Fox's Sleepy Hollow is the ultimate fish-out-of-water story — and yet, it's a tale that many viewers will be familiar with.
In this version of the classic story, Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) wakes up in present day Sleepy Hollow after being frozen in time for 250 years, and the police department — including town sheriff Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) and her new boss Capt. Frank Irving (Orlando Jones) — are hesitant to believe Crane's claims. But when a Headless Horsemen, whom Crane was enlisted to track down in the past, begins ravaging the present day, Abbie and Crane team up to fight the forces of evil.
But that Headless Horsemen — also known as Death — is actually one of four, as in the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse from the Bible's book of Revelations. To get the scoop on the new series, TVGuide.com sat down with executive producers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman.
Talk about the relationship between Abbie and Ichabod as they're navigating this new world together.
Roberto Orci: She's the only who believes, possibly, that he's telling the truth. Even though she doesn't want to fully admit it, he is intuitive enough to read her and know that's the case. She herself has a past where she saw something weird. In the pilot, she sees a Headless Horsemen, and yet she got in a lot of trouble for the things she saw in the past, so it's not a safe thing to tell people you've seen a UFO or a Headless Horsemen. They come together out of necessity. They're two outcasts and they can only rely on each other and lean on each other. If there's going to be chemistry, you want it to come out of that, as opposed to forcing something. They meet in turmoil and have to be together in order to get answers from each other. I love the moment at the end of the pilot where they smile at each other and it's the first real moment of friendship after the horsemen has ridden off into the sunrise. There's a little bit of romance, but mostly it's, "You were there for me, friend." That's a lot harder thing to earn than to simply put two attractive people together in a room and have them make snuggling noises.
Alex Kurtzman: Is there a noise to snuggling?
Orci: I had some dirty word in mind that got turned into snuggling noises. [Laughs] You could see how that would happen. I could've said make sweet, sweet love, but I hate that term.
Will we see flashbacks to Ichabod's past?
Kurtzman: Yes. There will be a flashback in every episode. One of the motors of the show is that whatever the investigative case of the week is will unearth something critical in the past.
Orci: And vice versa.
Kurtzman: So the key to solving the crime is looking to the past so you don't repeat it. That will mean flashbacks; some of them will be Ichabod's point of view, things he's experienced, some of them will be things he learned as a professor, some of it will be things they read that they unearth. In the second episode, they will end up finding an archive of information that has been hidden for a very long time. That's going to be a treasure trove of secret histories they'll be able to look at that will then prompt our flashbacks.
Is there a possibility there are other immortals in Sleepy Hollow?
Kurtzman: Absolutely. [In the pilot, it's said], "There were two covens hidden in the town, one good and one evil. They reintegrated in the town after the witch trials and have been hiding here in secret." That suggests there are good guys and bad guys and you never quite know who they are, but they're there.
Orci: You don't want to rely on immortals too much, but there's an institutional knowledge within the town. They're all decedents of the people in the town. This is a small place, in a sense. The east coast has a longer history that we're not used to here in California. Buildings here are 30 years old! Secrets can be handed down through secret societies and families that can still make people in the town, even if they're mortals, take a side one way or the other.
Kurtzman: When you're dealing with witches, you're already dealing with an association of mortality or supernatural. That doesn't mean that everyone in the town is a witch.
Since the storyline has a connection to the Bible, what stories are you being inspired by from that?
Kurtzman: I think we gravitated toward the Bible as being really relevant to our storytelling once it became about the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse.
Orci: There are a lot of characters that we are inspired by in The Bible. There are a lot of characters that play into coming in and out of the apocalypse — The Seven Signs, what's our version of that and who can we adapt that that's not so obvious? Even the population of Sleepy Hollow is 144,000 — that's a number from the Bible. There are a lot of details from the Bible, but we're not trying to do the Bible literally. But the Bible in a more general sense as a marker for American history; we're being inspired by American history and the legends of our cultures. The Bible is the starting point, but we want to visit various cultures' interpretations of religion and posit the idea of any bible in any culture is, in a way, a description and an impressionistic interpretation of the one true world religion that we must all be somehow apart of.
