Sleepy Hollow’s Tom Mison Talks to SciFi Mafia About the Intriguing Ichabod Crane




Sleepy Hollow Ichabod wide


Tom Mison, who plays Ichabod Crane on Fox‘s freshman series Sleepy Hollow, is one of the key components of the show’s success. He embodies the role with grace, power, and charm, and it doesn’t hurt that he is a geek’s dream. Although he commands the screen with his intensity, he is in no way overbearing, and his scenes with co-star Nicole Beharie are scenes between captivating equals.

Mison very kindly participated in a Q&A conference call with members of the press last week, and SciFi Mafia was lucky enough to get the last questions in:

SciFiMafia.com:  Given the unusual premise, what is it that initially attracted you to the role?

Tom Mison:  The unusual premise. It was something that had so many elements to it, and the show as a whole throws in so many different styles and different genres, and Ichabod is caught up in the middle of that. I mean you don’t get parts like this very often. You don’t get shows like this very often. I can’t think of very many others that are like this. Also knowing that it’s a part that, as I said earlier, I don’t know whether I would have got it in England, and I knew that it would be hard work.

When this job came up there were other offers thrown at me that wouldn’t have been as much of a challenge, and I knew that if I took on Ichabod Crane in this incarnation of Sleepy Hollow it’s going to be a tough job and it’s going to keep me on my toes and keep my imagination fired up. I mean there’s nothing better than that. It’s good to work hard.

SciFiMafia.com: And is that still your favorite aspect of the show or is there something else that you have surprisingly found as something you love even more than that?

Tom Mison: I’m sorry to be absolutely disgusting, but working with Nicole is such a treat. I think that’s something that – for the rest of my career I’ll look back on this job and hold it in really high regard a bit largely thanks to Nicole.

And it’s been my coat and boots, obviously. The coat and boots, well, I’ll remember those for a long time.

As I said, mine were the last questions; due to time constraints, there were others who weren’t able to ask theirs. So after I thanked him, he replied:

Tom Mison: It’s a pleasure. Thank you. I’m sorry for everyone who didn’t get a chance to ask a question, but thank you for being patient despite no reward at the end. Now I’m opening laughing at you. Sorry, but I can’t hear anyone. Skynet has gone Pentium. Escape, everyone. There’s one person laughing at me and I don’t know who it is and it’s very intimidating.

That was me. The man is a treat. A biscuit and a treat. The transcript of the entire Q&A session, including his reference to Doctor Who, the two questions that come up in every single interview – yes, one of them is about his getting a new wardrobe – and more, scroll past the show info. Don’t miss tonight’s new episode; click here for our spoiler-free review.

Thanks so much to the completely charming Tom Mison for the great Q&A session, and for the wonderful work on Sleepy Hollow.

Sleepy Hollow, starring Tom MisonNicole BeharieOrlando Jones, and John Noble, airs Mondays at 9/8c on Fox.

 

Q. I’ve been really impressed with Ichabod as he is very intelligent and a very proper man, and he balances out really well with Abbie, who’s kind of shown herself to be willing to bend the rules when necessary. Are there any circumstances that we’ll see Ichabod be willing to kind of bend the rules or act out, beyond he yelled at Abbie once, but beyond that he’s really kept very calm.

Tom Mison: Yes. I think without giving too much away, when things start to get very personal, when there are revelations that are personal attacks on Crane and his past, that’s when the rules start to fly out of the window, and he starts misbehaving a little bit more. Yes. I’m trying not to spoil it. I’m sorry?

Q. Is that fun to play when he kind of gets to act out a bit?

Tom Mison: Oh, it’s nice. Every chance to show a different side to Ichabod is great. As a very obvious example, the difference between Ichabod we see in the 18th Century and the modern-day Ichabod. There are different sides to him, and equally the well behaved and the less well behaved; the more unhinged Ichabod. There’s plenty of that to come, and I’m trying desperately not to throw spoilers at you or I’ll be in a lot of trouble.

Q. That’s okay. You can tease a little, right?

Tom Mison: Yes. The personal and his past, revelations about his past. I think that’s as close as I can get, I’m afraid.

Q. Hi, Tom. I have the most pressing question of the day, maybe. Is Ichabod ever going to wear modern clothes?

Tom Mison: It was question number two. I was wondering how long it would be before that question comes up. I expected every question to be that. Yes. That will be mentioned very, very soon. You’ll see the question of clothes coming up. I think we quite liked having Ichabod in — give him an iconic look, which I think everyone’s managed to achieve rather nicely.

In terms of the character; he’s a long way from home, and 250 years away from home so anything that he can hold on to from his time, I think he certainly will. Any time you think of how much he stinks, just think of it as a big stinking security blanket that he carries around with him. Yes. That will be addressed shortly.

