Kurtzman and Orci on Sleepy Hollow “Fans Can Expect a Real Cinematic Experience”
What will fans of FOX’s new supernatural series Sleepy Hollow have to look forward to over the course of its freshman season?
A lot of fun, scares and humor, according to show creator and executive producer Alex Kurtzman. “There is really nothing like it on television,” Kurtzman told ScreenSpy and assembled Press in a recent conference call.
“We tell our stories in the present and in the past, so the story telling spans over 250 years. The other thing is that I think that television is in this remarkable moment right now, like some of the best writing, some of the best acting, some of the best directing is on television. It is really in this renaissance period. [Homeland] kind of set a new standard in the way stories were being told and I think we embraced that fully. So, we have jumped into the deep end of the pool knowing that our premise is sort of one molecule away from insanity at all times, but we are keeping it tethered to a grounded, emotional reality that I think hopefully allows you to buy into it and to really live in the world.”
Sleepy Hollow kicks off on Monday September 16th. The ambitious new supernatural thriller stars Tom Mison as Ichabod Crane, and Nicole Beharie as Detective Abbie Mills, his reluctant 21st century partner. Together they investigate the strange goings on in the outwardly serene New England town of Sleepy Hollow – including recent sightings of a headless horseman.
“So many of the stories that interest us tend to be timeless stories,” notes Kurtzman. “They have existed and continued in different iterations over many generations because they say something enduring about the world that we live in and about who we are. Sleepy Hollow, particularly, was exciting to us because, speaking personally, Halloween is my favorite holiday. My house is basically like a Halloween 365 days a year with my son. And so the idea of getting to live in that kind of world and getting to live in that kind of universe is just sort of delicious conceptually. Bob and I are really excited by the idea of getting to fuse the horror genre with a cop procedural, which is such a staple of television, and bring kind of a new spin to it because we also get to tell much of our story in the past. So, on top of the cases of the week, the solutions to the modern day story is to look to the past, and he idea being that if you don’t learn from the past, you’re doomed to repeat it. So, we get to do flashbacks, we get to tell stories over different centuries and I think anybody who loves genre would feel that delicious prospect.”
Like Kurtzman and Orci’s previous successful projects (Fringe, Alias) Sleepy Hollow boasts capable but not internationally known actors in the title roles.
“It was nice to discover a couple of fresh faces, who have obviously built a fandom of their own, but who are not really as widely recognized in television,” said Roberto Orci. “When you do that, you really get into their characters in a way that maybe you don’t if you’ve seen them play something else that you were super familiar with before.
“In the case of Tom Mison, we were not necessarily going to go for an English actor, but when we met him and saw him read, we realized that actually in the day of the Revolutionary War many of the folks fighting for revolution and for the independence of this country may have been recently arrived from the U.K. So the idea that this man with an eloquent accent is actually one of the first Americans who fought and almost died for this country was fascinating. The idea of someone with Tom’s intelligence, seeing what the country has become, both in all of its glory and also in some things that maybe are shocking to him from what he was expecting back in the day, just seemed like a very interesting thing.”
Orci describes the Ichabod Crane character as a tricky part. “It’s got to have a sense of humor, but it’s got to be smart; he can’t just be going around marveling at every new thing that he sees. He’s got to play his cards close to his vest, so he doesn’t seem like he is totally out of time. He’s trying to fit in and he has the intelligence to do so and so, Tom is great for that.”
Mison’s Ichabod Crane shares the screen with Nicole Behaire, who plays Abbie Mills, a resident of Sleepy Hollow who is also a skeptical and level headed detective harboring a secret past.
“When you are playing a detective – particularly as a woman – you either are going to embrace the fact that it’s kind of a man’s world you are jumping into or you’re going to ignore it,” says Orci. “With Nicole, we are able to actually play the complexity of a little bit of an underdog, who is able to keep her own, she’s able to hold her own around her peers, and who, in meeting Ichabod Crane, has a sympathy and a connection to a guy who everyone else thinks is crazy because she, herself, has sometimes been an outsider. And yet, she is still able to keep a skepticism and a groundedness that is so key to the show, because the show is attempting to portray some pretty nutty stuff. Nicole brings an earthy point of view to it that allows you to see the thing through her eyes and enjoy it without letting yourself go nuts and without forgetting that, ok, I want to make sure these things are playing to me correctly or I’m not going to believe them. Nicole plays that beautifully.”
“We have a tremendous cast,” notes Kurtzman. “They certainly make it as credible as you could have ever imagined. The directing has been phenomenal. The show is massive. The line between movies and television is gone these days. It’s just gone. And so when people watch TV, I think they are, particularly in genre shows like this, I think they are hoping for a real cinematic experience and that is what we are intending to deliver to them every week.”
Catch the series premiere of Sleepy Hollow Monday September 16th (9:00-10:00 PM ET/PT) on FOX.