Lucy Hale isn't your teen-drama heroine anymore

The dark side

  • 17.11.2021

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“I think a lot of people don’t really realise that I’m 32. I think people still think I’m a teenager?” exclaims Lucy Hale, who’s sporting a stunning coloured-liner look, over a Zoom call. It’s true, the appearances the public has known her for either involve a female inner circle or having high school teachers as love interests. Well, her latest TV stint isn’t anything of the sort. In fact, it takes her to the wet, cold, and darker side of London in AMC’s latest thriller Ragdoll, as she plays DC Lake Edmunds. An aloof, guarded detective brooding with secrets from her past. Unlike the snazzy glamorous protagonists that Hale has popularised on screen, in teen dramas like Pretty Little Liars and Katy Keene, Ragdoll sits on the grittier end of the spectrum. And despite what the masses might expect from her, Hale is stepping into a new phase where she feels it’s where she belongs.

She muses: “This is new for me in a lot of different ways. It’s just exciting to get to play roles that are within my age group, darker, and edgier.” The crime drama, adapted from Daniel Cole’s novel, revolves around DS Nathan Rose (Henry-Lloyd-Hughes), DI Emily Baxter (Thalissa Teixeira), and Edmunds (Hale), as they track down a sinister killer, behind the murders of six people who have been dismembered and sewn into one body — dubbed as the Ragdoll.

Fans who have tracked Hale’s acting career from the small to the big screen — from Pretty Little Liars to films like Truth Or Dare, should know she is one to gravitate towards the darker and macabre side, albeit the occasional rom-coms in her filmography. Sure enough, the actress is indeed a fan of the dark, morbid genre, which is what drew her to Ragdoll in the first place. “The show was written with the serial killer element, with the who-done-it narrative, which makes for this dark humour that these characters use as a coping mechanism. I found that really interesting and that was what really set it apart for me within the genre.”

Hale continues: “I think that Edmunds and I have a lot in common in the sense that we like to talk about things that matter. We talk too much, and we speak up about things. Justice is really important for Edmunds, as it is for me. But what’s really interesting about her is that she’s got a dark past where she made a lot of bad mistakes, so she’s trying to make good for her past.” To prep for the role, Hale spoke to a real detective to pick her brain, along with getting together with her co-stars Hughes and Teixeira to figure the banter as a unit.

The banter between the three of you played a crucial role. How did you guys build that chemistry?

So Thalissa and Henry who play Rose and Baxter, are characters with this rich history, which worked to their benefit because they too are already friends in real lilfe. For Edmunds, she meets them for the very first time and is trying to find her footing to see where she fits in and to prove herself. She kinda falls flat on her face a few times, but she tries. And I think eventually people warm up to her. What makes the show so fun is that there’s a rhythm to how these cops talk. It’s smart, it’s quick, and the humour is really dry and there’s a melody to it. It’s very different to a lot of my work, which is in the beats, taking my time, and stretching things out. For the most part, there were some moments where we slowed down, but the process was fast, high stakes, and just carrying that energy the whole time.

How fun was it to play an American in a setting like London? 

I love the Brits, I’ve always loved the Brits! And I’ve always loved London. I think it was important that they had that character who just represents a character with a younger mind of a Gen-Z. Where you talk about things that may be a little taboo, or talk about mental health, and really want to see change. I think that’s who Edmunds was. It was fun for me, just as an actor to get to work with British actors who work a little differently than what i’m used to. It was like a nice challenge.

It’s definitely less glamorous than the other roles you’ve taken on…

[Laughs] Yeah it was nice. I’m so used to spending two hours in hair and makeup, and for this, I didn’t get my roots done, I wore no makeup, I was in T-shirts all day. It was really nice.

Do you ever come home tired after playing roles in these shows that are so dark?

I think I’ve been doing this for so long that I’ve become good at compartmentalising and leaving my personal life at home and leaving work at work. But I think they sometimes bleed into each other. It’s inevitable, especially with a show like this, because this is a little heavier and darker. Shows like Truth or Dare or Ragdoll, you’re so exhausted on a different level as compared to something lighter. A, just physically running around, and B, the stakes are incredibly high, so your adrenaline is pumping all day, which leaves you emotionally drained at the end of each day. It really becomes a game of how much stamina you really have, so these are projects that definitely came home with me just because I was so tired. But I love and thrive off characters and storylines like Ragdoll because it’s so hard to get them right, but when you get them right, it’s like magic you know? It’s so hard to find very good horror movies because it’s hard. It’s hard to capture that edge-of-your-seat feeling for an hour and a half. I loved that Ragdoll does have elements of horror to it, mixed in with the humour, mixed in with the thriller psychological stuff. But yeah, there were some moments with Ragdoll, that when I came home, I thought ‘yeah we shot some really disturbing things today’.

What’s next for you?

Like I said, I really love the darker edgier kinda roles, but I don’t really set rules for myself. Taking into consideration if I just came out of a more heavy, demanding job, I’d definitely want to do something a little more fun after that. So it’s kinda like a balance between the two? I do think and hope that Ragdoll will open up a whole new avenue of characters for me because that’s what I always wanted to do and I’m so grateful that I’m now given a chance to play them. At the same time, I’m dying to do a musical! I really want to do something in that space, it seems so much fun. So, I don’t know, nothing’s really off limits for me.

Ragdoll is currently showing on BBC First (StarHub channel 502 and BBC Player).