‘Cruel Summer’: Harley Quinn Smith on Mallory’s Allegiance to Kate & Facing Her Fears

Cruel Summer Mallory Kate Harley Quinn Smith Olivia Holt
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Freeform/Bill Matlock

[Warning: The below contains MAJOR spoilers for Cruel Summer Episode 7 “Happy Birthday, Kate Wallis.”]

Kate Wallis’ (Olivia Holt) happiest birthday as Cruel Summer tells the events of August 29 in 1993, 1994, and 1995 comes in the last one, as her friend, Mallory Higgins (Harley Quinn Smith), surprises her by closing the roller rink for the evening.

Meanwhile, in 1993, a fight with her mom, Joy (Andrea Anders), leads Kate to leave her house … and go to the house of the man who becomes her captor, Martin Harris (Blake Lee), willingly. (That just adds to the mystery of what happened to Kate.) There’s bad news about that in 1995: Jeanette Turner’s (Chiara Aurelia) brother Derek (Barrett Carnahan) now knows, thanks to his time in (secret) girlfriend Ashley’s (Ashlei Sharpe Chestnut) — she’s Kate’s stepsister — dorm. Kate has unknowingly been talking to Ashley in a chat room, and Derek brought print-outs of that conversation to his sister.

While Smith can’t say anything about how learning that bit of information could affect Mallory’s friendship with Kate, she does tell TV Insider about filming that roller rink scene and share where Mallory’s allegiances truly lie.

Is Mallory 100 percent on Kate’s side in 1995? Or will she start having doubts about who and what to believe?

Harley Quinn Smith: Mallory’s friends are the most important thing in the world to her, whether it’s in ’93 with Jeanette and Vince [Allius Barnes] or in ’94 and ’95 with Kate. She’s incredibly loyal, and although she can be kind of a hard-ass sometimes on her friends, she really does value her friendships more than anything. So I really do think Mallory is a great friend to Kate. She’s the type of person that Kate’s never really been around before. And I think Mallory really wants to be there for Kate during all of this and healing from her trauma.

Cruel Summer 1994 Mallory Kate

Freeform/Bill Matlock

Also, Mallory loves Kate more than anything. They have a really real friendship and I really think that their characters are kind of soulmates in a way. In ’93, obviously, Mallory has some harsh feelings about Kate because Kate is a little bit of the antithesis of the type of person Mallory likes. But at the same time, Mallory, for sure, judged her a little too harshly, just judged what Mallory saw on the outside of Kate and the fact that she’s popular and pretty and rich and has the hottest boyfriend and the coolest friends. But Mallory never really actually took the time to get to know Kate, so when she does, she’s pretty blown away by the type of person that Kate actually is.

Is Mallory closer to Kate in 1995 than she ever was to Jeanette? Or are the relationships just too different?

I think that the relationships are really different. I think that Mallory and Jeanette had a lot of differences, especially towards the end of their friendship, and Mallory and Kate kind of go more cohesively together. I do think they’re kind of made for each other and unfortunately how some friendships do in your teenage years, Mallory and Jeanette just weren’t really meant to be friends throughout the rest of their high school time. [Their friendship] ended a bit short because their lives were going in different directions.

As a Mallory fan, I don’t really think that Jeanette treated her very well towards the end. And of course, many people could say that Mallory didn’t treat Jeanette very well, which is kind of true. She peer-pressured Jeanette a lot of times and was definitely Jeanette’s edgiest friend, most dangerous friend if you will.

Mallory Jeanette 1993 Cruel Summer

Freeform/Bill Matlock

Mallory is that edgy friend that you have that maybe your parents aren’t stoked about you having, but she’s cool and she makes you have fun and kind of pushes the limit. I will admit there are a few moments of peer pressure in there, which aren’t really cool. But I think most of all, Mallory just wants to have fun. She has a troublesome home life and she just wants to be adventurous and do all these teenage things that the edgier teens do.

Who do you believe? How much did that change as you read the scripts?

Maybe I’m a bit biased, but I’m Team Kate all the way. But it’s really just coming from a place of bias of who’s a better friend to Mallory. I’m Team Kate because she’s shown Mallory nothing but loyalty, kindness, understanding, and authenticity.

Mallory plans that great surprise at the roller rink for Kate’s birthday. How much did both of them need to have that moment of fun away from everything?

I think that that’s one of the best things that Mallory brings into Kate’s life is joy — or fun rather, because Joy is her mother’s name, but just happiness. The past couple years of Kate’s life have obviously not been good in any way and Mallory wants Kate to escape that and to help her with her trauma. If there are opportunities to distract her from what’s going on in her head, then Mallory is going to absolutely do so. She sees how much pain Kate is in, and Kate shows her her therapy tapes and Mallory feels for her so deeply and just wants to be able to bring happiness into Kate’s life, however she can. Both of them really needed this moment at the roller rink, just to let totally loose and be themselves and enjoy life for a moment.

Mallory Kate Roller Skating 1995 Cruel Summer

Freeform/Bill Matlock

This was for sure my favorite day of filming. Olivia and I just had so much fun. It was not easy. I absolutely dreaded rollerskating with my whole heart. This show has pushed me to do a lot of things that I am not comfortable with. I hate doing physical activities, and the show has made me bike and run and roller skate and eventually dance, and those are all my biggest fears to do while a camera’s filming me.

This day was one I was dreading, but it ended up being so much fun. It was pretty exhausting because we were skating for hours and that day was just kind of chaotic but in the best way. It was such a nice break from all the dramatic, harsh darkness of the show and just actually having a day for Olivia and me to roller skate and just have a good time.

What are you keeping in mind for Mallory in each timeline? Because while she doesn’t go through as drastic a change as other characters, there are differences.

Every character in the show gets progressively less innocent as the timelines go on, and Mallory’s for sure one of them. That’s true to any teenager, really: The older you get, the less innocent you get, the more you’ve experienced. The same goes for Mallory. She definitely remains true to herself, her essence — that doesn’t really change much — but her situational environment and atmosphere changes, and that will affect her for sure. The ending of her friendship with Jeanette really affected her. Because of that, she gets angrier and she has a lot of built-up angst, and that affects her as the years carry on throughout the timeline.

Kate Mallory Vince 1994 Cruel Summer

Freeform/Bill Matlock

What can you tease about the rest of the season?

I will just say that a lot of questions that you have will be answered.

Will most of the answers be coming in the finale or will we get some before then?

The remaining episodes all share a lot about how everything happened. A lot of the gaps will be filled in for everybody. You’ll get to see a lot of what did happen between the years.

Cruel Summer, Tuesdays, 10/9c, Freeform