A macabre tale of revenge and horror complete with beleaguered detectives and an elusive serial murderer with the wits to match those of Hannibal Lecter sets the stage for the AMC+ thriller series Ragdoll. But at the core of the British series that stars Lucy Hale as the lone American navigating her way through England's police system is a story about the impact of horrific cases on the mental health of those who investigate them.
Not as central to the story but just as important, the series features Hale's queer Detective Constable Lake Edmunds as just another part of the team. Her sexuality is treated as a facet of her persona that does not wholly define her. Hale, who's starred in shows highlighting important LGBTQ+ storytelling for more than a decade since Pretty Little Liars premiered in 2010, is excited to appear in the darkly humorous mystery. And she explains why she's honored to be a part of queer stories she says didn't exist when she was younger.
"In general, I love these types of shows. I love anything dark. I love trying to figure out mysteries," Hale tells The Advocate. "I have been on board with the whole true-crime podcast documentary craze that's really big right now. But what really stood out to me about Ragdoll was that it had all of those elements that I love ... but it was more about the mental health of these detectives and the driving force, the traumas in their life that had led them up to this point and how the Ragdoll investigation only further heightened things that they were already dealing with."
"You meet these characters, and it's pretty gruesome and dark what they're doing, but you can kind of tell that they've already been through some of the darker days in their life," she adds. "I thought that that was really interesting. But also, because it is so heavy ... what [Ragdoll creator and writer] Freddy Syborn did so wonderfully, there's a lot of dark humor. I love that because, because as humans, that's how we survive, that's how we get through the darkest days in our lives. I think we all realize that, especially now. That is one of the greatest gifts in life, is not to take yourself too seriously."
The show's packed pilot includes flashbacks to a case that haunts Edmunds's colleague Detective Sergeant Nathan Rose (Henry Lloyd-Hughes), one that following a violent outburst in a courtroom landed him in a mental health facility. Soon there's a new serial killer in London whose grisly murders culminated in the discovery of a full body sewn together from six victims. Hence, the Ragdoll killer moniker.
Edmunds's personality emerges as pragmatic and seemingly by-the-book until she takes some big swings. An early clue to her nerdy side occurs early on while she and her fellow officers are investigating the crime scene. She holds a mint leaf under her nostrils to cover the stench of the tethered corpses, all the while expounding on mint's scent-masking properties. Later, in a conversation with her colleague Detective Inspector Emily Baxter (Thalissa Teixeira), Edmunds offers backstory about a woman she'd dated and how she came to be an American working on their team. The story seamlessly weaves in her sexual identity as a quotidian thing about her. And the minor exposition on how she landed in London fits, as the character is quick to dispense random facts and academic theory.
Thalissa Teixeira as DI Baxter and Lucy Hale as DC Edmunds in Ragdoll
Edmunds is Hale's first queer character in an already long career that includes Pretty Little Liars, a mystery and thriller of a different sort that featured queer lead character Emily (Shay Mitchell) and the myriad women she dated in their tiny Pennsylvania town. In 2019 Hale starred in the CW's Riverdale spin-off Katy Keene, where she played the titular "It" girl whose best friend and roommate, Jorge (Jonny Beauchamp), is a drag queen. The Tennessee native, whose earliest fame came on the American Juniors singing competition series in 2003, recognizes the value in amplifying queer stories.
"It's so important because I didn't have that growing up. You didn't have gay characters on TV in the '90s," Hale says. "I vividly remember when we saw the impact of Pretty Little Liars and Emily's character and what that meant to so many women. At the time it was a big risk for ABC Family to do because no one [relatively few shows] had a teen character that was gay that wasn't coming out. Like she was just gay. And she always was gay. It was just who she was."
"And the same with Katy Keene in a different way," Hale adds. "We really showcased the drag community, which I thought was really amazing."
Ragdoll's story unfolds in a tight six-episode season that sees Edmunds as a rule-follower questioning Rose, whose secrets increasingly impact the team with each episode. But then she fearlessly takes risks following a potentially dangerous lead without backup. As the cat-and-mouse games with the Ragdoll killer become increasingly treacherous, Edmunds's past trauma bubbles to the surface in flashes that involve an ex-girlfriend.
Watch TheAdvocate's full interview with Lucy Hale above.
With Edmunds being Hale's first queer role, she is aware of the discussions on social media of late about who should play queer characters.
"To this day, I've never played a queer character. And I know that there's responsibility with that. It's an honor. With the way it was written in Ragdoll, it's lightly mentioned. It's just ingrained in who she is," she says.
"I always view it as character and I've never really talked about my personal life and what my sexuality is. I prefer not to talk about that because I like to keep my life very private," she says "But I think that ... Edmunds, the character, sort of represents a generation. They talk about sexuality in a way that I really admire -- that you can be fluid and you can be attracted to people as people. And that's always been my mindset. I just like human beings." Hale says.
Although her character's sexual identity is never overtly stated, she's clearly secure in herself. It's a part of Edmunds that Hale says feels authentic to her.
"I feel like that happens too. I feel like she is proud of who she is, but we don't disclose is she or isn't she. But she loves women, we know that. And like, I also love women and respect women. It's cool that I get to play a character at this point in my life, where I've sort of stepped into who I am and my sexuality as well," she says.
"But I do hear what you say because you want to be sensitive to all these amazing gay actors who should most of the time be playing these parts," Hale adds. "I will say, though, her being proud of who she is and her background and her sexuality is obviously her, but it doesn't really play into much of the bigger picture. We were very sensitive about that as well because I can see it from both sides."
All episodes of Ragdoll are now available on AMC+.