When the Fox drama series Sleepy Hollow returns on November 4th, with the all-new episode “Sin Eaters,” Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) goes missing and Lt. Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) seeks help from the mysterious Henry Parrish (guest star John Noble), who holds vital clues about how to end the dangerous blood tie to the Headless Horseman.
During this recent interview to promote the return of the popular new show, British actor Tom Mison talked about not having any trepidation about signing on for a show with such an outrageous concept, making sure they never go too far into the comedy, what he enjoys most about playing Ichabod Crane, whether his character might ever wear normal clothes, the chemistry between Ichabod and Abbie, what it’s been like to work with John Noble (Fringe), and how much he wants to know about where the show is going versus finding out from script to script. Check out what he had to say after the jump, and be aware that there are some spoilers.
TOM MISON: I always like to have faith that an audience will suspend their disbelief, if you present it to them in the right way. I find it peculiar when people scoff at one bold idea, and yet they’ll then turn over and watch a man travel through time in a police phone box. I think it’s just how you present the idea. With Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci and Len Wiseman, their careers have been built on asking people to suspend their disbelief. Once you do that, and you can get an audience to go with you on an idea, then you can just go anywhere, and that’s where the fun stuff happens. So, I had no real trepidation. I had faith in the great American public that they would join us, and luckily it seems to have paid off.
Is it difficult to not get too far into the comedy, when it comes to Ichabod’s reactions to things?
MISON: Yes. The temptation could be to just go nuts on the comedy, not only for me, but for the writers as well because there’s a wealth of things we can do with that. During the pilot, Len and I worked out that the only way you can really sell the comedy is to play it as straight as the serious stuff. The way to find the balance between the confusion and those funny scenes and the more serious, “Oh, my God, the apocalypse is coming” scenes is to play them with a very similar tone, rather than separating them as, “This is now a tragic scene, and this is a comic scene.” Everything is very real for Ichabod, so we just have to try to play everything straight, which I think was a really good thing to find, and a bit of a saving grace, in terms of performance. It also stops me from hamming it up.
What have you enjoyed most, in playing this character?
MISON: I think it’s trying to work out how moody someone would be when they come out of the ground after 200 years. It’s been nice, finding the difference between Crane in his time and place, and Crane after all of this weird stuff has happened. It’s about finding the balance between Crane trying to hide his confusion at the world, and when it suddenly comes out. There are so many plates that need to be spun to keep Ichabod on track, and it’s hard work. It’s a really difficult part to play, but I think that’s what makes it so satisfying. There’s lots for me to sink my teeth into.
What do you find most fascinating about him?
MISON: Everyone always goes to the fact that he is lost in the modern world and that everything is baffling, but what I find really fascinating is that any room he walks into, he’s probably the most intelligent person in that room, but no one will allow him to show that because everyone thinks he’s insane. He thinks everyone else is the maniac, whereas everyone thinks he is. That’s really fun. He knows that he’s cleverer than everyone else, but his manners won’t allow him to tell people to stop being stupid.
MISON: Yes. Without giving too much away, when things start to get very personal, and there are revelations that are personal attacks on Crane and his past, that’s when the rules start to fly out of the window and he starts misbehaving a little bit more.
Is it fun to play that, when he gets to act out a bit?
MISON: Oh, it’s nice. Every chance to show a different side to Ichabod is great.
Is Ichabod ever going to wear modern clothes?
MISON: That will be mentioned very, very soon. You’ll see the question of clothes coming up. We quite liked giving him an iconic look. In terms of the character, he’s a long way from home. He’s 250 years away from home, so anything that he can hold onto from his time, I think he certainly will. Any time you think of how much he stinks, just think of it as a big stinking security blanket that he carries around with him. In the last episode, he gave them a wash in the sink. He’s considerate.
We’ve seen Ichabod do battle with plastic, with the OnStar system, and with a coffee machine. What other technology is he going to confront in upcoming episodes?
MISON: Well, there’s everything. When we go into a new set, it’s always nice to have a look around and wonder what Ichabod would be attracted to or repelled by, and what would be baffling, which is everything. Everything is new. There will be plenty more of that, and hopefully it will be just as fun as the stuff from before. There’s a wealth of stuff to mine.
Because there is such great chemistry between Ichabod and Abbie, even though Ichabod is technically a married man, is there any chance that viewers might see some romantic moments or flirtation between the two of them?
MISON: I think there is certainly something magic between Ichabod and Abbie. They’re forced together, whether they want to be or not. They’re forced into this relationship where they’re very different, and they wind each other up no end, but that’s when the sparks start flying. They certainly have a connection. If anything was to happen between them, it would certainly be fiery.
Are you a history buff? If so, how much of a stickler are you for authenticity, even in a premise as outrageous as this one is?
MISON: Yes, I’ve always been a history buff. It was one of the few subjects at school that really, really caught me. I think you’ll find a lot of actors will be interested in history because it sparks your imagination so much. When you enter a period of history, your imagination just goes wild in creating the world, which is really what acting is. It’s always a treat to have something that lets me explore a different period. And yes, I do try to be a stickler, as much as I can, but luckily the writers are, as well. There are a few language things. Luckily, they’re very open when I say, “I think this word is 12 years too late,” and they’re very happy to play around with it. Even if 90% of the audience aren’t going to spot that certain turn of phrase as a bit out of date, it’s still important to get a level of authenticity for us to play around in. If it wasn’t completely authentic, then it wouldn’t really work very much. It would then just be a modern man with a weird costume, instead of a man from another time. Everyone is very patient with me getting very anal about things.
MISON: John Noble of Fringe will become a very, very important character in the series, and you’ll see why. He’s a savior.
How has it been to build a rapport with these really great character actors that are coming in and adding such great dimension to the show?
MISON: It’s really nice. It’s great to have actors who are often cast against type. It’s surprising, the actors who are coming in for characters. I think very few people would imagine that John Cho would become the baddie, which we notice in the pilot. And you don’t see Clancy Brown often as the father figure, or the Obi-Wan Kenobi type. You wouldn’t immediately think of Orlando Jones as the highest-ranking police officer. And I think actually a lot of people would be rather surprised at me being cast as Ichabod. There are probably lots of people in England who wouldn’t have considered me for it. One of the brilliant things of the show is that they cast the net wide, and they surprise you with their casting choices.
What’s it been like to work with John Noble?
MISON: It’s really remarkable. Our first scene together, it was just me and him, sitting opposite each other at a table. He came in and sat down, and we did the scene, and I was quite surprised when someone shouted, “Cut!,” because I forgot that there were cameras and other people about the place. When you’re acting with someone like John, you just completely lose yourself in it. He’s mesmerizing. He’s brilliant.
In terms of already knowing that you’re coming back for a second season, have you had conversations with the showrunners or the writers yet about what could be coming up for your character, or do you prefer to just be in the moment and get the scripts as they come?
MISON: It’s nice to know when there are important revelations that should affect the character. It’s nice to know them early, so then, if there was suddenly a revelation, people would then think back to a few episodes before. It’s important to know those big revelations. I’ve been told what they are, and shall remain silent. I know the big story arcs and they’re quite remarkable, but episode by episode, I quite like finding out when I get the script. It’s quite nice to be surprised and excited, episode by episode, in the same way that, hopefully, audiences are when they watch, week by week. I like to keep a few things as a nice little treat, each time I get a script landing on my doormat.
Sleepy Hollow airs on Monday nights on Fox.