Q. All right. You’d think those clothes would be in tatters by now, but apparently they—

Tom Mison: At least he gave them a wash. Last episode he gave them a wash in the sink. He’s considerate.

Q. What’s sort of been the most fun as you’re putting on this character as you were creating this character, and getting into him? Was it the cadence of the language or the clothes or growing your hair long?

Tom Mison: I think it’s trying to work out how moody someone would be when they come out of the ground after 200 years. It’s been nice, as I said to the questioner before, finding the difference between Crane and his time and place, and Crane after all of this weird stuff has happened. It’s finding the balances, like the balances between that and the balance between Crane trying to hide his confusion at the world, and when it suddenly comes out.

There’s so much—there’s so many plates that need to be spun to keep Ichabod on track, and it’s hard work. It’s a really difficult part to play, but I think that’s what makes it so satisfying. There’s lots for me to sink my teeth into.

Q. The show has a premise that even its fans—and I am definitely a fan of the show—agree is somewhat implausible. Did you have any trepidation about signing on because of that rather outrageous concept for the show?

Tom Mison: I always like to have faith that an audience will suspend their disbelief if you present it to them in the right way. I find it peculiar when people scoff at one bold idea, and yet they’ll then turn over and watch a man travel through time in a police phone box. I think it’s just how you present the idea, and between Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci and Len Wiseman, their careers have been built on asking people to suspend their disbelief. Because I think once you do that, once you can get an audience to go with you on an idea, then you can just go anywhere, and that’s where the fun stuff happens. So no, no real trepidation, more faith in the great American public that they’ll join us, and luckily it seems to have paid off.

Q. Once of the things that has been so much fun to watch is seeing what you do with Ichabod in terms of blending the comedy of his reactions to the contemporary world, and the drama that comes up from the older world. How do you think about that balance? Is it difficult to not get too far into the comedy? How do you sort of think about that when you’re approaching it?

Tom Mison: Yes. The temptation could be to just go nuts on the comedy; not only for me but for the writers as well because there’s a wealth of things we can do with that. We worked out very early on, Len and I during the pilot, that the only way you can really sell the comedy is to play it as straight as the serious stuff.

Finding the balance between the confusion and those funny scenes and the more serious, “Oh my God, the apocalypse is coming” scenes. The way to balance them is to play them with a very similar tone rather than separating them as this is now a tragic scene and this is a comic scene. Everything is very real for Ichabod, and so we just have to try and play everything straight, which I think was a really good thing to find, and a bit of a saving grace in terms of performance. It also stops me from hamming it up.

Q. I’ve got to ask—Ichabod, he is a married man, though he certainly is in a very long-distance relationship right now. A lot of the audience is really quite fond of the chemistry between Ichabod and Abbie. Is there any chance that in the second half of the season we might see some romantic moments or flirtation between the two of them?

Tom Mison: And there it is. There’s the Ichabod/Abbie question. We’ve had the clothes, and the Ichabod/Abbie. Where from here? I think there is certainly something magic between Ichabod and Abbie. They’re forced together whether they want to be or not. They’re forced into this relationship where they’re very different, and they wind each other up no end, but that’s when the sparks start flying, and when sparks start flying that’s when there’s room for everyone to “ship” them, I think is the term. They certainly have a connection, and if anything was to happen between them it would certainly be fiery.

Q. We’ve seen Ichabod do battle with plastic, with the OnStar system, and with a coffee machine. What other technology is he going to confront in upcoming episodes?

Tom Mison: Well, there’s everything. When we go into a new set it’s always nice to have a look around and wonder what Ichabod would be attracted to or repelled by, and what would be baffling, and it’s kind of everything. Everything’s new. Yes, there will be plenty more of that, and hopefully it will be just as fun as the stuff from before because, like I said before, there’s a wealth of stuff to mine into.

Q. Are you a history buff and, if so, how much of a stickler are you for authenticity even in a premise that’s as outrageous as this one is?

Tom Mison: Yes. I’ve always been a history buff. It was one of the few subjects at school that really, really caught me. I think because—I think you’ll find a lot of actors will be interested in history because it sparks your imagination so much. When you enter a period of history your imagination just goes wild in creating the world, which is really what acting is.

Yes. It’s always a treat to have something that lets me explore a different period, and yes I do try to be a stickler as much as I can, but luckily the writers are as well. There are a few language things which luckily they’re very open when I say “I think this is 12 years too late, this word” and they’re very happy to play around with it.

I think it’s—even if 90% of the audience aren’t going to spot that certain turn of phrase as a bit out of date, it’s still important to get a level of authenticity for us to play around in. I think if it wasn’t completely authentic then it wouldn’t really work very much, it would then just be a modern man with a weird costume instead of a man from another time. So yes, everyone is very patient with me getting very anal about things.

