'Cruel Summer' 's Olivia Holt Admits to Not Knowing What a Walkman Was Before the '90s-Set Show

Olivia Holt stars as popular high school teen Kate Wallis in Freeform's new thriller

Olivia Holt may have been born in 1997, but don't expect her to be able to remember much from that decade.

The former Disney Channel actress, 23, is currently starring in Cruel Summer, Freeform's new thriller set in the mid-'90s. In the buzzy series, Holt plays Kate Wallis, a popular high school teen who was abducted one night in her small Texas town.

Immersing herself in the culture and technology of the '90s for the role proved to be a fun challenge for Holt. The Cloak & Dagger alum, in fact, admitted that she needed help operating a vintage item.

olivia holt
Tommasso Bodd/Getty

"Some of it was very foreign to me. I had no idea what a Walkman was," she tells PEOPLE in this week's issue. "My character has a Walkman on the show, and I had to have [the] props [team] teach me how to use it. I was like, 'I don't know what this is nor do I know how to use this thing.'"

In addition to portable cassette tape players, Holt revealed that she doesn't "really remember any of the '90s," understandably, since she was a toddler at the time.

cruel summer
Bill Matlock/Getty

"When I look back at photos that my family took, I definitely have little glimpses and memories of that time," she continues. "I remember my sister getting her first cell phone. I remember AOL and the sounds my family would get when they'd get an email. Just little things like that I remember."

Never miss a story — sign up for PEOPLE's free daily newsletter to stay up-to-date on the best of what PEOPLE has to offer, from juicy celebrity news to compelling human interest stories.

Cruel Summer, created by Bert V. Royal and produced by Jessica Biel, follows the events that transpire after Kate's abduction as her quiet, introverted classmate Jeanette Turner (Chiara Aurelia) assumes her role amid her absence. The new series premiered on Freeform on April 20.

When asked about what she enjoyed most about filming the drama, Holt notes that "being transported back in time" to the 1990s was "exciting" for her.

"Even though it wasn't that long ago, it did feel like we were in a completely different era," she says. "Everyone just did such a phenomenal job of creating that '90s feel and space. Even down to the dialogue and what we were doing in scenes, no one was on their phones. No one was distracted by any sort of technology. Even with television, we're barely watching it in the season. It just really felt like we were in that era."

cruel summer
Bill Matlock/Freeform

Holt adds that being able to play three different versions of her character Kate between 1993, 1994 and 1995 also "made it more fun and more interesting and more challenging as an actor."

Beyond learning how to use a Walkman for the series, Holt told PEOPLE what she did to better understand the experiences of an abduction survivor.

"[I was] doing a lot of research and educating myself in gaslighting and manipulation and the tools needed in order to move on from traumatic experiences. … Just really soaking up as much knowledge as possible," the Kickin' It alum said. "I remember, when having to shoot those heavier emotional scenes, just having a really difficult time getting into that space because it was really intense."

"It's very new territory for me but a challenge that I was definitely down to accept, because I know that we didn't want to glamorize anything," she added.

Cruel Summer airs Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET on Freeform.

Related Articles