Chiara Aurelia’s dramatic transformation in ‘Cruel Summer’

Actress Chiara Aurelia goes through a dramatic transformation in Freeform’s mystery series “Cruel Summer.”

Airing Tuesdays at 9 p.m., it’s executive- produced by Jessica Biel and takes place over three summers in the 1990s, following mousy Jeanette Turner (Aurelia) and popular Kate Wallis (Olivia Holt).

During the show’s arc, Kate mysteriously disappears, while Jeanette progresses from wallflower to popular girl to hated outsider — seemingly stealing Kate’s life while she’s gone (including her friends and boyfriend). Did Jeanette have any culpability in Kate’s disappearance? Everyone in their small Texas town seems to think so. 

Aurelia, 18, who’s also appeared in “Pretty Little Liars,” “Agent Carter” and Amazon’s “Tell Me Your Secrets”, answered some questions for The Post.

What attracted you to “Cruel Summer?”

There are some incredible female creatives and a wonderful cast and a good opportunity for a complex and unique female role [in] watching [Jeanette] grow and change and develop over these really crazy years in her life.

Did you read or watch anything to prepare for the show’s tone? 

I really liked “The Talented Mr. Ripley” and “Cape Fear,” which were great. I was doing some ’90s movie research to get in the vein of this and I ended up seeing a lot of wonderful projects. We did get a ’90s teenage list of movies to watch like “Dazed and Confused” and “Clueless,” and [the ABC series] “My So-Called Life,” which was cool.

Photo showing an older version of Jeanette, who's played by Chiara Aurelia in "Cruel Summer."
Jeanette (Chiara Aurelia, right) ages three years over the course of “Cruel Summer.”
Freeform

How did you approach playing Jeanette? She’s nearly a different character in the show’s three timelines.

I think there’s a baseline of who she is as a person and what her relationships entail and how she feels about certain people and her family and all that jazz. And then there’s more excess physical appearance changes. I think we all have parts of ourselves that we might tap into more at times, and I think she’s just feeling a really strong magnitude of some drastic feelings as a young teenager. Part of what made it so wonderful was that each year was even more fun to play…so being able to tap into ’93, ’94 and ’95 was a great experience. Jumping around in the years could be difficult at times, when you go into a day and start in ’95 and then go to ’93 or ’94, sometimes it could feel like you’re getting whiplash, like, “Where am I and what’s going on?” But they kept us pretty grounded in the story.

Did you know how the show’s mystery pans out?

I had the right amount of backstory to make educated choices about what’s going on in Jeanette’s head. But I did not know the ending until I got the last episode. I think there were still a lot of mysteries that were left uncompleted for us as a cast. I was very surprised and excited — there’s a lot of twists and turns and it’s a great, bumpy ride.