In the first episode of “Ragdoll,” the new cat-and-mouse cop show from “Killing Eve” creators Sid Gentle, the lead trio of detectives played by Lucy Hale, Henry Lloyd-Hughes and Thalissa Teixeira encounter a corpse (the titular Ragdoll) sewn together from the limbs, torso and heads of six separate murder victims, suspended from the ceiling.
Even Hale, an avowed true-crime fan, was disturbed by the gruesome sight. “I’m pretty good at compartmentalizing, obviously, what I do for a living. [and] who I am, what’s real, what’s not real,” the “Pretty Little Liars” alum shares Variety.
“But that day in particular was so weird because the three of us decided not to see the Ragdoll before we shot that scene. And when we saw it, I mean, you’re kind of speechless,” says “He looks like a real human: the detail, the color of the skin, the hair. He was dripping, because it’s supposed to thaw out. The detail was so extreme you couldn’t help it, Which, to me, says a lot. I know that Thalissa was completely traumatized.
Yet despite the stomach-churning subject matter (a serial killer on a quilt kick with a personal grudge against Lloyd-Hughes’ character Nathan Rose), it’s clear why the show, which is already airing on AMC+ in the US and will launch on Alibi in the UK on December 6, caught Hale’s attention. Along with the opportunity to work with the team behind the hit “Killing Eve” (“Everyone knows how brilliant this show is,” says Hale) and the chance to spend four months filming in London, “ Ragdoll” offered a new premise for the actor, who cut his teeth on a string of teen dramas such as “Privileged,” “Scream 4” and, of course, “PLL.”
“For me, where I am in my career and what I’m looking to do, I’m always looking for something a little different,” says Hale. “Something I’ve never done before.” She found that in DC Lake Edmunds, her character in “Ragdoll”, a strident gay feminist with a dark past who, for reasons that will emerge later, ends up crossing the pond starting a new career in British policing.
“Meeting her, she seems really well-prepared and really adorable,” the actor explains. “But I could tell there would probably be something in the final episodes that would reveal why she was appearing like that. And of course something very tragic and traumatic happened to her, which is why she escaped from the United States and why she is in the UK So that was where the job was for me.
To prepare for the show, Hale also rewatched some of her favorite horror thrillers, including “The Silence of the Lambs” and “Seven,” and spent time with a detective in London. “[I] I just have to ask him basic questions like, ‘How do you behave at a crime scene? How do you interact with certain things? Or some people? What are you saying? What don’t you say? So that was helpful.
Deep in the actors’ minds was the knowledge that even though the story they were creating was fictional, there were undoubtedly real-life parallels. “Thalissa always says that whatever is bad in the world is probably rooted in reality,” says Hale. “So there were times throughout the filming of the show where we had to keep in mind that it’s in the realm of possibility of what could have happened to people. So it was a bit dark.
Hale’s next projects couldn’t be more different from “Ragdoll.” First there’s “The Hating Game,” a classic old-school romantic comedy opposite Austen Stowell (“Catch-22”), which she describes as “pure joy, pure fun,” followed by the thriller survival film “Borrego”, alongside Nicholas Gonzalez (“Narcos”) and the literary genre comedy “Big Gold Brick”, which also stars Oscar Isaac and Megan Fox. Hale is also set to begin filming an adaptation of “The Storied Life of AJ Fikry” starring Christina Hendricks and Kunal Nayyar in a few weeks.
“I mean it’s not strategic that I do all these different things. Because really, for me, I have no rules,” Hale says of her varied choices. “I just want to create content that resonates with people. I’ve been an actor since I was 15 and I’m 32 now, so it’s nice that I get the chance to be picky and do the things that really resonate with me and not just have to make one for pay or viewers. It’s a time in my life where it’s for me and it’s exciting.
Equally exciting is her recent time behind the camera. Hale serves as executive producer on “The Hating Game,” “Borrego” and “The Storied Life of AJ Fikry,” a tactical shift she intends to use as a springboard for developing her own ideas. She recently sold her first project, based on a book, although she could not reveal any further details yet. “It was a really big step for me, because I’ve had the rights to this book for a long time,” Hale says. She has not yet decided if she will star in the project in addition to producing it.
“I think it’s the dream, isn’t it, to create content?” she explains. “I mean, Reese Witherspoon is a perfect example and someone that I really, really look up to because she’s in control of every aspect of her career, and she creates stories and tells stories that are so important and that matter. And so if I could do something like that, that’s kind of what I’m looking for. That’s my goal.”
Unfortunately for “Pretty Little Liars” fans, Hale kindly dismisses rumors that she might be returning for the next reboot, “Original Sin,” even as a producer (she previously worked with showrunner Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa on a short duration “Riverdale” spin-off, “Kate Keene”). “As far as I know, no one from the original is involved in any way,” she says. “From what I hear, it’s going to be very dark.”
Would she consider returning for a second season of “Ragdoll” if she was returned to service? “We would love to come back and do more,” she says. “I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.”