directed this episode, was unbelievable. She is the third main a part of this episode — Olivia, me, and Alexis — as a result of she introduced a lot depth to the episode. She had performed a lot prep work. Her script, there was no white paper she had so many notes. Any query that we had, she already had an unbelievable reply. She had considered it. She in-built a day of rehearsal for us, which is de facto uncommon on TV. We received to go to the home on a weekend, the day earlier than we began filming. And we ran via each scene a few instances. We additionally simply talked about it. We talked about grooming, and we talked about private experiences of being manipulated or taken benefit of by somebody in an influence place. It was an emotional day as a result of we went to essentially sincere, darkish locations, and we allowed one another to talk, and we simply listened to one another. It actually set the groundwork for the episode. I do I believe it comes throughout that it was lots of heavy stuff we have been having to unpack. But I’m actually happy with the result of the episode.
How do you suppose followers are going to really feel concerning the finale based mostly on what you realize about it?
I believe followers are going to be blown away. I’m such a fan of TV. So it’s so enjoyable to be on a present the place, after I learn the final script and I turned actually the final web page, I gasped. They are conserving us shocked till the final second… When you make investments so many hours right into a present as an viewers member, you wish to have that. I’m actually am happy with our present as a result of I believe we do a very good job on the finale. I believe the followers are going to be thrilled. I actually do. It’s a extremely, actually particular finale. And lots of issues are answered, however simply sufficient is left open and ambiguous.
This interview has been edited for size and readability.
Cruel Summer airs Tuesdays at 10/9c on Freeform.