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In last week's two-hour premiere of the new Freeform drama, viewers saw Kate go from being the sweet popular girl in 1993 to numb, traumatized kidnapping victim in 1994, and in 1995, a year after she was rescued from the basement of former assistant principal Martin (Blake Lee), she's finally getting angry. She's already accused Jeanette (Chiara Aurelia) of not saying anything to the police after discovering where Kate was being held captive, and Jeanette responded by suing Kate. And EW has a fiery exclusive sneak peek at Tuesday's episode, above, in which Kate confronts her trauma when she finally sees Jeanette for the first time in 1995.
"Their relationship is incredibly complicated and complex," Holt tells EW of Kate and Jeanette. "They're both absolutely flawed, but that's the question of the show. Is there a villain? Is there a victim? Or are they just human? There's so many questions that leaves the audience just wanting more. And there are a lot of questions that are going to be answered, which is going to be very satisfying. But their relationship is really what drives this show into a whole new level of mystery."
Playing three different versions of Kate in three different timelines was difficult for Holt to wrap her head around during filming, but she found herself enjoying that challenge, especially when she got to bring '95 Kate to life.
"After she's gone through this traumatic experience, all of those colors and layers of her are completely lost because she's lost who she is and doesn't know what path to take in this newfound world that she's living in," Holt says. "And then come '95, she's grown into her skin more and has more confidence but also teenage angst and rebellion, a side of Kate that we haven't seen yet and didn't know she had in her."
And while Holt still mourns the cancelation of her previous show, Cloak and Dagger, her time on Cruel Summer has given her the "closure" she needed to say goodbye to the Marvel series for good.
"I didn't know how much I was going to love this show until I started working on it," she says. "I completely fell in love with the mystery and what we're saying in this story. It's a groundbreaking show, it's something that I've never done before and it's something very new for television."
On Cloak and Dagger, Holt learned a lot about what it means to "tell real stories about real people and not minimizing women or dehumanizing Black culture," regardless of the show's setting in a fantasy realm or life-or-death stakes.
"A lot of the elements that I learned on that show and the way that we were so transparent about what was happening in the world is pretty much the same within this show," she adds. "I had to do a lot of research and educate myself on what gaslighting was, what manipulating is, what it's like to go through something traumatic and how to move forward in life with that trauma, and to be able to execute it in a real way was a challenge. But like Cloak and Dagger, it was very important for me to find a way to do that."
Cruel Summer airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/PT on Freeform.