Fox’s Sleepy Hollow was the surprise smash hit of last season, propelled by dark fantasy, observant humor, and, most especially, the outstanding chemistry between leads Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie as man-out-of-time Ichabod Crane and his newfound friend and partner, police lieutenant Abbie Mills. The show returned last night, and, at the recent TCA Summer Press Tour in Los Angeles, Sleepy Hollow‘s cast and crew — including executive producer Mark Goffman and co creators and executive producers Len Wiseman, Roberto Orci, and Alex Kurtzman, and stars Mison and Beharie — spoke to us about where season 2 will take Crane and Abbie’s relationship in the face of their escalating war against the fabled Horseman.
On the second season’s tone…
Alex Kurtzman: It’s funny for us, because we were struck by how much people couldn’t quite figure out what we were when we first came out. I think for us we feel intuitively that the key to that tone and that balance is making sure that there’s an emotional reality to the experiences your characters are having. And if you can give the audience that and you can let them buy into the reality of the show, you can ask them to go on any journey that you want.
Len Wiseman: We found that the more that we can invest on that emotional level, and there’s a grounded nature to the characters going on emotionally, the more that we are allowed to play on the ridiculous. And so a “Headless [Horseman] with machine guns” attitude towards the absurd has absolutely carried through.
Tom Mison: We’re very lucky that we have a writers’ room which is quite diverse. There are lots of people from different backgrounds, so it’s not entirely a fantasy. It’s not entirely written in fantasy. It comes from a level of reality. It comes from the truth of characters and realistic characters and then throws them into the fantastical situations. So there’s a really nice balance for us of playing the truth of the dangerous situation and the show on top of that bringing a certain tongue-in-cheek fantasy tone to it.
On this season’s expansion to eighteen episodes…
LW: One of the things it allows us to do is that we have so much story that we are packing into those episodes. Every episode of the first season was spilling out with story; that, actually, was quite a challenge for us. So this allows for that to actually have some breathing room. But then, of course, it’s also it’s a blessing and a curse.
AK: The biggest thing too is getting enough advanced warning to figure out how to strategize and plan the season correctly. And having enough time, we can account for it. We just want to make sure we’re stretching our story well and that there are no episodes in there that feel like they’re sort of middle ground episodes that are just transitions from one big storyline to the next.
Mark Goffman: As you start to do more than eighteen, it really does feel hard. Because we approach every story as the next chapter in an epic adventure. To maintain that level of tension, it’s really hard to do over twenty-two [episodes], I think. But so far we really it’s felt very good to do for [eighteen]. As we’ve mapped out this season, like Len said, we’ll often get to the end of an episode and go, “You know what? There’s still way too much story in here. We can actually continue to parse this out further.”
On the relationship between Crane and Abbie…
Nicole Beharie: The relationship sort of mirrors our own relationship, that we spend a lot of time together. And we’ve gotten to know each other and that there’s a shorthand and a level of intimacy and transparency and vulnerability that you really wouldn’t want to share with anyone, but we’re just sort of forced into that situation. It creates really interesting work for television. It happens very quickly. And it gives us a place to ground this fantastic demon, witch-hunting world. I think that’s what people are relating to.
On the similarities between Abbie and Crane’s relationship and that of The X-Files‘ Mulder and Scully…
LW: It’s a favorite show of mine. I think that’s the best way into it, that they have a mutual respect for each other, everybody’s going to wonder what’s going to happen relationship-wise. Are they going to get together? It’s like in X-Files. There’s so much more there before you even get to the “Are they or aren’t they?” It’s been fun to see that they have a respect for each other. We’re not really playing their relationship on the romantic side. But then, with the other characters that come in around them you see jealousy come out, so maybe even they don’t realize their relationship until other people come in to pull them away or draw their attention, and maybe that makes them realize “I’m not completely comfortable with that.”
MG: We’re going to drop a few bombs this season with their relationship. Crane and Katrina are going to find out a few things that neither of them could ever have possibly been prepared for.
On the show’s fan community…
Roberto Orci: Well, we know what people think will be a cheat, and it’s sort of like treating them as consultants. You get a consensus a little bit, and fans online have been so instrumental. So it kind of keeps us in check a little bit, is the way we use it. We make sure that we monitor it and take it into account and let it be one of the voices in the room out of the many voices that we listen to.
On Ichabod’s continuing interaction with modern technology…
MG: It’s less about reacting to modern technology [as] a man out of time, like,“Oh, isn’t that funny that he doesn’t understand a gadget?” and much more a social commentary about how somebody who was around and was mates with our Founding Fathers at the beginning of our country and fought for that and now what he’s seeing in our society. That’s where both him and Abbie together are so interesting, to have that conversation, as they did from that very first episode when he said he was for emancipation. We have an episode where we’ll get to see Abbie go to the polling booth and vote and Crane gets to see voting. He gets to learn to drive, which was actually inspired by Tom, who’s learning to drive, right? How’s that going?
TM: Thank you much. [Laughs.]
MG: Those are the kind of moments that excite me.
Sleepy Hollow airs Monday nights at 9 PM on FOX. For more from the cast and creators of the show, check out the SleepyCast, the official Sleepy Hollow podcast hosted by Clarke Wolfe, right here on Nerdist.com.