'Sleepy Hollow' Stars Reveal Season 2 Secrets: Everything Is Turned Up a Gear

Ahead of Monday's premiere, Tom Mison and Nicole Beharie help THR break down the anticipated return
Brownie Harris/FOX
"Sleepy Hollow"

Sleepy Hollow is getting crazier than ever.

Fox's breakout supernatural police procedural returns for its sophomore season embracing the zaniness that has become its hook. Just consider the events of the finale: Within the span of a few minutes, Ichabod Crane discovered that Henry Parrish was in fact his son, Jeremy, and that he was the second of the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse and as a result, Ichabod was locked up in a pine box. Whew.

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"We jumped the shark in the pilot. We kicked the shark in the face. There’s no shark anymore. There’s no line. We can’t cross the line because there isn’t one," star Tom Mison, who plays the charming but technologically-inept Ichabod, tells The Hollywood Reporter over morning drinks at The London in West Hollywood.

Nicole Beharie, who portrays Police Lieutenant Abbie Mills echoes that sentiment, "As long as the audience is with it. But we have to ground some things. Occasionally we do open a script and think, 'Yeah, really? Are people going to go with this?' But it works."

Mison and Beharie talk to The Hollywood Reporter ahead of the season-two return about the overwhelming reaction to last year, season-two wishes (a musical episode!), selfies and the genius of Pitbull. Yes, Pitbull.

Are you still surprised by the reaction to the first season?

Tom Mison: I was surprised at the scale of the reaction. You’d think it would be a niche show that would appeal to a very niche market, so to then suddenly get a huge wave of appreciation is a really nice surprise because it was a risky job. It was a risky thing for Fox to invest so much into. So I think there was a big sigh of relief when the pilot aired and there was such a big, positive feedback. But yeah, I was surprised. I always believed in it, but it’s whether other people watching do as well. And they did.

Is it helpful that it covers many genres?

Nicole Beharie: I feel like it does. We have history, and then we have criminal affairs. What better way to conquer every problem that you could possibly face? How do people learn how to fight war? By studying history. So you have your historian, and you have your modern-day vigilante-type character. They also made it possible to incorporate socialites and the lower-ranking part of society, and every racial demographic. I don’t know how they’ve done it, but even this season, reading all the episodes, they found a way to bring in every possible type of person in the spectrum.

Mison: What’s really nice is that there are never really conversations about their race or their social standing. It’s just they’re there. They’re part of the world. So that’s probably why it’s nothing forced, because they fit in naturally, as they do in the real world, without making a huge thing of it, which is so rare.

Beharie: That’s what’s amazing because you think, “Oh it’s niche. It’s sci-fi fantasy.” But it isn’t because everyone can watch it and relate to one of the characters in some way. If you don’t like the history stuff you’re going to like the explosions, or you’re going to like the hot sister with the two guns, or you’re going to like Orlando Jones. You have a little bit of everything.

Mison: The one thing that Alex Kurtzman said early on is we’ve got a guy who built the country, who can look at it now and how much of what they wanted to achieve from independence, how much is it successful and in what areas is it not successful?

Beharie: What does Ichabod think of the current world?  We’ve seen his commentary on different things and topics.

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Is Ichabod OK with where things stand in the modern era?

Mison: No, everything’s stupid. The really nice thing is that there are small lines. Like there was one last season about environmental issues, and then there was one line about the damaging narcissism. This season we have a little moment about selfies, which is very funny. There are good things and there are bad things that he finds. And yes, he likes donut holes and struggles with plastic.

What’s been the most surprising thing fans have gravitated towards?

Beharie: That people are so detail-oriented. Because of the nature of how we presented the show and the way that they edit it, they put a lot of care into the way everything is tying up in the end. With Henry’s character, you didn’t see that coming. The type of people that are watching the show are looking for every little possible piece of evidence. They see glimpses of Tom and I looking at each other as confirmation that “They’re in love.” Then you’re like, “What? They were just saying, ‘Yes, let’s walk to the door.’”

I remember Tom saying at PaleyFest back in the spring that you Googled it, right?

Mison: It’s a culture that I hadn’t really come across before: where you find a show, you love two characters, and you really want them to be together. I think that’s such a compliment that they want to invest so much in us. We put all of our hard work into building our characters, but then I was kind of expecting people to go, “Oh, Headless is amazing,” and “Oh god, the Sandman is amazing.” So for people to get their interest as much as all the monsters is a huge compliment. And then, as Nicole said, to want to write stories about them and create art, that’s what I love about the show so much. It inspires people to create.

