A Hollow That’s Anything But Sleepy

The ‘Sleepy Hollow’ cast and crew take a victory lap at New York Comic Con.

Katia Winters, Tom Mison, Nicole Beharie and Orlando Jones of the new drama "Sleepy Hollow," which airs Mondays 9 p.m. on FOX.
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NEW YORK -- When “Sleepy Hollow” star Tom Mison sat on a panel at San Diego Comic Con in July to promote the new FOX show -- on which he plays Ichabod Crane, who has just arisen from a 250-year nap -- he had trouble narrowing it down to a soundbite.

“We were there trying to say, this is our show. We can’t really explain it that well, because we haven’t worked out how,” he says. Indeed, how do you explain a show about Washington Irving’s classic character of American lore teaming up with a modern day police detective to take down monsters in an effort to halt an oncoming apocalypse?

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Three months later, appearing at another comic convention, this one in New York, Mison still hasn’t perfected an elevator pitch. “Everytime I described what it is to someone, I found myself saying, ‘It’s very good,’ because I still haven’t worked out how to sell it properly,” he says.

Luckily, he doesn’t really have to. The show, which airs its fifth episode Monday, has already amassed a substantial audience -- 25 million watched its premiere. It was the first new fall network show to be picked up for a second season, making the show’s presence at New York Comic Convention a victory lap of sorts.

“We were all shocked, because that doesn’t usually happen so suddenly,” Mison says of the renewal announcement.

Why Fox would chose to pick up the show -- which is continuing to score big ratings since its premiere -- is a no brainer. But explaining what makes it so appealing a show to viewers is a little more tricky.

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“Sleepy Hollow” blends together the elements of a cop procedural, a mythical horror film, and a historical thriller, as the characters come to terms with the unexpected circumstances that require them to head off a demon-fueled apocalypse. Since Ichabod’s initial duel with the Headless Horseman, new monsters like the Sandman have arrived to challenge Abbie and him (expect a scarecrow and golem in episodes to come).  

“The best monsters are not random bad guys, but are monsters who manifest something in our characters,” says co-creator and executive producer Alex Kurtzman. “As long as the audience always feels tethered to that emotional idea, hopefully they won’t get lost in the mythology.”

While “Sleepy Hollow” is very earnest with this premise -- there’s nothing campy about the end of the world -- it finds humor in other places, particularly Ichabod’s bafflement toward the 21st century.

"The key for us is that it’s always been, take the mythology seriously but [make] uncovering it fun,” says Len Wiseman, a show co-creator, producer and director.

The platonic pairing of Ichabod -- whose wife, a witch (Katia Winter) will have a storyline that continues to expand this season -- and Abbie has already drawn in comparisons to Mulder and Scully of “The X-Files.” “I think it’s a great place to start. we’re also going somewhere totally different that will let you guys decide,” says Beharie.

 

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Orlando Jones, who plays Abbie’s skeptical cop boss, says of “The X-Files” comparison, “It’s not even playing by those rules in the sense that its sort of scary as hell, and funny, and then historical.” “Sleepy Hollow” has also drawn comparisons to “Lost,” both in its crazy-enough-to-work antics and in concerns over its prospects for longevity. The producers say that the procedural elements ground the show’s overarching narrative.

“The goal for us is you get the satisfaction of feeling that your story is closed, but you know it’s part of a bigger picture,” says Kurtzman. “You’ll know that you’ll turn your TV off at the end of that episode feeling like you got a satisfying story in its own right.”

But before picking up the show, FOX made the creators lay out the long-term storyline as well. “It’s allowed us to write with confidence, knowing that we could plant seeds and Easter eggs that when you get to the end of the season, you’ll see where it was all heading,” says Kurtzman. “It’s a big stew, and we like to keep stirring the pot.”