Love to give women a big voice to tell their story: Jessica Biel on backing 'Cruel Summer'
Hollywood star Jessica Biel says she and her producer partner Michelle Purple want to give a platform to women of all ages and their upcoming teen psychological thriller series "Cruel Summer" is one such attempt.
The duo had also backed the critically-acclaimed series "The Sinner", in which Biel also stars, and drama feature "The Book of Love" via their production company Iron Ocean Productions.
Created and executive produced by Bert V Royal, "Cruel Summer" takes place over three summers in the '90s when a beautiful and popular teen, Kate, goes missing, and a seemingly unrelated girl Jeanette transforms from a sweet and awkward outlier to the most popular girl in town, eventually becoming the most despised person in America.
"Walking through the experiences of these two young women at the forefront of this show was something we really love to do for our company. (We) always give women a big voice and a moment to tell their story. Not caring about what kind of age we are talking about, young or mature women," Biel told PTI in a group interview over Zoom.
What attracted her to the story of the 10-episode show was playing with the "idea of perspective", added the 39-year-old actor-producer.
"The idea of who's telling the truth? The truth very much sort of lives in this other realm of your truth, my truth and something else that's also true. That seemed very mealy to us."
Biel, who serves as an executive producer on "Cruel Summer" along with Purple, said the non-linear narrative of the series in which each episode focuses on the same day over the course of three years: 1993, 1994 and 1995, was very unique.
"We were also very interested in the three years storyline. Our interest just sort of evolved as we wrote more scripts, received more scripts and saw where this was all going because it was sort of step by step."
Biel said she hopes the trend of female actors turning producers continues as it is important for an artiste to have control over their careers.
Praising streaming platforms, the Golden Globe-nominated actor said there was finally a medium where not only can one act in a project but also create stories for others.
"You can sort of do it all on television now and I think a lot of women, in my experience, want to take charge of their career. You want to have that ability to not sit around and wait for somebody to call you.
"You want to be active in your life and success... It really changes your experience as an actor because you are able to have control over what's happening over you and your career," she added.
For Purple, the 1990s setting of the series, showrun and also executive produced by Tia Napolitano, was "super fun" in all aspects.
The analog technology, music and fashion of the '90s hold a special place for the producer, especially as a teenager growing up in the era, so much so that sometimes it would get difficult for them to make a choice about what to include in the show.
"The chatrooms, the dial ups, the computer being this massive machine. One of the best parts of the '90s was the music. Being able to go through the music of the '90s was so good. It was hard to choose at times," Purple, 45, added.
Biel quipped she and Purple felt "really old" when they saw Olivia Holt, who plays Kate in the show, figuring out what a Walkman was.
"Olivia had no idea what a Walkman was. She had never seen it before. She literally was pushing (the buttons) and going 'what is this?! This is huge. It doesn't fit in my bag'. These kids have never seen that kind of technology or analog stuff. But it was fun to go back to the nostalgia of our youth."
Biel, who worked on the hit American drama "7th Heaven" as a teenager in the '90s, agreed with Purple that it was easier to be young in those times than it is in the age of social media.
"I had normal struggles like 'Did I make the sports team or not? I want to go to the dance with that guy but he doesn't want to go with me.' I was also working on '7th Heaven' around the same time in the '90s, so there was that added interesting element of upcoming fame and more eyeballs on us. There was no social media or camera phones. There was more privacy," she added.
"Cruel Summer" has been renewed for a second season and Biel promised a "grittier" new chapter.
"Season two will have some of the similar identifying characteristics of this show. It will be grittier. We are going to keep putting our characters in very challenging positions to see how they might react," she said.
Purple said they are going to up the stakes "a little bit" in the upcoming installment.
"It was interesting to see how the audience reacted, what they were drawn towards and spoke about in the social world, so obviously that informs us for season two," she added.
The show also stars Chiara Aurelia, Michael Landes, Froy Gutierrez, Harley Quinn Smith, Allius Barnes, Blake Lee, Brooklyn Sudano and Sarah Drew. Max Winkler has directed and executive produced the pilot.
Co-produced by Entertainment One, "Cruel Summer" is scheduled to start streaming on Amazon Prime Video in India and worldwide, except the US and Canada, from August 6.