Everyone has their own version of “Sleepy Hollow.” Some people recall reading Washington Irving’s short story “The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” (published in 1820) in elementary school. For others, it’s the 1999 “Sleepy Hollow” movie starring Johnny Depp and directed by Tim Burton. One thing’s for certain. There has never been a version of the tale as creative and audacious as the new FOX television series “Sleepy Hollow,” which premieres on Monday, September 16 at 9/8c on FOX.
A bold mash-up of the classic story, history, procedural and fantasy, it’s definitely unlike anything else on television. A time-traveling Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) wakes up in 2013, determined to get revenge on his nemesis the Headless Horseman, and teams up with a sheriff (Nicole Beharie) who is no stranger to supernatural experiences.
Here are five things you need to know about “Sleepy Hollow”:
1. It’s Ichabod Crane Meets Rip Van Winkle Meets The Bible Meets The Kitchen Sink. Every single piece of pop and high culture that you have ever been exposed to is a part of the “Sleepy Hollow” mythology. Executive producer Mark Goffman explains, “We have a Headless Horseman. We have this legend of Ichabod Crane. And then, it’s re-conceived in such a way that now there’s the Revolutionary War and we just sort of pull back the veil. And everything you thought you know about the way our country was founded is completely blown apart. Co-creator Alex Kurtzman explains that Ichabod Crane doesn’t really travel to the 21st century. He just takes a very long nap. “[We are taking] SLEEPY HOLLOW and taking the “Rip Van Winkle” story and finding a way to take the spirit of what was great about both of them and put them together.”
Since good things always come in threes, the producers managed to connect the Headless Horseman to some other famous riders. “You know, it’s the Four Horsemen [of the Apocalypse], so he’s one of them,” explains executive producer Len Wiseman. “In fact, what I really loved about this idea is that we find out in our version of it that the Headless Horseman is, actually, he’s actually almost a mistake… his death… [he was] who Ichabod killed on the battlefield. Death became who we all associate with The Headless Horseman.”
2. It Brings Levity to the Supernatural Genre. These days, most genre television takes itself very seriously. “Sleepy Hollow” aims to tell a supernatural tale that will put a smile on your face. Says Wiseman, “I can say one of the main missions was fun. I mean, we really wanted to be a fun and entertaining show. It was just finding the right tone and the right balance of horror and suspense and the fantasy element. But we just kept making sure that we want it to be really fun, so that’s the first thing that was a real goal of ours.”
3. The Headless Horseman, Soon With 100 Percent More Head. The Headless Horseman is also alive and well and wreaking havoc in 2013. Said Wiseman, “One of the things that we were excited about but also were shouldering, was to present the Headless Horseman in a new light… And we’ve always known him as the character with the swords and the ax. And if he were to be confronted with our modern day weapons, would he take note of that and adapt that.” But, in this version of the story, not only does he have a trio of apocalyptic homeboys, he eventually will acquire a head. “Once he gets his head back, he’s part of that bigger picture. He just happens to, right now, be the Headless Horseman… he needs his head for a specific reason, too.”
4. Ichabod Crane Is Sexy Now. Forget the wimpy, nerdy Ichabod Crane we’ve seen before. This Ichabod is a man of action, who strives to understand his new world, battle his enemies and free his wife, who is trapped on another plane. “We really wanted to show a different version of Crane,” said Wiseman. He’s tied into the Apocalypse in a way. He’s a professor and as a professor, with our version, he is almost like the Clark Kent to who he is as this guy who’s following this quest to fight the Apocalypse and was brought in by Washington and given this secret order and brought into the secret order. So it was a fun way to look at [him]: he has the professor element to him, and it plays hand in hand with how he uncovers a lot through our series. But it was almost his cover, his day job.”
As for his wife, “From the moment he hears that she’s trapped, it’s figuring out how is she still alive, where is she exactly, and how can he free her, and that really gives us a lot of territory to go over the next couple episodes,” says Goffman. Wiseman adds, ” Ichabod’s just trying to make sense of what even that realm is that she’s in. And he has to figure out the clues…Is it a dream? Is it hell? Is it purgatory? Are they visions? And then he starts to get clues within his reality that we find she’s able to break through and leave these messages and clues about how to free her, how to contact her.”
As for Ichabod’s unlikely friendship with Lieutenant Abbie Mills (Beharie), Mison says, “I’ve always thought of Ichabod as he thinks he’s the only sane person in the room. Everyone around him is a maniac. And then he finds this one girl who has a similar secret to him, so they kind of have to bond with each other very quickly.”
5. It is Also Social Commentary. If time travel and a complicated mythology weren’t enough to pique your interest, the show also features some subtle social commentary. Says Kurtzman, ”I think part of what got us excited about Ichabod was that he could be this wonderful lens through which we now view our world. You know, this is a man who actually was put to sleep right before the United States came together and he died, theoretically, fighting for ideals that are now the founding principles of our country. And so what happens when you wake up over 250 years later to see what those ideals have become, how are they fulfilling the promise of what they were to be and how are they betraying them?”
“Sleepy Hollow” premieres Monday, Sept. 16 at 9/8c on FOX.