Q. This is off topic, but it’s for a different story that I’m working on having to do with Christmas. Do you have a favorite Christmas tradition or favorite Christmas memory or the best gift you ever gave or received? Something come to mind when I ask that?

Tom Mison: Something that people always get baffled by is that my family have always—we don’t open any presents until after the family lunch, and lots of people when I say that are just confused by it because they say, “No, no you open it. You wake up and you go to open your presents right away.” Whereas I always, as a child, had to try desperately to be patient until three in the afternoon before I could open my presents, but as an adult I now appreciate it a lot because we get to have the nice big family meal, and then we all sit around and give each other presents. That’s a peculiar one. I don’t really know any other families in England who do that; who wait for the presents.

The best present I’ve ever received; I got a robot when I was a child. I was begging for a robot, and I got a little one that you could speak into and then it moves and repeats what you say, which got me into a lot of trouble because I learnt swear words through that robot. [Pause in the procedings, which apparently makes him slightly concerned] Oh, God. Everyone’s gone. Everyone’s had enough. They’re sick of me.

Q. What do you find most fascinating about your character that some people would not necessarily know?

Tom Mison: I think the one thing that—everyone always goes to the fact that he would be lost in the modern world and everything is above him and baffling, but what I find really fascinating is that, any room he walks into, he’s probably the most intelligent person in that room, but no one will allow him to show that because everyone thinks he’s insane. I think the interesting thing is that he thinks everyone else is the maniac, whereas everyone thinks he is. That’s really fun. He knows that he’s cleverer than everyone else, but his manners won’t allow him to tell people to stop being stupid.

Q. Can you tell us anything that’s coming up in the next episode or two that you’re going to be confronting?

Tom Mison: John Noble, of Fox’s Fringe. John Noble will become a very, very important character in the series, and you’ll see why because he’s a savior.

Q. That was actually leading right into my question about working with John [Noble] on the show, and some of the other recurrent characters like bringing John Cho back and things like that. How has it been being able to kind of build a rapport with these really great character actors that are coming in and adding great dimension to the show?

Tom Mison: It’s really nice. It’s great to have actors who are often cast against type. It’s surprising, the actors who are coming in for characters. I think very few people would imagine that John Cho would become the baddie, which we notice in the pilot. Clancy Brown — you don’t see him often as the father figure, or the Obi-Wan Kenobi type. Orlando Jones, you wouldn’t immediately think of as casting as the highest ranking police officer.

And I think actually a lot of people would be rather surprised at me being cast as Ichabod. I think there are probably lots of people in England, casting people who wouldn’t have considered me for it. It’s one of the brilliant things of the show is that they cast the net wide, and they surprise you with their casting choices.

Q. Then just as a follow up. In terms of the nice place of knowing that you’re coming back for a second season; have you had conversations with the showrunners or the writers yet about—do you want to know what’s coming for him so you can kind of prepare for that if you had to, or at the end of this season, or do you prefer to just be in the moment and get the scripts as they come?

Tom Mison: It’s nice to know when there are important revelations later on that should affect the entire character. It’s nice to know them early, so then if there is suddenly a revelation that people would then think back to a few episodes before, and something different was being played. It’s important to know those big revelations. I’ve been told what they are, and shall remain silent.

I know the big story arcs and they’re quite remarkable, but episode by episode I quite like finding out when I get the script. It’s quite nice to be surprised and excited episode by episode, in the same way that hopefully audiences are when they watch week by week. Yes, I like to keep a few things as a nice little treat each time I get a script landing on my doormat.

Q. People have touched up on almost all of my questions, but I’m going to harken back to your chemistry with Nicole Beharie, because I think that what you two have on screen is, like you said, magical, and I’m wondering if that was right off the bat, if you two are as magical offscreen, and if you’ve built a friendship and if that’s what we’re seeing on screen?

Tom Mison: I think it was right off the bat. After I put myself on tape in London, I was then called over to Los Angeles to screen test, and it was a five hour screen test. The first two were just me, Len Wiseman and the producers and the casting people, a big room of people, and we played around for a couple of hours and then Nicole, who had already been cast, came in and we read together and played with a few scenes for about three hours. Yes. It was instant.

I think we’re very similar actors. We both like to play with what the other actor gives us, and we both like to be generous with each other. We know that the good stuff, and what everyone refers to as chemistry, is actually generosity. We like to be generous with each other mainly—it’s nice to throw things at an actor and be excited and surprised by what they throw back. And so yes it was fairly instant. We’d like exploring the scenes together rather than as two individuals; we like to do it as a team. And yes she’s as wonderful off screen as she is on. It’s always a nice thing to find friends on a job, and I think I certainly have with her.

