“Sleepy Hollow” is heading into its season two finale with the highest stakes imaginable — in last week’s episode, Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) was transported back to the 18th century, where she was immediately imprisoned for failing to produce free papers for the British soldiers occupying Sleepy Hollow at the time. To make matters worse, her stint on the wrong side of the bars means that she’s unable to prevent Katrina Crane (Katia Winter) from attempting to kill her husband, Ichabod (Tom Mison) in order to stop his resurrection in the modern day, which would thwart Ichabod and Abbie’s mission to join as Witnesses and avert the apocalypse. No big deal, right?
Variety spoke with “Sleepy Hollow” star Tom Mison ahead of the climactic season finale to find out how Abbie and Ichabod will work together in the past, and what the repercussions might be for their future if Abbie fails to stop Katrina. (Spoilers for the finale below.)
We know what Ichabod and Abbie’s dynamic is like in the present, but what’s it like when she’s technically a stranger to him all over again — and on his turf, no less?
Well, it’s nice to have the roles reversed. The thing that I really liked exploring in the pilot and early episodes, was how does Ichabod persuade Abbie that he’s the real deal when everything around him is so ridiculous and hard for him to believe? And now it’s completely flipped, and there’s only one thing he doesn’t believe and it’s that she exists, and she’s the one that needs to persuade him. It was very nice to get to play around with the 18th century Ichabod, for longer than five minutes with a founding father. Instead, I get however long we have here, about 45 minutes, of seeing 18th century Ichabod, which is very, very different to modern day Ichabod. You get to see a man who has power and has people who obey his every command because they respect him and know that he makes decent decisions, instead of in the modern day where everyone thinks he’s a lunatic, including Abbie.
Abbie’s a very outspoken character, so how does she handle herself in the past when she’s no longer in a position of authority? Is Ichabod having to rein her in?
Oh absolutely. I think she, very early on, learns how to behave in the 18th century, particularly as she knows what a stubborn prick Ichabod is. So, if she gets carried away she knows how to play him, that’s the really nice thing. She’s known this guy for a year and a bit and to him she’s a stranger, so she’s immediately got the upper hand by knowing how to work him. Then, also as you said, “on his turf” she has to behave very differently. I personally really enjoyed watching Nicole’s portrayal of Abbie, keeping herself under wraps. Abbie is someone who speaks her mind and we all love an Abbie Mills eye roll, and it’s nice to see her try and play restrained. I enjoyed that a lot.
As we saw in the last few minutes of the last episode, even with all Abbie’s knowledge of the future, there’s obviously a lot more at stake for her as a black woman in the past as opposed to Ichabod being a white man in the future — or any time period, let’s be honest.
Yes, let’s be honest, the upper middle class white man has never really had it that tough. Let’s face it. [Laughs.]
The show has been able to have some refreshingly candid conversations about race so far, but what was your reaction when you heard the show was going this route and evoking the memory of slavery so overtly?
It adds a danger that we’ve never seen before on the show. It’s a situation that she certainly never imagined she’d find herself in, and I never imagined I’d ever see Abbie Mills in that sort of predicament. There’s been a lot of mentions of Grace Dixon. She’s quite a rarity in that she is a free woman, married to a white chap, and so that’s going to be your first port of call. I think the show did very, very well with the social commentary. It’s something that is at the forefront of the writers’ minds quite often, and when we flip back to the 18th century it’s not that easy to show social commentary when so much has changed. But I suppose it’s also very easy to say when things haven’t changed as much.
Katrina wasn’t behaving very rationally in the last episode and it seems like she really wants to ensure Ichabod isn’t resurrected in the finale. Does it seem like she’s truly gone to the dark side now or is there still a possibility for redemption?
I thought it was a really clever idea — and it came from a discussion between Katia [Winter] and Len Wiseman, actually — that the reason Katrina has been unsuccessful in using her magic so far is that it’s been the wrong sort of magic, and actually, as was revealed by Solomon Kent, she has dark magic in her blood, so she was focusing on the wrong sort of power. So maybe now, it’s the moment where she’s at her most lucid, and she finally found her calling, and it just really doesn’t connect with Ichabod anymore. I suspect that’s the motivation for her to ditch Ichabod and move on fully with the son who has tried to kill them both on countless occasions. But in Ichabod’s mind, she’s been twisted completely and there’s no turning back. Henry has won the tug-of-war with Katrina in the middle, which can’t be easy.
What are the emotional ramifications of Henry’s death and Katrina’s turn to the dark side for Ichabod? Will those choices weigh on him?
I hope so. Something that I particularly drilled into Raven Metzner — who wrote the “Awakening” episode — is that it can’t be easy, even though Henry is so terribly evil and even though Katrina has turned to the bad side. It can’t be easy for Ichabod to fight his wife. I loved the outburst that Ichabod had to Henry that he couldn’t abandon him because he didn’t even know he existed, because that’s something that I’ve been shouting at Ichabod every time, just say to Henry, how can Ichabod give two tosses about Henry when he never knew about his existence? With Henry I think it’s probably a little easier, but fighting against Katrina, that’s the tricky one. Because it can’t just be, “oh well, she’s a witch now” — it’s still his family [being] torn apart. I rather like that Abbie was the one who killed Henry. I like that. I think there could be legs in that in the third season, but then we don’t want to mope around for half of season 3. I think we’ve seen enough Crane family drama. I think we’re all in agreement that it can’t be too maudlin, because we’ve got adventures to go on.
Obviously, a lot of fans have been rooting for something romantic between Abbie and Ichabod, basically since the pilot, but I like that the show has been exploring platonic friendship without any overt romantic interest so far, even if you guys obviously have awesome chemistry. What’s your feeling on it — are you happy to see them as buddies or do you hope for that progression as the show goes along?
Oh, as buddies. Buddies! I think it’s such a magic relationship that they have. I do think — much as, I think, if Ichabod becomes too used to the 21st century we’d lose something — I think it would be a shame if Ichabod and Abbie got together. Although, now she knows he’s a single man, who knows? Maybe we could go speed dating. Ichabod and Abbie both go speed dating!
(SEASON 2 FINALE SPOILER ALERT.)
What can you say about the repercussions of the finale and how the paradigm might shift if the show is renewed for season three?
I think that this season ends rather beautifully with a new foursome, being Ichabod, Abbie, Jenny (Lyndie Greenwood), and Irving (Orlando Jones). And I think as a foursome that’s an incredibly strong group to pick up again season 3. [We can] hit the floor running with those four because, in any of the scenes that we’ve had so far with any pairing from that group — whether it’s Ichabod and Jenny, Ichabod and Abbie, Abbie and Irving, Irving and Jenny — there’s something magic and interesting in all of those relationships. So, really we can fling anyone anywhere at any time and I think that would be fun.
In a hypothetical season three, what would you most like to explore that you haven’t already?
In a hypothetical season three, I think a new dynamic in a new core quartet. I think that every member of the group brings something different. I hope to see the return of some of the characters we got to know in this last season. I’d love to see the return of Joe Corbin (Zach Appelman), for example. Particularly if he’s still a wendigo and fights for our team. That would be great — then it would be the Avengers. Ichabod, and Abbie, Jenny and Irving, and Joe Corbin as our Hulk.