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Lucy Hale on what playing queer in the new Ragdoll thriller means to her

A macabre tale of vengeance and horror with beleaguered detectives and an elusive serial killer with the wits to match that of Hannibal Lecter sets the stage for the AMC+ thriller series rag doll. But at the heart of the British series which stars Lucy Hale as the only American to fight her way through England’s policing system, is a story about the impact horrific cases have had on the mental health of those who are investigating it.

Not as central to the story but just as important, the series features Hale’s queer detective Lake Edmunds as another part of the team. Her sexuality is treated as a facet of her personality that does not entirely define her. Hale, who has starred in shows highlighting important LGBTQ+ stories for over a decade Pretty little Liars premiered in 2010, is thrilled to appear in the darkly humorous mystery. And she explains why she’s honored to be a part of queer stories that she says didn’t exist when she was younger.

“I generally love these kinds of shows. I love anything dark. I love trying to figure out the mysteries,” says Hale The Lawyer. “I’ve been on board with all the true crime podcast craze that’s really big right now. But what really struck me rag doll was that it had all of these elements that I love… but it was more about the sanity of these detectives and the driving force, the traumas in their lives that got them to this point and how whose Ragdoll investigation only made the things they were already dealing with worse.

“You meet these characters, and it’s pretty awful and dark what they do, but you can kind of tell they’ve been through some of the darkest days of their lives already,” she adds. “I thought it was really interesting. But also, because it’s so heavy…what [Ragdoll creator and writer] Freddy Syborn did it wonderfully, there is a lot of dark humor. I like it because, because as human beings, that’s how we survive, that’s how we get through the darkest days of our lives. I think we are all aware of that, especially now. It’s one of life’s greatest gifts to not take yourself too seriously.

The show’s packed pilot includes flashbacks to a case haunting Edmunds’ colleague, Detective Sergeant Nathan Rose (Henry Lloyd-Hughes), a case which, following a violent explosion in a hearing, took him to a mental health facility. Soon there is a new serial killer in London whose grisly murders have resulted in the discovery of a whole body sewn from six victims. Hence the nickname Ragdoll Killer.

Edmunds’ personality comes across as pragmatic and seemingly book-compliant until she takes big swings. A first hint of her nerdy side comes early on as she and her colleagues investigate the crime scene. She holds a mint leaf under her nostrils to cover the stench of tied corpses, while exposing the mint’s scent-masking properties. Later, in a conversation with fellow Detective Inspector Emily Baxter (Thalissa Teixeira), Edmunds recounts the story of a woman she dated and how she became an American working on their team. The story fits right into her sexual identity as an everyday thing about her. And the minor exposition of how she ended up in London is fitting, as the character is quick to dish out random facts and academic theory.

Thalissa Teixeira as DI Baxter and Lucy Hale as DC Edmunds in rag doll

Edmunds is Hale’s first queer character in an already long career that includes Pretty little Liars, a mystery and thriller of a different kind starring queer lead character Emily (Shay Mitchell) and the myriad of women she dated in their small Pennsylvania town. In 2019, Hale starred in The CW 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 first fame came on the American Juniors series of singing competitions in 2003 recognizes the value of 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 the character of Emily and what that meant to so many women. At the time it was a big risk for ABC Family because nobody [relatively few shows] had a teenage character who was gay who wasn’t dating. Like she was just gay. And she’s always been gay. It was just who she was.

“And the same with Katy Keen in a different way,” adds Hale. “We really showcased the drag community, which I thought was really amazing.”

rag dollThe story of unfolds in a tight six-episode season that sees Edmunds as a rule-follower interrogating Rose, whose secrets impact the team more and more with each episode. But then she fearlessly takes risks by following a potentially dangerous lead without backup. As the cat-and-mouse game with the Ragdoll Slayer grows increasingly treacherous, Edmunds’ past trauma resurfaces in flashes involving an ex-girlfriend.

look the AttorneyThe full interview with Lucy Hale above.

With Edmunds being Hale’s first queer role, she’s been aware of the discussions on social media lately about who should play queer characters.

“To date, I’ve never played a queer character. And I know there is a responsibility to that. It’s an honor. With the way it was written Ragdoll, it is lightly mentioned. It’s just rooted in who she is,” she says.

“I still consider him a character and I’ve never really talked about my personal life and my sexuality. I prefer not to talk about it because I like to keep my life very private,” she says. “But I think…Edmunds, the character, kind 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 than people. And that’s always been my mindset. I just love human beings. Hale says.

Although her character’s sexual identity is never openly stated, she is clearly sure of herself. It’s a part of Edmunds that Hale says feels authentic to him.

“I feel like that happens too. I feel like she’s proud of who she is, but we don’t disclose if she is or not. But she likes women, we know that. And like, I also love women and I respect women. It’s cool that I can play a character at this point in my life, where I’ve kind of penetrated who I am and my sexuality as well,” says- she.

“But I hear what you’re saying because you want to be sensitive to all these amazing gay actors who should be playing these roles most of the time,” Hale adds. “I will say, though, that she’s proud of who she is and her background and her sexuality, obviously that’s her, but that doesn’t really play into a lot of the picture. We were also very sensitive to that because I can see it from both sides.

All episodes of rag doll are now available on AMC+.