Q. Is there any ad libbing done, or do you stick pretty closely to the script?

Tom Mison: Not really. We tend to stick to the script. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of ad libbing. I think there’s a story that the writers and the directors want to tell, and I don’t think it’s up to an actor to act or detract from that. It’s our job to tell their story in as imaginative a way as possible.

I don’t think it’s our job to change their story even if it’s slightly like that. Any script change is always discussed with the writer beforehand. There are a few. Nicole and I often—as we get to know our characters more and more there are often a few things that we would like to explore; but no, we tend to stick to the script.

Q. I was wondering if you’ve been able to add your own touches to this role, or do all of Ichabod’s traits come from the script?

Tom Mison: No, they come from long discussions from day one, from before we started shooting the pilot. As soon as I met Len and Alex and Bob Orci, we all kind of had similar ideas about what Ichabod should be, and the sort of story that we all think would be the most exciting. And there’s constant discussions between me and the writers. They’re very open to my ideas, and I love all of theirs.

So yes, it’s kind of a balance, and it’s changing a lot. It’s so nice to be a part of something that runs for such a long time. Before this, I think the longest series I’ve done has been I think six episodes. Lots of mini-series I’ve done before, but never done something that stretches over 13 episodes, and now with a second season added to that, so it’s nice to find a very gradual evolution to the character, and, yes, that comes from both camps because we’ve got excellent writers.

Q. I wanted to ask you about John Noble; what it’s been like working with him?

Tom Mison: It’s really remarkable. Our first scene together it’s just me and him sitting opposite each other at a table. And he came in and sat down and we did the scene, and I was quite surprised when someone shouted “cut” because I forgot that there were cameras and other people about the place. Because when you’re acting with someone like John you just completely lose yourself in it. He’s mesmerizing. He’s brilliant. I rather liked it. Yes.

Q. We know that Crane obviously has spied in the past. Are we going to see any of those kind of skills come to the present with their cases?

Tom Mison: Oh, yes. Absolutely. Well, I think there are elements of that that run throughout. He can’t really reveal to anyone his true identity so he’s always playing that side of the spy, and in terms of cracking and finding clues. We will see a lot more of him as the spy in the 18th Century, that’s for sure. There are lots more flashbacks coming up when we get more and more involved in his life there. And also he’s very different to modern American law enforcement because you’ll notice he never uses a gun, for example. There’s one moment when the Hessians attack with automatic rifles. But apart from that he’s just relying on his wit.

Q. Also, you mentioned how he’s usually or will always be the smartest person in the room. As time goes on, is Abbie going to more let him kind of take the lead and step forward?

Tom Mison: I think she knows when to allow him to lead, and when to just pull on the leash hard, which he occasionally needs. I think they balance each other out a lot. We’ve seen how he encourages her to start having a bit more faith and believing in these weird things that happen, and she, in turn, is very good at balancing him out and saying, “Stop being an idiot” which in the context of the modern world he’s very capable of things.

SciFiMafia.com: Given the unusual premise, what is it that initially attracted you to the role?

Tom Mison: The unusual premise. It was something that had so many elements to it, and the show as a whole throws in so many different styles and different genres, and Ichabod is caught up in the middle of that. I mean you don’t get parts like this very often. You don’t get shows like this very often. I can’t think of very many others that are like this. Also knowing that it’s a part that, as I said earlier, I don’t know whether I would have got it in England, and I knew that it would be hard work.

When this job came up there were other offers thrown at me that wouldn’t have been as much of a challenge, and I knew that if I took on Ichabod Crane in this incarnation of Sleepy Hollow it’s going to be a tough job and it’s going to keep me on my toes and keep my imagination fired up. I mean there’s nothing better than that. It’s good to work hard.

SciFiMafia.com: Is that still your favorite aspect of the show now or is there something else that you have surprisingly found as something you love even more than that?

Tom Mison: I’m sorry to be absolutely disgusting, but working with Nicole is such a treat. I think that’s something that for the rest of my career I’ll look back on this job and hold it in really high regard, a bit largely thanks to Nicole. And it’s been my coat and boots, obviously. The coat and boots, well, I’ll remember those for a long time.

SciFiMafia.com: Thank you.

Tom Mison: It’s a pleasure. Thank you. I’m sorry for everyone who didn’t get a chance to ask a question, but thank you for being patient despite no reward at the end. [laughs] Now I’m opening laughing at you. Sorry, but I can’t hear anyone. Skynet has gone Pentium. Escape, everyone. There’s one person laughing at me and I don’t know who it is and it’s very intimidating.





Erin Willard
Written by Erin Willard

Erin is the Editor In Chief and West Coast Correspondent for SciFiMafia.com