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Sources tell The Hollywood Reporter that creator Bert V. Royal quit his Freeform series after clashing with an exec at the basic cabler last summer, after the pilot wrapped last summer. Reps for Freeform and studio Entertainment One declined to comment; reps for Royal did not respond to multiple requests.
Royal received a created by and exec producer credit on season one of Cruel Summer and was compensated for all 10 episodes of the thriller despite the fact that he chose to walk away from the series after the pilot in August/September. Sources note that Royal — who also developed Recovery Road for Freeform in 2016 — grew frustrated after repeated clashes with an exec at the network during the pilot process and walked away from the 1990s-set drama starring Olivia Holt. Duncan oversaw development of Cruel Summer after the pilot.
Sources note that Royal, who was credited as a writer on multiple episodes of Cruel Summer, including the season one finale, chose to forgo any back-end profits that could emerge from Cruel Summer. It’s unclear if he will be compensated for the recently ordered second season of the series, which counts Jessica Biel and showrunner Tia Napolitano as exec producers. Napolitano, it’s worth pointing out, boarded the show after the pilot.
Cruel Summer was renewed for a second season last month after it became Freeform’s most-watched series ever. Formerly titled Last Summer, Cruel Summer was picked up to series in January 2020 when Tom Ascheim still served as president of the younger-skewing cable network. Holt was tapped to replace Mika Abdalla as the lead in the series in May, days before Duncan was tapped to replace Ascheim — who decamped for WarnerMedia — at the network and kept Cruel Summer on the right track. Lauren Corrao, who ordered Cruel Summer to pilot in September 2019, exited as Freeform’s head of originals last October following a less than two-year run that saw her take over the post previously occupied by ABC Entertainment-turned-20th TV president Karey Burke, who originally developed the series during her tenure at Freeform.
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