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Wednesday January 1, 2014 MYT 12:00:00 AM
Wednesday January 1, 2014 MYT 9:00:20 AM
by gary levin
John Noble (left) and Tom Mison in tonight’s episode of Sleepy Hollow.
Fan favourite John Noble makes an appearance in today’s episode of the drama Sleepy Hollow.
Sleepy Hollow is a sleeper hit.
After just a few episodes, the new drama is Fox’s highest-rated series, and one of network TV’s top newcomers among young-adult viewers. And its 13-episode first season has already been extended for a second.
The episode The Sin Eater (shown tonight on Fox) is a pivotal one that introduces John Noble as Henry Parrish, a recluse who fills that life-saving title role. “He’s like the sage, the elder statesman who gets brought in rather reluctantly and agrees to help,” says Noble, a fan favourite who starred in the Sleepy producers’ previous Fox series, Fringe.
Who’s he helping? Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison), the long-dormant hero, who’s gone missing again? Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie), his detective partner, who has her own haunted past?
The episode also begins a series of extended flashbacks that fill in the details of Crane’s past: How he switched sides from British to colonial soldier; how he met his future wife Katrina, whose spell revived him more than two centuries after he was killed by a Headless Horseman; and how his past ties into the show’s mythology – and his ability to solve crimes in the present.
“It’s nice to explore a different side of Ichabod. He was responsible for some bad things when he was fighting for the wrong side,” says British actor Mison (Parade’s End), who plays him, quickly adding, “Don’t tell my mother I called the British the wrong side.”
Future episodes this season, ending Jan 20 in the United States, will rely more heavily on flashbacks and the show’s core characters. And Noble, who starred as Fringe’s breakout character, addled scientist Walter Bishop, returns twice more – including the season finale – and is on board for next season.
“I have to sense there’s a connection with Ichabod that will play out,” Noble says. Are there similarities (apart from looks) between Parrish and his Fringe character? “Both are complex men with big secrets, and both have a certain charm about them.”
Mison calls Noble “perfect for this type of show: You can throw the most absurd line of dialogue at him and he’ll sell it instantly.”
That isn’t what was expected of Sleepy itself: “I thought this show was meant to be a hard sell, that we were meant to spend ages convincing people to watch,” Mison says of the concept, which blends the sturdy procedural format with a fanciful, and original, historical drama. “There’s not very much like it on telly. We went straight in with as many outlandish things as we could.”
Adds executive producer Alex Kurtzman: “We kind of knew how insane it was up top, and that’s why we loved it so much.”
But Sleepy quickly proved an unlikely hit: Original episodes are averaging 12.3 million viewers in the US, including big gains from DVR-delayed viewing, a feat that sparked “shock and surprise and delight,” Kurtzman says.
The show combines elements of two Washington Irving stories – The Legend Of Sleepy Hollow and Rip Van Winkle – published around 1820 and set near the time of the Revolutionary War.
In this version, Crane awakens in present-day Sleepy Hollow, and is threatened by his tie to “Headless”, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, who also finds his way into the future. (Wilmington, North Carolina, where the series is filmed, is a stand-in for the upstate New York town).
In teaming Crane with Abbie, Kurtzman and co-creator Roberto Orci took inspiration from The X-Files’ pairing of investigator opposites Mulder and Scully. But they wanted to avoid casting them as believer and skeptic, as that earlier Fox show did.
“Abbie’s past and backstory is as fraught and complicated as Crane’s,” Kurtzman says. As viewers learned in the first four episodes, “she’s trying to function as a normal person, knowing she’s been touched by something abnormal.”
Crane’s “emergence into her world forces her to confront a past she’s been running from. And it takes her a while to get her head around the idea of being chosen to thwart the apocalypse.”
One thing fans haven’t gotten their heads around is when Crane will shed his colonial garb, a rather obvious contrast with the Sleepy locals that was joked about in an early episode.
“That will be addressed very soon,” teases Mison. “We quite like that there is an iconic look to our Ichabod, that we don’t want to deviate from too much,” he says. But “seeing him wash clothes in the sink isn’t quite enough.” – USA Today/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services
Sleepy Hollow airs every Wednesday at 9.50pm on Fox (Astro Ch 710).
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