Tom Mison on his role in ‘Sleepy Hollow’ and breaking the rules

Last week we were lucky enough to take part in a phone conference with star of ‘Sleepy Hollow’ Tom Mison, who plays the lead role of Ichabod Crane, who...


Last week we were lucky enough to take part in a phone conference with star of ‘Sleepy Hollow’ Tom Mison, who plays the lead role of Ichabod Crane, who due to his connection to the headless horse man has been pulled into present day America in the town of Sleepy Hollow.

During the conference Tom answered a series of questions about his character and discussed the episode ‘Sin Earlier,’ which aired last week in American and premiers in the UK later tonight on the Universal Channel.

Below are some of the highlights from the call.

ScifiPulse: Tom so far we have been really impressed with your character of Ichabod and have really enjoyed what a decent and controlled type of person he is. Will there be any episodes coming up in the future where we’re likely to see Ichabod lose some of his self control and maybe break the rules a little?

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.

SFP: Is it more fun to play when Ichabod gets to act out a little bit and not be as much in control as he is most the time?

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.

SFP: To date Ichabod has worn the same period garb since the opening episode. As we get to the second season are we likely to see him wear something a little more contemporary to this time period or is he going to continue to shun 21st century fashions?

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.

SFP: What’s the most fun you’ve had while finding your character of Ichabod. Has in been the clothes, the way he talks, his posture or the way he walks?

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 question 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.

SFP: Sleepy Hollow as a show has a premise that even us fans would agree is quite implausible. Did you have any trepidation about signing on for the show given its farfetched plot and storyline?

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. No real trepidation, more faith in the great American public that they’ll join us, and luckily it seems to have paid off.

SFP: One of the fun aspects of Sleepy Hollow is that your character of Ichabod is very much a fish out of water in that he’s in a century where technology is far, far more advances than he is used to and attitudes are far more relaxed. How much of a challenge was to it find that balance between drama and comedy with this character insofar as keeping it from going over the top?

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 doing 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.

SFP: Ichabod is a married man, but at present he is in a really long distance relationship. But over the past few episodes we have witnessed a fun chemistry between Ichabod and Abbie. Are we likely to see Abbie and Ichabod enjoy a few moments of flirtation as the show progresses?

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 … them I think is the term. They certainly have a connection, and if there was—if anything was to happen between them it would certainly be fiery.

SFP: What is it about Ichabod that you find most fascinating in terms of something that most people will not know about him?

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.

SFP: You’ve recently gotten to work with John Noble in the episode ‘Sin Eater’ in which he becomes your saviour. How did you find it working with John and all the other great guest stars you’ve had on the show to date?

Tom Mison: It’s really nice. It’s great to have actors who are often cast against type. They’re often—it’s surprising, the actors who are coming in for characters. I think very few people would imagine that John Cho would become the baddy, which we notice in the pilot. Clancy, Clancy Brown who is—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 who wouldn’t have— 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.

Tom Mison

SFP: We’ve learned recently that the series will be back for a second year. Have you had any conversations yet with the producers and writers about further revelations and secrets about Ichabod?

Tom Mison: It’s nice to know when there are important things—important revelations later on that should affect the entire character. It’s nice to know them early so then if there was 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.

Other than that, the smaller things in the episode, but 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.

SFP: Harking back to what was touched on earlier about the chemistry between yourself and Nicole Beharie. How long did it take for you guys to get that chemistry. Was it right off the bat?

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, and 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.

SFP: Do you get to do a fair bit of adlibbing or do you tend to stick fairly close to the scripts on the show?

Tom Mison: Not really. We tend to stick to the script. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of adlibbing. 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, and 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.

SFP: How much of your own creativity as an actor has gone into Ichabod. Have you stuck to what was in the script for his traits?

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 this sort of story that we all think would be the most exciting, and yes, 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.

It’s 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 counts because we’ve got excellent writers.

SFP: You recently had the chance to work with the brilliant John Noble. How did you find working with him. Was it a good experience?

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.

SFP: In the series to date. We’ve seen a fair bit of Ichabod spying during his time in the American War of independence. Are we likely to see any of Ichabod’s spy craft put to use in the present day?

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’salways playing that side of the spy 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.

SFP: Given the unusual premise of Sleepy Hollow. What was it that initially drew you to the role of Ichabod Crane and the series in general?

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.

Sleepy Hollow airs every Monday night on FOX in the USA and the sixth episode titled ‘The Sin Eater’ has its UK premier tonight at 9pm on The Universal channel.

Ian Cullen is the founder of and has been a fan of science fiction and fantasy from birth. In the past few years he has written for 'Star Trek' Magazine as well as interviewed numerous comics writers, television producers and actors for the SFP-NOW podcast at: When he is not writing for Ian enjoys playing his guitar, studying music, watching movies and reading his comics. Ian is both the founder and owner of You can contact ian at:
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