Summer is a time for escape and a time for adventure. When you're younger and free of the responsibilities adulthood throws at you without asking for your permission (rude!), there's more time to explore. There's also more time to take off and get away to camp. What happens at camp, doesn't always stay at camp, though. This is something we've all learned from Hollywood: The summer camp genre is a never-ending source of laughs and scares.
This summer, Freeform is bringing the slasher camp genre to the small screen with its new show Dead of Summer. Set in 1989, at the fictional midwestern Camp Stillwater, Dead of Summer follows the frightening tale of an evil haunting the grounds. Death lurks behind every corner, tree, bunk bed, and more. It's a coming-of-age horror story, filled with brilliant '80s references and just enough camp to keep things fun. We caught up with the cast ahead of the premiere date to see what their summer camp experiences were like. After all, art imitates life, right? (Well, probably not so much in this particular case since, well, you'll see.)
Dead of Summer premieres June 28 at 9pm EST on Freeform.
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Was summer camp all you expected it to be? I actually went to this incredible summer camp for acting at the North Carolina School of the Arts. It exceeded my expectations. I fell in love with acting there, met one of my closest friends, and ended up attending college there. That experience formed me not only as an artist but as a person.
What's the one thing someone should always avoid during the summer? Sunburn!
Where would you, personally, fall in terms of the survivor trajectory of a summer horror film? Would you be the first to go? Last? In a horror film, I think I'd play the hero and live till the end, but if it was real life, I'd be the first to go because I'd trip or fall behind.
Can you recall your most horrifying summer story? I was racing my bicycle around the pool with my cousins, and I fell and hit my eye on the corner of the diving board. My eye had swollen to the size of a potato. It was completely shut, and my mom had to take me to the hospital. The very next day, I was walking up cement stairs, bringing toys to my cousins, and I tripped and split my lip open. I went back to the same hospital and got stitches.
Was summer camp all you expected it to be? Summer camp was definitely a place I enjoyed. I went to a soccer summer camp in San Marino for a few years in a row, and it went beyond what I expected it to be. There wasn’t any camping involved, but there were excursions to water parks and beautiful cities. I loved soccer and being immersed in the sport from morning to night. It was great. One of the highlights was making unexpected friendships with people that have lasted a lifetime.
What's one thing someone should always avoid during the summer? Thinking that not wearing sunscreen and avoiding the shade is a good idea under the Ethiopian sun, and having your vacation ruined by fever chills, nausea, and blisters.
Where would you, personally, fall in terms of the survivor trajectory of a summer horror film? Would you be the first to go? Last? I think I would be one of the last to go, hoping there's a huge plot twist at the end. I would love to go out as a bad guy nobody expected would be a killer. I love those!
Can you recall your most hilarious summer story? I went to camp Big Cove. I was a bed wetter and my big cousin, Tanya, fought off the other boys that were teasing me after my first night.
What about your most horrifying? Probably the same.
Was summer camp all you expected it to be? I found summer camp [to be] really tough. I couldn't swim and I didn't know any of the traditions, so it was a hard time for me. I was also someone who spent a lot of time thinking on my own, so the summer camp structure didn't really work for me, but it's funny because now I look back and I really enjoy those memories.
What's one thing someone should always avoid during the summer? Mosquitoes, definitely mosquitoes.
Where would you, personally, fall in terms of the survivor trajectory of a summer horror film? Would you be the first to go? Last? I'd be the survivor, and I would shed a tear for my fallen friends.
Can you recall your most hilarious summer story? Truthfully, I love the whole Halloween-Thanksgiving-Christmas stretch a helluva lot more, but that said, summer has always been the time when just enough boredom meets interesting strangers who are traveling, and an adequate amount of "fuck it, I can be tired tomorrow" leads to adventures. I’ve been stolen by a group of French kids and driven around Paris at 3am on Vespas. I also had my first ever night in Barcelona at 18 hijacked by the biggest celebration of the year. My gay godfather of sorts and I went on a casual after-dinner walk, only to wind up swimming in the ocean in our skivvies at sunrise, playing football with a Champagne cork and a British bachelor party that kidnapped us, with what felt like the entirety of Spain swimming with us. I don't know if any of those count as hilarious per se, but I’m pretty sure if anyone told the 16-year-old computer nerd me that that would be her life one day, she would’ve thought they were telling one helluva joke.
Was summer camp all you expected it to be? I did, and I’m one of those kids who truly loved it. I went for a month every summer for four years waaaaay far away from home, by one of the Great Lakes. This was pre-Facebook and pre-cellphones with Google, so it was the first time in my life where no one knew anything about me or my family, and it was glorious. It’s where I found archery and riflery—two sports I still enjoy today—and an enormous amount of independence. It’s also where I found out no one should ever, ever let me whittle things. Ever.
What's one thing someone should always avoid during the summer? That’s a pretty broad question… bears? But they’re sort of an "avoid these year-round" thing. I guess I’d say drinking too much when it’s hot out. Most people don’t know that heat makes your blood thinner and, thus, alcohol WAY more effective. [The] same thing is true of drinking in hot tubs. As the one who was oftentimes taking care of the friend who ended up with heat stroke AND the sloppys, know your limits folks. Then cut those limits in half. THEN go to the pool party. You’re welcome.
