Broadcast television has seen monkeys, robots and aliens as leading characters, but Sleepy Hollow will take things one step further this fall when a man without a head takes center stage on Fox.
After being frozen in time for 250 years, Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) awakes to partner with Sleepy Hollow's sheriff Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) to solve the mysteries of a town ravaged by strange crimes. In his past life — or life in the past, as it were -- Gen. George Washington enlisted Crane to fight the forces of evil, namely the Four Horsemen. In death, Crane's life became intertwined with Death's — or as the producers like to call him, Headless. Now both are back in the present, much to the dismay of the Sleepy Hollow residents, including Abbie's boss Capt. Frank Irving (Orlando Jones).
"There's something really fun about taking imagery we're all familiar with — like the Headless Horseman and Ichabod Crane — and revising it to something really fresh," executive producer Mark Goffman said at the Television Critics Association fall TV previews Thursday. "Everything you thought you knew about the way our country was founded is completely blown apart."
The story of the Four Horsemen — and their implications for Sleepy Hollow's connection to the Bible — is as old as time. But the Fox drama will strive to bring a fish-out-of-water look at both Headless and Ichabod. "We've always known [Headless] as the character with the sword and the ax, and if he were confronted with modern-day weapons, would he notice that and adapt to that?" executive producer Len Wiseman said. "When he does come back into the series from time to time, he is still a man. He's not just going to be a creature. We're fascinated by how cunning and calculating [he is] without being expressive."
The producers noted that we'll also see Headless when he, well, had a head via historical flashbacks that will reveal his origin story. But there's a very important reason why he needs to retrieve his head, which Icabod and partner Abbie try to keep away from him throughout the premiere. "It's the Four Horsemen, so he's one of them, and the other three horseman are set up to be just as cool and just as daunting as the other guy," Wiseman added. "The Headless Horseman is actually almost a mistake. He was Death, who Ichabod killed on the battlefield... but once he gets his head back, he's a part of the bigger picture."
But Headless won't be the only force of evil those in Sleepy Hollow will be facing. "The Horseman is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the evil we'll see on the show," Goffman added.
Fortunately, Crane will help the town navigate how to defeat evil, even though he himself is having a hard time in the future. "He can be this wonderful lens through which we can view this world," executive producer Alex Kurtzman said, noting that Ichabod died upholding the ideals of early America, so he may be shocked when he wakes up to see how everything has changed.
"Ichabod always thinks he's the only sane person in the room," Mison said. "He finds this one girl who has a similar secret to him and they have to bond with each other pretty quickly. They're working together out of necessity, but they start to have a common aim, despite being 250 years apart." But that doesn't mean the pair will trust each other, with Beharie adding: "I would still say there's skepticism, of course. We have a long way to go."
Suffice it to say, the interweaving mythology makes Sleepy Hollow a heavily serialized series, but the producers have no qualms about it. Kurtzman assured critics that Fox would not pick up the series until they explained the first season in totality, so they knew where the show will go. "I'm really interested to see what the rest of the mythology of the apocalypse is," Jones said.
Sleepy Hollow premieres Monday, Sept. 16 at 9/8c on Fox. Will you be watching?