On the surface, Sleepy Hollow may seem like just a genre show: fantasy and horror rolled together in hour-long episodes with some awesome special effects. Look a little deeper and you’ll realize that it has some pretty kickass women characters taking the lead of the adventures, which is fairly unusual for prime-time network TV. But Sleepyheads (fans of the show) know that there’s a lot more to our favorite show than that. At the Sleepy Hollow roundtable I attended on the final day of NYCC, cast and show runners took us deeper into what makes Sleepy Hollow one of the best shows on television.
In case you aren’t familiar with the term “roundtable,” (and I wasn’t until this past weekend), it’s basically speed dating between reporters, photographers, and talent. A decent number of reporters sit down at a table (ours had about nine or so, with more standing around due to Sleepy’s popularity) with two members of the cast and crew. The press fires questions at them for about ten minutes, somebody waves their hand to tell us time is up, and the talent shifts to the next table. On Sunday, the talent consisted of Orlando Jones (Frank Irving), Lyndie Greenwood (Jenny Mills), Sakina Jaffrey (Sheriff Leena Reyes), Executive Producer Len Wiseman, Executive Producer Mark Goffman, and writer Raven Metzner. With each round of interviews, we got some more insight into why they all love working on the show. And since I spoke to them all for ten minutes and we’re all best buddies now, I’m just going to call them by their first names. We’re totally not, but I can pretend.
First to our table were Lyndie Greenwood and Raven Metzner, who were awesome. Both were happy to talk about Sleepy’s strong female characters, and Raven spoke at length about what it means to him to be a part of the show, particularly since he has five sisters: “[W]riting on a show where there are really strong, powerful women…it’s a great thing. I’ve been surrounded by strong women my whole life, and it’s a real gift to have these phenomenal actors to play these roles…To be able to write a scene with two strong women talking about—not talking about men, but talking about their own lives and/or their own mission or whatever they’re doing—is a rare thing and kind of awesome.”
Riffing off of that, Lyndie was asked about the Mills sisters’ relationship: “I think that’s what’s so beautiful about Abbie and Jenny, is that they’ve worked really hard to get where they are now, and they’re going to try and maintain this relationship. They’re really all they have, right? It’s like Jenny, Abbie is her everything, really. But, they’re thrown challenges all the time. So trying to keep this healthy relationship—healthy? one that’s growing to be healthy—through it all is really interesting.”
And yes, someone did ask the obligatory “Are Jenny and Irving going to get together?” question, because a lot of Sleepyheads are pulling for the town’s BAMFs to get together. (It was not me, I swear, although I did use the term BAMF when asking Lyndie a question.) Lyndie gave us an answer without really giving us an answer, since of course she can’t say what’s going to happen during the rest of the season: “I can’t answer that. But, yeah, the chemistry is very interesting actually. We didn’t know that that was gonna happen. When Orlando and I first worked together, the reaction from the fans was really surprising. We were like “What? Oh, we didn’t realize that was there.” But we’re really great friends and I think you kind of read that on screen, which is great.”
Speed dating round one ended and we were onto round two, which brought Orlando Jones and Len Wiseman to our table. These two are incredibly funny in addition to being well-spoken; at one point someone was taking a picture of Orlando and Len remarked “That’s going to be a really bad angle” before adjusting Orlando into a more flattering position. They quickly got down to business when discussing Sleepy, though.
Both dropped some tantalizing hints about character alliance reversals. Although everyone knows by now that Irving has unwillingly signed a contract with the Horseman of War (Henry), it sounds like there might be more to the story. Orlando told us that Irving is “…desperately clawing at trying to put his life back together, put his family back together, and always having it fall out of his grasp. I think that’s a really difficult thing for him, and I think that’s really what keeps him up at night…It’s like temptation at every turn for him, but it keeps turning. Where you are in the series, it’s going to get really interesting, because by the time we get to midseason, it’s a whole different world for him.” Len Wiseman teased us a little more shortly after, stating “You get to have characters that you start out hating possibly, toward the end of the season is the character that you love the most.” Sounds like Henry might be turning back to the light?