Kurtzman: Everyone has different interpretations of the Bible and what it means. Ultimately, whether you believe the stories literally or you think they're allegory or metaphor, they are about how we live our lives and they are a search of meaning of why we're here on the planet and what our purpose is as a species. Each story raises a question about how we live our lives, so in that sense, it's the best and the first drama. It really is. It's an endless well that we can draw from.
What can you tell us about the supernatural beings we'll see on the show?
Orci: It's about who's in charge and also [Headless] getting the band back together, him trying to reunite the Four Horsemen. He's one of four, obviously. It's a war and you should think of them as generals in the war, therefore they have many soldiers that we will face. It was interesting to have some people that we pitched the story to not realize that the Headless Horsemen was not originally one of the Four Horsemen of the apocalypse from the short story. The short story was just a 17-page beautiful little thing. Some people thought, "Was the short story about the Four Horsemen?" You believe it that the Headless Horsemen is a horrifying figure and could be one of the Four Horsemen of the apocalypse. So linking that to this myth and letting that be a gateway into the myths of the world is great. It's them coming together and it's them servicing a demon who shall remain nameless until he's named. They're all up to something.
Every villain is the hero of their own story. Is there a possibility that maybe whatever entity this is isn't entirely all bad? Or are they just straight villains?
Kurtzman: One of the things we're really excited about is that later in the season, we're going to find out more about Headless in flashbacks. The question is: Was he always Death? Does Death move from body to body? Was he ever a man before he became Death? Who was that guy?
Orci: Was he maybe a good guy who was tempted and sold his soul?
Kurtzman: All of those things are going to make for really interesting gray areas in storytelling. The best bad guys are not mustache twirlers. The best ones are those whose motivations you totally relate to, you just maybe wouldn't cross the line that they've crossed. Those are always the most interesting stories to watch.
Orci: Revelations itself is gray. It's the day where all the worthy actually ascend to heaven and the rest of us stay here, so it's a good thing? Some people are waiting for that because they think it'll be their transcendence to a better world while the rest of us have to remain here.
Since the show incorporates a case-of-the-week, are there cases that are not quite supernatural? In other words, are there normal things inSleepy Hollow?
Kurtzman: My instinct is that a case can appear at first to be a normal murder or a normal disappearance, but what will make our show unique and different is the minute you start examining that case, you realize there's something else going on there.
In the premiere, you set a lofty goal in saying this is a seven-year story. In this day and age, it's harder to keep an audience attracted to a series. Do you worry about planting that seed?
Kurtzman: In many ways, it's a response to another very common fan concern we often hear, which is, "They didn't have a plan."
Orci: "They don't know where it's going!"
Kurtzman: "It was a great pilot, but then what?" As we were looking through Bible stories, we came across seven years of tribulations and two witnesses chosen to work out whether or not the apocalypse will happen. It was perfect. It was right there for us. But, that being said, I think we have very consciously made a choice to say, "You are going to be satisfied by each episode." Yes, if you want to wait seven years to find out whether or not the apocalypse is, OK. That's the end game, but that's not necessarily the day-to-day of the show. The day-to-day of the show will have its own satisfying questions. What's going on in the town of Sleepy Hollow? What's going on with Abbie and Crane? Is Irving good or bad? Will Crane find [his wife] Katrina (Katia Winter) again? There's a million things that will keep you invested in that, but that's the big picture.
Orci: But we did use that particular passage to pressure the network to keep it on the air, to say, "It's in the Bible!" [Laughs]
Kurtzman: [Laughs] Do you want to defy The Bible?
How long can these supernatural happenings be kept contained within Sleepy Hollow?
Orci: The town does start to become frightened immediately that weird things are afoot. On the other hand, they're trying to contain it a little bit. Abbie literally tells Ichabod, "You can't tell people you were in the Revolutionary War."
Kurtzman: "You are a visiting professor from Oxford with a degree in the Revolutionary War! That's what you are."
Orci: But they start to become aware of it. We're playing the reality that the town is getting creeped out, but the town has a true memory and they'll start to get more and more freaked out. That's part of the theme of the show: How can evil cause us to do evil? Through our fears. Evil doesn't have to suffocate you in your bed. It can make you afraid of your neighbor and that's pretty bad too. You can't keep it fully secret for very long, but you can navigate it and actually make it a story point. Can you keep this in the box and how long can you do it? It's actually a cool story point.
Sleepy Hollow premieres Monday at 9/8c on Fox. Will you be watching?