Sleepy Hollow returns to Fox this Monday after a brief World-Series-imposed break from the schedule. The new hit series follows Lieutenant Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie), a cop in the small town of Sleepy Hollow, who finds herself partnered up with resurrected Revolutionary War soldier Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison). They’re on a mission to stop the four horsemen of the apocalypse lead by Death in the form of the Headless Horseman. So far the characters have encountered all manner of witches, demons, history and folklore from the Biblical Revelations to the lost colony of Roanoke. Sleepy Hollow marked Fox’s highest premiere ratings since 2006 and was renewed for a second season in the beginning of October. I sat down with the cast and creators of the show at New York Comic Con to discuss the supernatural drama.
Creator Alex Kurtzman spoke about the origin of the show, “the initial idea was just a modern take on The Legend of Sleepy Hollow. It was something that’s never really been presented or approached in modern context, so that was fascinating to all of us and…when we came to the idea of blending that legend with Revelations and it seemed crazy, but can it possibly work? And that was where it all started. And can we put these things together and have something really compelling?”
Tom Mison added about his approach to the show, “Lots of people wonder whether how much we went back to the original short story, which was something I’d read a long time ago, but when we got the script for the pilot it was so vastly different to that or anything that I could begin to research. I just let that script speak for itself, really.”
Co-creator Len Wiseman is best known for helming the female-led Underworld film franchise, a trend which continues here. Not only is Lieutenant Mills leading the case, but as the series has gone along, viewers have seen how Ichabod’s wife Katrina (played by Katia Winter) revealed to be a witch caught in purgatory, has played an integral role in leading the case from beyond the grave. Additionally Mills has in recent episodes enlisted her sister Jenny in determining the fate of humanity. The cast spoke about having kick ass women taking the lead on the show.
“I think it’s kind of ground breaking what’s going on” said Nicole Beharie. “First of all, they brought in Abby and Abby is a hero sort of unbeknownst to herself. Like, she didn’t know that all these things were going to happen to her and that she had all these powers to sort of draw upon. And then she also finds out, when she reconnects with her sister that her sister has all of this information and these resources. And then we find out that Katrina is this witch that has all these–I love that all these women in the show actually are an integral part of saving the world. There not just there as like a piece to sort of move the story on. And they’re not just batting eyelashes, like we’re helping to make the thing happen–If not making the thing happen. I personally think, if you look at all the episodes, okay? I threw the book, I saved the guy, so yeah that’s really a big part of it and I’m honored to be a part of it. And also you know, it’s a diverse cast too, so that’s ace.”
Mison was attracted by this aspect of the show. “One of the things when I read the pilot that made it appeal to me so much was that you have the two female leads who aren’t defined by a man. You have Abby who, she’s just a strong modern woman with important things on her mind and [Katrina’s] well, a witch, who’s far more powerful than her pathetic mortal husband. And you don’t see it enough. All too often, scripts are–the women are the girlfriend or the daughter and they have very little to do other than support the male characters’ stories. Whereas this from the start and throughout, the female characters have been rounded and clear individuals. And that’s–hats off to the show for doing that.”
A great deal of fun on the show is derived from Mison’s 18th Century Crane dealing with the modern world, including its ladies. Not only does Crane seem to connect with Mill’s sister Jenny, but in one fan favorite moment, Ichabod advised a tearful OnStar representative about romance while being locked in his 21st Century car.
Mison commented on this trend, “I’ve not really thought about that! That in every episode, there’s a new girl who Ichabod kind of semi-flirts with. Just because the wife’s in purgatory…[Ichabod and Jenny] seem to be kindred spirits, she’s ballsy and she fights for what she believes is right…But then I think there was a very tender connection with Yolanda, the OnStar lady and I’d like to see her become a recurring character. She could be like Ziggy from Quantum Leap! She could, anytime he needs advice but can’t find Katrina, he just goes and talks to Yolanda….maybe.” On-screen wife Winter remained quiet, “No? Everyone completely disagrees!”
Meanwhile, Crane’s wardrobe has yet to be updated as he assimilates the modern era, since he’s in the same outfit five episodes along. Mison laughed and defended his character’s jacket “that he’s worn for two-hundred fifty years?…Uh, it’s a nice coat though, at least!” A moment later he added “That will be addressed in some way or other” while another member of the press rooted for a good pair of jeans.
Of course this wouldn’t be Sleepy Hollow without its legendary Horseman and other supernatural elements running around. Everyone involved with the show had a lot to say on that monstrous aspect of the show.
“Okay, I’m 5’1″.” Beharie began on the topic of the giant Headless Horseman, “In the next few episodes, I run down stairs, he’s like chasing me with an axe. And I’m a little person, he’s a big guy. Like in real life, the guy who plays the horseman. So I’m scared by the Horseman. He’s on horses and I’m in heels.”
Having the Horseman on set is likely due to Wiseman’s preference for practical effects wherever possible. He said “Tv lends itself to practical effects due to its schedule and time. It’s a bit of a double edged sword but we try to–and you don’t really have time for elaborate visual effects. You don’t have a load of time for practical, but if you plan ahead, it’s the perfect platform for practical and it’s one of the things that Alex and I both are fans of, like the movies that we grew up on, to be able to have an actual–if you have a creature on the episode. If it actually really is a creature, whether it’s Hellraiser or Pumpkinhead or you know, these, I think there’s just more of a connection to it and I miss that. You don’t see that on television a lot.”
Orlando Jones, who plays Mills’s boss Captain Irving, brought up some other demonic foes as scarier “The show is crazy because the Horseman’s there! It’s not like it’s CGI, and she’s right, he’s like 6’6″ and when he’s swinging an axe you know…but I’m sorry…the Sandman and the Blurry [a recurring horned demon that only appears blurry to viewers so far]? Come on, I’m sorry. That’s just weird!” When Beharie agreed about the Sandman, Jones went on, “Homeboy turns into dust? I ain’t with that. It’s creepy, for me. I mean honestly.”
The Sandman they’re referring to was a chilling creation defeated by Abbie in the third episode, Kurtzman elaborated on what set him apart from being just a demon-on-the-week. “Sandman was literally a manifestation of Abby’s past. And of her guilt and something she hadn’t dealt with. And so we really try and take the approach with our monsters, is not just having them be random monsters but actually echo something very important in our characters and what they’re going through.”
Speaking on future monsters, Wiseman and Kurtzman teased their versions of the classic characters such as a gollem and a scarecrow while Beharie assured us we’d see plenty more of the Horseman.
As for future plot spoilers, the cast was a bit more hesitant with Mison saying “there are things that I can’t say because I’ll get in trouble. And then there are things that I don’t want to say because they’re such nice twists that I want you to enjoy them when they come. But it’s all about Katrina. The more Katrina comes back, the more revelations there are not only about Ichabod but about the fate of humanity. So keep your eyes on her, really.” Jones later added ominously about his own character, “I think the best description for Irving is assume I know everything.”
Sleepy Hollow airs Mondays at 9pm on Fox.
Photography by Elizabeth Phillips