Were you surprised at all at the finale reveal?

Beharie: We kind of knew it was coming. I knew [Henry] was your son, but I didn’t know about the war until we read it. The way that it was done was really wonderfully executed. When you go back and watch John Noble’s performance after knowing that, it’s so sweet. It’s perfect. He gives you these little moments when he’s cleaning his room and he looks up, and you’re like, “Oh, you demon. You’re just like the worst.”

Mison: John Noble’s a clever man.

Can you talk about season two? There’s a lot of great new faces that are coming in, such as a new sheriff in town and a new arms dealer.

We’ve worked with our new sheriff. It’s going to be a really nice new relationship. We had Orlando [Jones] last year as Frank Irving, who’s now locked up. After so much hard work getting him on our side, to suddenly having a new sheriff who’s a ball-breaker [is a step back]. Everything is by the book — rules, rules, rules. We know we can’t tell her about the Horseman of Death and the Horseman of War because that’s already got Irving locked up. That’s going to add a nice new dynamic, where just as thing are really reaching a peak we now have to tip toe.

Beharie: You never know. Like Abbie says, there’s always a way.

Mison: We also have an arms dealer who’s desperately attractive. There will be plenty more looks from Ichabod over towards Abbie that will have the Ichabod tweeters raving.

Beharie: Oh dear. But the world of the show is expanding. It’s getting bigger and more complicated.

Is season two going to be darker because of the war aspect?

Beharie: It was pretty dark last year.

Mison: It got there towards the end. They’re losing. That’s where the season starts, [with Ichabod and Abbie] on the back foot, so they have to turn everything up a gear. Equally, the people who are winning are turning up a gear. So it probably will get darker in that sense.

What has been the most grotesque or outlandish thing you’ve seen on the set?

Mison: It frightened me the first time we saw the Sandman.

Beharie: I’m a little superstitious. My family’s West Indian; we used to tell ghost stories at Christmas. Every time we have to do an incantation of some sort, which we do regularly, I have a minor freak-out, like “What if…” Some of the stuff we do is based on some seed of truth or some sort of demon in mythology. There’s a little bit of history in terms of where it comes from, so I get weirded out, truly, every now and then.

Mison: I never knew that.

Beharie: I told you that before!

Mison: I thought you were joking!

Beharie: I looked at you like, “What are we doing? What are we saying?” I’ll look something up online. In the first week I was like, “What’s Moloch? Oh my god, this is real. We can’t possibly be doing this.” Then I asked my grandma if she knew about it: “Oh yeah, baby.” I was living alone last year in a little cottage in an old colonial district of North Carolina. They cut the grass and along the side of my hedges there were three tombstones in my yard. Then we ended up shooting there.

Mison: Because it was particularly spooky.

Favorite episode in season one?

Beharie: The finale. You get to see what everybody’s doing, and it ties up so well.

Mison: That was the only one where we were separate, so watching it back, it was like a new experience. My favorite to watch was Paul Revere’s midnight ride. That’s the one where I was laughing constantly — not only at the jokes, but when I think something is really corny. At the very beginning where you see Paul Revere on the ride and then the Headless Horseman appears next to him and cuts people’s heads off, I thought this show is so mental. That really struck a good balance of humor, urgency and danger.

Is there anything you want to do this season that you haven’t gotten to do?

Beharie: I want to dance. I feel like everyone’s excited about the historical content, but there’s some great things about the current time. Music and dancing and airplanes. I want to be a mermaid, and I want to sing on the show.

Mison: I want to be a centaur, I want to grow wings and I want to sing.

Beharie: We want to do a musical episode where somehow we’re enchanted and we all have to sing.

Mison: I’d be down for that.

What kind of modern music do you think Ichabod would love?

Mison: This is a man who had Mozart around in his time. So for him, Chopin’s “Nocturnes” would be an act of rebellion. So for him to hear Pitbull... I think he’d appreciate Pitbull for his enthusiasm. (Laughs.) That’s something I regularly think about: His reaction to certain music. There was a scene in an early draft of one of the episodes with Ichabod hearing Billie Holiday for the first time. It just stunned him, and moved him to tears. I thought it was a beautiful scene. It just didn’t make the shooting script. We have lots of [moments with] him confused by this and disgruntled by that, but there are also things of incredible beauty that he would appreciate.

Sleepy Hollow premieres 9 p.m. Monday on Fox.

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