Lisa Yamada Spills the Details on Cruel Summer Season 2 and Her Character, Parker Tanaka

Few shows managed to captivate us in 2021 quite like the twisty-turny teen thriller mystery series Cruel Summer, and we could not be more excited that the show is finally returning on June 5.

This time around, the anthology series is starting fresh with an entirely new crime and a new cast of characters, though with its trio of timelines and shifting points of view, it promises to be just as enthralling and unpredictable as the first season. Among those new characters is Parker Tanaka, portrayed by Lisa Yamada of Never Have I Ever and Little Fires Everywhere fame. Parker is the stepdaughter of the sheriff and the girlfriend of Brent Chambers, who seems to have eyes for Lexi Underwood's character, Isabella LaRue, when she moves into town, which leads Parker down a slightly unexpected path. Ahead of the big release next month, we got the chance to chat with Lisa all about why she's so excited for Cruel Summer Season 2, and what we can expect this time around.

Sweety High: When did you discover your passion for acting? Was there any specific a-ha moment that made you realize it was the path for you?

Lisa Yamada: I got into this industry professionally when I was 8 years old, so acting has always been a constant in my life. I discovered my passion for acting when I was on set for the first time. I remember thinking, "This is where I want to be for the rest of my life." The sense of community and the idea of everyone coming together for the sole reason of creating something really sold me. (My 8-year-old self loved craft services, too). I'm in love with this job because I feel like I have so many layers as a person, and acting allows me to tap into all the different versions of myself. I'm the happiest when I'm in the middle of a scene.

Lisa Yamada close up headshot

(Photo credit: Ben Cope)


SH: Were you a fan of Cruel Summer before you auditioned for the series?

LY: Yes, I was! I saw a promo video for it on TikTok and immediately went to Hulu and binged the entire series. I'm such a fan of the mystery, drama and true crime genres, so Cruel Summer was right up my alley. I even rewatched the entire season while we were filming in Vancouver just because it's that good.

The cast from Season 1 did a phenomenal job and they left us a strong foundation for the Season 2 cast to build onto. Season 1 is honestly kind of like the bible for us. We were able to use it as a reference to see what kind of show Cruel Summer was all about.


SH: Is there anything you can tease about where the story is headed for the second season?

LY: Pretty much everything is kept under wraps, so there isn't much I can say—but what I can say is that the stakes this season are much higher. The crime and mystery aspects are very intense. Our audience is going to be on a whodunit journey with every episode. With so many twists and turns as the season progresses, the viewers will see the characters are not who they first thought. There's a lot more than what meets the eye. Season 2 has everything that people loved about Season 1, including the same compelling formula with the three timelines that are sure to keep everyone engaged. We all put our blood, sweat and tears into this season (that's a spoiler)…


Also read about: Bailey Stender Talks Wolf Pack and Relating to Her Character, Phoebe


SH: What can you tell us about your character in the show? How does she fit into the story?

LY: I play Parker Tanaka in Cruel Summer Season 2! She is the girlfriend of Brent Chambers (Braeden De La Garza) and the stepdaughter of Sheriff Jack Myer (Sean Blakemore). Parker is the "resident cool girl" and an aspiring musician. She wears the best outfits, heavily inspired by my idols, Avril Lavigne and Gwen Stefani. Since Parker is dating the hottest guy in Chatham (with the most wandering eyes), she feels threatened when Isabella LaRue (Lexi Underwood) comes into town and joins the friend group. Parker comes off as a typical "mean girl," but you'll learn that she's actually sweet, but dealing with her own struggles and insecurities. Throughout the season, you'll get to see her become more vulnerable and form an unlikely alliance-turned-friendship with Isabella. I can't tell you how she fits into the mystery of the show just yet, so I guess you'll have to find out for yourself!


SH: What's been your most memorable moment from the set?

LY: It's so hard to pick just one memorable moment since my cast and I had the best time on set every single day.

The first memory that comes to mind is when we filmed Episode 1. It was our first overnight shoot, and we had a huge Christmas party scene to film. Vancouver was freezing at the time, so my cast and I huddled around the heater in the cast holding area and talked for hours. It got so cold at one point that we laid out blankets and cuddled next to each other to keep each other warm. After we wrapped around 4 a.m., we went out to get breakfast and giggled through our entire meal because we were so delirious from the long overnight shoot. I remember this being the first time we bonded as a cast since it was the start of the season, and we were still relatively nervous around each other. I think it's safe to say that we became best friends after that, and we still hang out regularly!

View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Lisa Yamada (@lisaymda)


SH: Is there any part of the new season you're most excited for audiences to dive into when it comes out?

LY: There's so much that I'm excited for the audience to dive into! Anyone who grew up in the Y2K era is going to love the fashion, music, technology, pop culture and homages that are featured in Season 2. I'm interested to see which couples the audience will root for. It was a running joke on set that there are going to be a ton of TikTok edits of the fans shipping us together. Because we spent so much time together, the chemistry translates from offscreen to onscreen seamlessly. Above all, though, I'm most excited to see the audience go on this whodunit journey throughout the season. Just when you think you know (for certain) who's to blame, the narrative switches up, and you're back to the drawing board. I'll definitely be tuning into the viewers' theories after every episode on social media.


Also read about: 'Queen of Lightsabers' Michelle C. Smith on Her Love of Star Wars and the Importance of Stunts


SH: What's something you're super proud of right now?

LY: I'm super proud of how I'm handling my life right now! Although Cruel Summer changed the trajectory of my life for the better, any kind of change can be hard to deal with. I've been in a transitional period since wrapping the show and I've learned so much about the world, the industry and, most importantly, myself. I'm so grateful to have the support of family, friends and team to help guide me through it all. I've had some trouble juggling everything going on, but I've never felt more optimistic about the future. Every day feels like a dream that I don't want to wake up from! I'll forever be grateful to everyone at Cruel Summer and Freeform for making all of my dreams come true.

Lisa Yamada glowy pink makeup and houndstooth skirt

(Photo credit: Ben Cope)


SH: Is there anything else you'd like to add?

LY: Yes! I have a movie coming out called I Wish You All The Best written, directed, and produced by the incredibly talented Tommy Dorfman, so keep your eyes peeled for that. Lexi Underwood and I coincidentally got cast in this movie just weeks after wrapping up Cruel Summer so if you couldn't get enough of Parker and Isabella, I'm sure you'd love I Wish You All The Best.


Can't get enough of Freeform? Click HERE to read our interview with Emma Hunton on playing Davia on Good Trouble.