They both also discussed the cinematic nature of Sleepy, which is only natural given Len’s history in film (Underworld, anyone?). He told us that “we do try to make every episode like a mini-movie…[W]hen doing the pilot, I thought ‘Well, I’ll change my way of shooting to fit a television schedule,’ and then once you start shooting, you just realize there is no different way of shooting. You just shoot the way you shoot. I just had to do it really, really fast.”
Orlando is a huge Sleepyhead, so it was no surprise when he added “[T]o watch somebody who’s…been in the $100 million dollar big movie game come and do a television show and then accomplish that cinematic value…It’s the fabric of the story. When you think about these characters, you think about how you know Ichabod, seeing his world is a huge part of how he’s endeared to you. I feel that way as a fan. So it’s nice to be on a show where I get to geek out and fanboy every week.”
And then we were onto round three with Mark Goffman and Sakina Jaffrey. When Mark speaks, you get the sense that he has the whole Sleepy ‘verse for the next five seasons plotted out in his mind. Sakina was a late addition to the round table, and a total delight to talk to. She often speaks as though she actually is Reyes, talking about the character’s background in the first person. Sakina and Mark mostly focused on the family aspect of the show, which they both believe to be one of the show’s central themes.
Mark told us that the writers and show runners liked playing with “…how family is pitted against duty…knowing that your family is going to be thrown into the mix, there’s always going to be that ‘I’ve got to keep you grounded, I’ve got to keep it real, I’m gonna try to do what I can to let you know how I’m feeling,’ but you know what?…when you’re also talking about someone’s wife, when you’re talking about someone’s son, or someone’s sister, I think those bonds get tested. And that’s what we like to see. We’re going to test them in every way we can think of.” Sounds pretty dire for Abbie and Ichabod.
Sakina went further, stating “[T]here’s so much of this idea of ‘Do you give up on somebody in your family? Do you give up on a relationship?’ I think that as humans, we’re always sort of ‘Is that person worth it?’ Again and again, Ichabod and his relationship with Headless and Katrina, and the idea that she keeps on wanting to believe in her son. I weep every time I read those, it’s so beautiful. Whether Abbie wants to give up on her mother or give up on her sister, that sort of hero fighting through those issues is so compelling.”
Shortly after that, the speed dating was over. Nancy and I went downstairs to the mainstage, caught the panel (featuring a lot of bantering between Orlando and his castmates, Orlando and the show runners, and Orlando and the audience). Never fear, Sleepyheads, he still wants a romantic entanglement with Molloch, saying that he wants “to get Molloch pregnant” because “maybe my love would turn him.” Yeah, Orlando’s still Orlando, serious demeanor at the round table or not.
A few extra tidbits (in other words, what have we got to look forward to?):
- More Hawley. We were definitely told there would be more Hawley, although no one could answer my question about where Hawley got the photo for the passport he forged for Ichabod. (I still think it’s a legit question.)
- More Ichabod vs. the twenty-first century moments (Mark Goffman specifically promised yoga, karaoke, and slow internet speeds).
- More details about why Andy Brooks (John Cho’s character) is so intent on helping Abbie. In the panel, Len Wiseman told us “I actually sent him [John Cho] a three-page document on Abbie and Andy’s backstory. So yes, it’s still a story that’s going to come out.”
- Abbie making out with Reyes. No, just kidding, although Sakina Jaffrey did say “Well, those lips, I’m sorry. They’re so beautiful.” (She was joking, too.)
So what was the highlight of the whole event? For me, I have to say it was when Orlando applauded my having a tattoo of Ben Franklin’s signature. (That one came out when I asked if there had been any backlash against the way Sleepy has created a secret history of the U.S. from this historical community—a thing that happens—and Orlando said “Well, Ben Franklin’s pissed.”
I am not going to lie to you, this was my first time interviewing a cast and I was literally shaking when Nancy and I got in that room. After all, last year I was just a fangirl watching the Sleepy Hollow panel on the Empire Stage. But everyone was just as awesome as you always hope they’ll be and I got myself together by the third round of speed dating.
So yeah, there you have it. Not a whole lot of surprises revealed about the new season (we could hardly expect that), but a behind the scenes look at the issues and aspects that are most important to the cast and show-runners: family, ethical decisions, strong women, and the show’s cinematic scope. Sleepy Hollow is only three episodes into this season, but it’s already been a roller-coaster ride. If you aren’t watching it yet, you should be.