When “Sleepy Hollow” arrives on FOX this fall, audiences will be introduced to a whole new take on the classic tale of Ichabod Crane and the Headless Horseman.
Using Washington Irving’s iconic short story as the basis for a weekly drama may seem limiting, but co-creator Roberto Orci (“Fringe”) told journalists at TCA’s summer press tour the creative team views it as a “great starting point.”
To begin with, the premise borrows from another classic Irving story, “Rip Van Winkle,” as Ichabod (Tom Mison, “Parade’s End”) starts off in the Revolutionary War era, gets injured on the battlefield and inexplicably wakes up in the present day. That’s where he meets local cop Abbie (Nicole Beharie, “42”) and together they’re ensnared in a supernatural mystery with ties to U.S. history, the Bible and forces beyond their imaginations.
“I think there’s something really fun about taking imagery we’re already familiar with and revising it in a way that’s new and fresh,” executive producer Mark Goffman (“White Collar”) says. “We have the Headless Horseman, we have the legend of Ichabod Crane and there’s the Revolutionary War … we pull back in a way where everything you thought you knew about the way our country was founded [could be wrong].”
Conceiving Ichabod as a character from the 18th Century allows for a direct examination of how much things have changed since the birth of the USA, according to co-creator Alex Kurtzman (“The Amazing Spider-Man 2”): “What happens when you wake up over 200 years later to see what those [Revolutionary War] ideals have become? How are they fulfilling the promise and how are they betraying them?”
But first and foremost, “Sleepy Hollow,” is designed as a genre romp mixing horror, comedy, romance, action and suspense. And that’s partly where Ichabod’s nemesis, the Headless Horseman, comes in.
“He is still a man, he’s not going to just be a creature,” director and co-creator Len Wiseman explains. “We’re really fascinated by how cunning and calculating and how much personality you can get from somebody when they’re not expressing [emotions].”
“What would an interrogation scene look like if Headless was on the other side of the table?” Kurtzman wonders. “How would that work? How would he respond?”
“He can write,” Wiseman jokes. “Apparently he can hear. There’s a lot of things like that.”
Even though the pilot’s version of the Headless Horseman is a badass killing machine, there’s only so far a show can go with a single, expression-less, enemy. “The Horseman is the tip of the iceberg in terms of the evil we’ll get to see on the show,” Goffman says. “We also wanted to humanize him, so part of the fun of the show is getting to do these historical flashbacks and see his origins.”
And in addition to the flashbacks, there’s a good chance the Horseman won’t be Headless forever. “He needs his head for a specific reason,” Wiseman teases. Don’t we all?