Exclusive Interview: Tom Mison & Orlando Jones on ‘Sleepy Hollow’

Tom Mison & Orlando Jones

Fox’s modern day “Sleepy Hollow” premieres tonight and it introduces a lot of new characters whom you probably won’t be familiar until you see the show.

So let’s start with a familiar name, Ichabod Crane. You know him as the protagonist of Washington Irving’s book, and Johnny Depp played Crane in the Tim Burton Sleepy Hollow movie. On Fox's "Sleepy Hollow," Tom Mison plays Crane, and he is transported into the present day along with the Headless Horseman. Among the modern day police on the case, Orlando Jones plays Captain Frank Irving. Gotta love the name.

We met both Mison and Jones as they presented the show to the Television Critics Association, so you can get to know them before you check out the show tonight.

CraveOnline: Talk about Ichabod’s reaction to Starbucks.

Tom Mison: Yes. It’s part of what appealed to me most about the show is it allows itself to have these funny moments, although for the characters it’s deadly serious and there are serious problems. Ichabod’s in a new world that is unfamiliar to him and it’s serious for him. But, the show gets the joke so it’s important to have these really nice light moments that then allow us the fear of the Headless Horseman and various others.

Orlando Jones: But not said as a joke, said as an honest observation of what’s happening in that moment. For me, that was really the key of it. It’s not a joke. It’s just what it is, it’s a reaction. That genuine reaction by being hopefully 100% genuine about it and not at all comedic about it can be funny, but not because he’s funny or what’s happening is funny. It’s not that. It really is the situations and the moments, being truthful in them rather than attempting to build a joke where it doesn’t live.

What were the character breakdowns you got for Ichabod and Irving?

Orlando Jones: I didn’t.

Tom Mison: No, I just got the script.

Orlando Jones: My team and I know that, that’s fine. But I’d rather just read it and get a sense of it and then afterwards I’m happy to know what the character breakdown is. But I’d rather first come to it purely because I don’t believe any writer ever sat down and thought about a character breakdown. I know that the stage directions are only relevant, they’re not read, so I really like to delve into it honestly because I think that’s the only way you give yourself the opportunity to really be a part of it and explore it in an interesting way. 

I think probably more than anything else I’ve ever done in my career, I sort of came to this one really honestly because it’s a long commitment. I didn’t want to approach it disingenuously like a job because I believe that that’s kind of what gets messy about television sometimes, because if you’re going to be there then really be there. Love it and enjoy it and embrace it. I wanted to do that.

So I really was kind of earnest about it in a way that if you’d asked me this question about a movie, I’d be like, “Oh no, I looked at who the producer was.” Good or bad, whomever it is, it was an exciting thing to learn what I learned later because I read the pilots blind. I don’t know who’s in it, I don’t know who wrote it, I don’t know anything. I just read and I go, “I’m interested in these” and then we rip the Band-aid off and it’s really a fun way to do it because it allows me to answer that question honestly. 

Could there be a romance between Ichabod and Abbie?

Tom Mison: Ichabod’s a married man. It’s a bit of a mood killer if you’re gazing longingly into each other’s eyes and then a man with no head runs up aren’t foundations for a relationship.

Orlando Jones: That’s not sexy at all, that’s true.

Tom Mison: It’s so excellent to start a show where the lead female is an independent character. She’s not defined by the men that she’s around. That’s one of the things that drew me to it is it’s so classy to have a female lead like that who’s her own and she’s rounded, she’s clear, she has missions rather than being the love interest or the mother or the daughter. I think that was a classy choice. 

When you got the part, did you stay away from all the other Ichabod Cranes?

Tom Mison: No, it’s very difficult to avoid it. I was familiar with the book and I’d seen the film. Obviously there are some tough acts to follow, but ours is so wildly different from any other incarnation of the story so actually no, I went back and I reread the book even though no one asked me to. It’s not intimidating. It’s nice to have a script that you have so much faith in this material that other material around it won’t interfere. 

How big a break do you think this is for you to get a lead on a Fox series?

Tom Mison: Pretty cool, isn’t it? I keep being reminded because this is my first American TV show. I keep being reminded they’re not all like this. It’s amazing to have this kind of buzz around it. We screened it at Comic-Con and it was received really well, so it’s a nice introduction. 

How does Ichabod adjust to modern dress?

Tom Mison: We’ve had lots of discussions about the costumes and I think it’s nice. First of all, it’s good to have a character who can have an iconic look and he’s a man who has one foot in the past and one foot in the present. 

Orlando, were you looking to get back onto a TV series?

Orlando Jones: Not particularly. I firmly believe that the medium is no longer really important in the 21st century. It’s really about the story and how you’re able to fully realize and tell that story, because the audience is going to watch it however they want, be it on a phone or an iPad or whatever. So television wasn’t a goal but to do something that’s original is always difficult. To strive to do something that’s different and to try and put your own spin on it I think is truly the artistic journey, so I look for those every year and see if there’s something there because I believe all artists are trying in their own way to do some version of that.

It’s nice often to try and hitch my wagon to that because that’s what my true goals are. This year it just so happened that that’s what came to pass, so whatever happens from here forward, this was still a magical journey, period. I always feel like I have to feel that way about it because I don’t have any control over the rest of it. I’m proud of this and will stand by it now and whatever it is we do in the future. For me it’s a more hopeful way to look at it. 

Tom, did you have to do any training for the physical aspect of the show?

Tom Mison: I’ve been at the peak of physical fitness for the last nine years. I’ve done lots of swordsmanship. In fact, I did a couple of plays back-to-back that were very physical so no training was really needed, fortunately. It’s nice. It’s lots of skills that I’ve used before and I love using again, except this time with a shovel.

Is it weird to fight a guy wearing a green hood on the set?

Tom Mison: It’s scary. There’s no acting required. He’s a big guy and he’s coming at you with an axe

Orlando, there was a time when you had five movies a year. How do you reflect on that time, and did you make an effort to slow down a little?

Orlando Jones: I’d like to think I grew up some. It was fun. I definitely had a moment where I felt like my life was sort of blowing by and I was doing all this stuff that everybody was really excited about and they were paying me a lot of money. Honestly, I don’t think back. Dude, I’m really blessed and super lucky.

That’s really the reality of what my life is. I can’t really be mad at anybody or anything. I think back to that time, I was like, “Man, that was awesome” and now I’m like no, this is awesome. I’m kind of the last person that needs to complain. I get to do what I love and I get to do it every day. I count myself amongst the lucky. That’s really about it