JHalissa Teixeira can’t handle extreme gore well, which made starring in the most gruesome crime drama of the year something of an ordeal. Ragdoll revolves around a nauseating crime scene: a character sewn from the body parts of various victims, suspended from the ceiling of a London flat. When introduced to the eponymous monstrosity on set, Teixeira recalls, “It turned me in pretty well.” Luckily, the cast and crew were on hand to “choose my ground limbs and prick me get back together “.
Ragdoll – which is written by Freddy Syborn, best known for his comedic work with Jack Whitehall, and loosely based on Daniel Cole’s novel – is an equally outlandish patchwork creation in its own way. Teixeira plays DI Emily Baxter, tasked with solving the case, alongside her already traumatized colleague DS Nathan Rose (Henry Lloyd-Hughes of the Inbetweeners) and newbie DC Lake Edmunds (Lucy Hale, of Pretty Little Liars fame). Mixing the gnarly storylines of Line of Duty with a barrage of bizarre surreal deaths, the show, which launches tonight on Alibi, is a serious meditation on the institutional failings of the police with a very high gag rate, the joke genre and the other kind. This fusion of tones is reminiscent of Teixeira from Killing Eve (they share a production company) and she says the show’s creators were inspired by South Korean films, such as Memories of Murder and Oldboy, which blend humor into their horror.
Fans of disturbing dramas might recognize Teixeira and her distinctly gritty voice from Emily Watson’s recent thriller Too Close. Fare fans who push the envelopes might know her from BBC polyamory drama Trigonometry. The 28-year-old, who spent part of her childhood in Brazil, moved with her British mother to Buckinghamshire when she was eight, first made a name for herself in classic productions in the West End, before appearing in a slew of interesting films. and various television projects. She recently starred in Channel 5’s Anne Boleyn.
That said, this is Teixeira’s second time playing a cop in just over a year, following his role in the equally irreverent Maisie Williams comedy-drama Two Weeks to Live. But acting in a police procedural isn’t the straightforward gig it once was. “After the last two years, the way we view police shows is going to change dramatically,” she says, referring to the global protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd by a police officer in Minneapolis.
Filming for the show began in April, shortly after the murder of Sarah Everard by a police officer, a crime that caused a huge change in the perception of policing in Britain. Both cast a shadow over the production, but Teixeira says that as a woman of color she distrusted the police for most of her life. “The other night I was riding my bike home and I was scared of being pulled over by the police. The only encounters I’ve ever had with the police were about race issues and none of that was anyone’s fault.
Ragdoll also examines how it feels to be a person of color inside such an institution. Baxter is extremely conflicted with his job, Teixeira says. “She definitely doesn’t like it, but she feels compelled to be there and stand for something.” She also worries that “being in the police is actually a move from Judas.” But (spoiler alert) it’s even more complex than that: despite a major mistake, Baxter isn’t fired because “the optics would look bad.” Yet she demands a kind of equality. Syborn, who is white, was keen to involve Teixeira in these issues. “He raised his hand and said, ‘I’m very aware of the industry I represent, so let’s discuss your experiences.'”
In person, Teixeira is ironic and witty, prone to self-mockery. “I hope it does well on a page,” she said sheepishly, “but luckily I haven’t stopped working since I left drama school.” Despite her success, however, Teixeira now plans to “step away a bit” from acting to focus on writing. “Maybe talk a bit more about Brazil, because there is a huge lack of it in this part of the world.” The country and its culture still occupy an important place in his life: his roommates are Brazilian and they speak Portuguese together at home.
Still, she’ll be tempted to return if a second series of Ragdolls gets the green light. Teixeira is already preparing for more depravity from Syborn. “I think there’s something fascinating about why we want to watch programs about the extremes that humanity can go to,” she says. “I don’t have an answer to that yet. But I certainly won’t be going to dinner at Freddy Syborn’s anytime soon.