Cruel Summer creator Bert V. Royal reportedly stepped away from the Freeform project last summer after the pilot episode wrapped filming. The Hollywood Reporter cites “repeated clashes with an exec at the network” as Royal’s reason for quitting.
Despite leaving the production of the teen thriller in September, Royal was still paid, and he received creator and executive producer credits for all ten episodes of the first season. Cruel Summer premiered in April, and quickly became Freeform’s most popular series to date. The newly named president of Freeform, Tara Duncan, took over the development of Cruel Summer after Royal made his exit.
The first season stars Chiara Aurelia and Olivia Holt, who play Jeanette and Kate, two teenagers whose lives become marred by Kate’s mysterious disappearance. Jumping between three summers in the girls’ lives, the show meticulously drops details of Kate’s disappearance as viewers see the formerly nerdy Jeanette fill Kate’s shoes as the Queen Bee.
Freeform swiftly renewed the popular teen drama for a second season, and it’s unclear if Royal will receive any further compensation moving forward. Jessica Biel and showrunner Tia Napolitano are currently signed on as executive producers. Napolitano joined the crew after the pilot, and now holds the direction of season two in her hands. Following the season one finale, there’s room for the series to continue on with Jeanette and Kate’s story, or it can go the anthology series route and spotlight new characters in a new town. In a recent interview, Napolitano told us, “We’re in early stages so it’s wide open right now.”
Royal wrote the Emma Stone teen rom-com Easy A (2010) and he produced another Freeform series, Recovery Road, starring Jessica Sula and Sebastian De Souza. He has yet to comment on his departure.