'Sleepy Hollow': A sleeper hit

  • TV
  • Tuesday, 26 Nov 2013

The enigmatic Tom Mison talks about balancing humour and drama in Sleepy Hollow.

NOBODY would ever accuse the new series Sleepy Hollow of being just another crime procedural. Not when the crimes involve a mysterious Headless Horseman, and an evil conspiracy that reaches back to the Revolutionary War.

And not when the leading man is Ichabod Crane, the Washington Irving character who, in this telling, was the one who relieved the Horseman of his head, in bloody, circa-1776 battle.

And not when Crane wakes up inside a dank cave and walks out into the modern world, and almost instantly joins forces with a police lieutenant who works in the village of Sleepy Hollow.

That all this works

and works so well that Sleepy Hollow has already been renewed for Season Two – has a great deal to do with the charismatic, witty, dashing performance of Tom Mison as Crane.

The British actor and writer has previously been little-known in the United States, with a resume heavy on stage work but light on more mainstream fare. Aside from roles in the film, Salmon Fishing In The Yemen, and the miniseries, Parade’s End, Mison hasn’t had much opportunity to register with American audiences.

All that has changed with Sleepy Hollow, in which Mison’s charm and immediate chemistry with his co-star, Nicole Beharie, have made the Brit something of a heartthrob

despite Crane’s centuries-old garments.

“At least he gave them a wash in the sink,” Mison says. “So he’s considerate.”

In a conference call with reporters, Mison fielded questions about such matters as when we’ll see Crane finally get a new outfit

“I was wondering how long it would be before that question came up”

and how he approaches the role of Crane and the more outlandish elements of the show’s storyline.

In conversation, Mison displays the same playful humour that makes Crane’s encounters with the mysteries of modern life so drolly delightful (he’s offended by the high cost of baked goods, i.e. doughnut holes, and mystified by the multiplicity of Starbucks locations.)

Here are highlights from the interview:

On that costume: Mison promises Crane will wear more modern clothes “soon,” but that the show’s creative team (the co-creators and executive producers are Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, whose credits include Fringe, and the Star Trek movie) and he liked giving Ichabod “an iconic look”.

And there’s character motivation behind his period style, complete with long coat and tall boots. Crane is “a long way from home,” Mison says. “250 years away from home”, so he’s inclined to hold on to anything that reminds him of his time. Mison says whenever we’re thinking how much those clothes must stink, “think of (them) as a big, stinking security blanket”.

On the character of Ichabod Crane: Mison says when he’s playing Crane, he’s trying to “work out how moody someone would be after they come out of the ground” after all those years. There are “so many plates that need to be spun” to keep Ichabod on track, Mison says, adding that the part is difficult, but enjoyable to play.

On the show’s preposterous premise: “I always like to have faith that an audience will suspend their disbelief,” Mison says, if “you present it to them in the right way.” He had no real trepidation taking the role, he adds, and had “faith in the great American public” that they would come along for the ride.

On balancing the comedy and drama of Crane: The character is shown in the 18th century, finding out that the fate of the world is being threatened by the Headless Horseman (who, it turns out, is Death, one of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse). And then he’s comically reacting to chugging an energy drink in the modern world. And he’s mourning his wife, who’s trapped in limbo and is, oh yeah, a witch.

Keeping all this in balance is part of the job, Mison says. “The temptation could be to just go nuts on the comedy.” But in the pilot, he and Len Wiseman, who directed, worked out that “the only way you can really sell the comedy is to play it as straight as the serious stuff ... Everything is very real for Ichabod, so we have to try to play everything straight.”

That’s a saving grace, Mison adds. “It stops me from hamming it up.”

On his chemistry with Nicole Beharie: Beharie plays Lt. Abbie Mills, the Sleepy Hollow cop who has her own experience with the supernatural and who teams up with Crane as they learn more about the strange, deadly goings-on in Sleepy Hollow. Mison laughs at the inevitable question of whether there will ever be romantic sparks between Crane and the “leftenant,” as he pronounces her title.

“I think there’s certainly something magic between Ichabod and Abbie,” he says. “They certainly have a connection.” If anything were to happen between them,

Mison says, “it would certainly be fiery.” – The Oregonian/McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

> Sleepy Hollow premieres on Nov 27 at 9.50pm on Fox (Astro Ch 710).

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