Now, considering many horror films take place over the summer and at camp, where would you, personally, fall in terms of the survivor trajectory of a summer horror film? Would you be the first to go? Last? The summer camp slashers have never really been my thing when it comes to horror films. Certain deaths in those movies are often based on gender, skin color, or sexual history—anything but actual skill or a will to survive. So in that regard, I’m much more of a Ripley in Alien kinda girl; drop me and a monster into an enclosed area, and I promise, Jones the cat and I will make it out of that b*tch alive and kicking, even if I had to strip naked and kick the damned thing out the airlock.
Can you recall your most hilarious summer story? One summer, I went to Mexico to meet my friends in Cancún and go to this festival in Tulum [called] The Time and Space Festival. They told me what hotel to go to because they had already rented the room. I had no way to contact them, so the plan was just to meet them at the hotel. I was like, "It’s cool. I’m just gonna go with the flow, I’ll be fine". This guy my age, from the U.S., who was going to the same festival, happened to be in the same cab as me from the airport. He offered to help me navigate to my hotel. We got onto this bus after the cab, and when I went to get off the bus, my wallet had gone. Someone pickpocketed me while I was on the bus! The guy felt bad and ended up coming with me to buy groceries so that I would have some food while I waited for my friends. As the night went on and my friends were nowhere to be found, he ended up buying me dinner and a ticket to this AMAZING dance party that night. After the dance party, he went on his way, and I stayed in my hotel room alone, hoping my friends would find me.
What about your most horrifying? My most horrifying summer was when I found out that plastic goes into the ocean and kills life underwater. I spent all day crying and trying to hide all the plastic in the house, and when we went to the beach, I'd scream at anyone with plastic that they were destroying the waters of the earth. I never really got over it.
Was summer camp all you expected it to be? I went to summer camp when I was younger and after the third week, everyone got lice except me so I called my mom and she took me home, but before that it was awesome. I learned the Bloody Mary mirror thing there, and that haunted me for years but, like, in a fun way.
What's one thing someone should always avoid during the summer? Avoid processed sugars and throwing trash in the ocean. Avoid processed people and throwing yourself at them.
Where would you, personally, fall in terms of the survivor trajectory of a summer horror film? Would you be the first to go? Last? I would be the hippie that everyone would think is crazy. To the attacker, I'd be like, "Man, it doesn't have to be this way. You're a dope-ass person, and we accept you. Let's be cool." Because most attackers are just mad at the people who made them feel unwanted and outcasted, and end up taking it out on innocent people who seem accepted by society. I might die in the line of duty, but I would try.
Can you recall your most hilarious summer story? My best friend Bri and I spent almost every day of our high school summers together. We loved to longboard and bike around her neighborhood in Almaden [, California], and one afternoon, we got so thirsty riding around, we went into 7/11 to see if we could get something to drink. We were super broke, but we saw that the workers were watching an Indian television station behind the counter, and we had both learned this Bollywood song from one of our friends… So we decided to impress the workers by singing it to them. Our plan worked out, and we walked away with free Slurpees and snacks, all because we were ridiculous teenagers who weren't afraid to be weird. Amusing in retrospect, sure, but I’m very glad to be out of those desperate, brazen years.
What about your most horrifying? My friends and I decided to take a trip one night to a supposedly haunted abandoned schoolhouse. Apparently, the teachers had killed all of the students before hanging themselves. When we got there, I remember seeing rope on the floor inside the decrepit and decaying building. Whether that rope was planted there or not, the mere idea of it scared me to pieces, and I couldn’t handle exploring it anymore. When I made my way down the hill, I swear I saw pieces of flesh lingering in the barbed wire fence. Needless to say, I did not go back there. Ever.
Was summer camp all you expected it to be? My summer camp was theater camp, which was everything I wanted. I was such a drama nerd, so to be enmeshed in that environment during the summer was perfect for me. Since my camp experience wasn’t quite traditional, I imagine a more typical summer camp to be like Camp Stillwater: outdoorsy, swimming, hiking, developing crushes—pretty much everything that comprises the environment of our show… minus the horror and evil lurking around every bend.
What's one thing someone should always avoid during the summer? Summer flings that aren’t 100 percent satisfying—although that sort of applies year-round. Also, mosquitos.
Where would you, personally, fall in terms of the survivor trajectory of a summer horror film? Would you be the first to go? Last? I would WANT to be the one hiding from everything because I’m really a pansy when it comes to horror, but in reality, I would woman-up and rally everybody. Standing together is the only way we would have a chance of making it out alive.
Can you recall your most hilarious summer story? I don't think any story I have is appropriate for a public forum.
What about your most horrifying? Being the least fit guy on the beach.
Have you been to summer camp? I never went to summer camp, and don't think I would do well there! Honestly, I've always imagined it as being similar to Camp Stillwater. In other words, I've always imagined summer camp as being horrifying.
What's one thing someone should always avoid during the summer? Summer lovin'. It doesn't usually end happily
Where would you, personally, fall in terms of the survivor trajectory of a summer horror film? Would you be the first to go? Last? I would 100 percent be the first to go. I definitely do not have the courage nor the common sense to survive very long in a horror film. Good thing I'm not playing myself in Dead of Summer.
Was summer camp all you expected it to be? I went to summer in upstate New York once when I was 15. It was my first real experience of getting away from home, parents, most rules, and fully enjoying new people and experiences around me. It was extremely refreshing and taught me a lot about myself.
What's one thing someone should always avoid during the summer? The police. [Laughs]
Where would you, personally, fall in terms of the survivor trajectory of a summer horror film? Would you be the first to go? Last? I don’t believe I’d go first. Maybe help solve some of it. But I’d be pretty sure that I could make it to the end with the right help and tools around me needed to survive.