But perhaps one of the things the show does best is serve up nostalgia. While season one took place in the early ’90s, season two takes us back to the Y2K era, which has seen its own resurgence in recent months. Stanley was born in 2001, too young to have properly experienced the early aughts, but thanks to its Gen Z–inspired comeback both culturally and in the fashion world, Y2K was already influencing the trends in her life by the time the Cruel Summer script came her way. “I’m already starting to wear low-rise jeans and baggy pants, and the Y2K hairstyles and things are all coming back,” Stanley tells me. “Even the music, it’s all coming back, so I was like, ‘This is perfect. Everyone is going to love it, including me.’”
When I ask about Megan’s Y2K wardrobe specifically, Stanley’s eyes light up. She recalls the many conversations and fittings that went into Megan’s three very distinct looks. “For the first timeline … it’s a waterfront town, it’s a little bit coastal, and she’s a younger teenager. She’s a late bloomer, so she’s not really showing midriff or anything. She’s kind of a tomboy, so we did a lot of T-shirts [and] jeans, and overalls was a thing I [pushed for].” Stanley tells me the second timeline, winter 1999, is when we start to see Isabella’s influence on Megan. She’s loosening up a bit, and we see more midriff and more of those early 2000s trends. The third timeline brilliantly utilizes fashion and makeup to show that Megan is clearly masking something or using her look to protect herself. “That was a whole discussion and lots of different trials,” Stanley says. “We tried different hairstyles, different eye makeup, lots of different piercings, nose piercing, eyebrow piercing, and different clothes.”
Every new job for Stanley is like a master class in acting, whether she’s learning from the other actors she’s working with or being pushed out of her comfort zone by a challenging shooting format. On Cruel Summer, she was grateful to have castmate Lexi Underwood by her side. The two bonded instantly and are still close today. “It’s nerve-racking going into anything like this. It’s different from anything I’ve done before, and I wanted to do a good job, and Lexi is such a pro and so lovely to work with and such a great scene partner,” she says. Earlier this year, Stanley starred in the film Somewhere in Queens opposite two other industry pros, Ray Romano and Laurie Metcalf. “To be in scenes with them or just be in the vicinity was incredible and made me better,” she says.