The episode description for Monday (November 17) night's “Sleepy Hollow” episode, titled “Mama,” teases that Jenny and Abbie will “come face-to-face with their past” and mentions a series of mysterious deaths and “an especially surprising spirit.”
No mention is made of resolution to last week's cliffhanger involving Bearded Man Walking Away From Bar.
That, unfortunately, is the life of an extra. You dedicate minutes — whole minutes! — to crafting an interior life for a character who may not even have a name in the official record, you work to hone that personal narrative so that it has a beginning, a middle and an end, you improvise and refine your performance, but then you watch the finished product and your entire arc has been reduced to nearly nothing, the faintest whisper of a story. In fact, if you end up being able to spot the back of your head, the outer edge of your shoulder or the shadow of your beard bathed in a sea of green light, that counts as a triumph.
If you watched last week's “Sleepy Hollow” and you also follow me on Twitter, you may have very briefly spotted me in a scene that took place two-thirds of the way through the episode.
In the sequence, Tom Mison's Ichabod Crane and Matt Barr's Nick Hawley, who I keep calling “Noah Hawley,” because the dapper creator of FX's “Fargo” would make a fine roguish treasure-hunter, are entering a drinking-and-dancing establishment that's either legitimately called “Club Twerk” or is merely called “Club Twerk” as a punchline. Either way, I'd have hoped to hear Ichabod say “twerk” in confusion at least a half-dozen times and get a demonstration from Abbie, but neither of those things occurs, making me wonder what the point was.
Ichabod and Hawley are discussing a topic germane to the episode's monster-of-the-week, a saucy succubus of some sort. They're also excavating the relationship-based subtext from previous episodes, with Crane giving a blessing-of-sorts for Hawley's potential romantic interest in Abbie.
All things considered, it's a scene that could just as easily have been cut for time. The succubus is pursuing our heroes and their pursuit of her is really just about giving them something to do and giving Ichabod cause to be unsettled by contemporary music. And Hawley doesn't really need Ichabod's blessing if he wants to go after Abbie, because as certain 'shipping fans of “Sleepy Hollow” willfully like to forget, Ichabod is already married and doesn't really get a vote when it comes to the leftenant's love life.
So I'm assuming the scene was left in because of my cameo and the cameos by several other reporters assembled on-set on that late-August day.
If you were able to take your eyes away from Tom Mison and Matt Barr, you can see me in profile a couple times and then I'm walking away in the background behind Ichabod just as he's complaining about the infernal racket, a confluence of events that makes it look like he's doing everything in his power not to pay attention to me.
What? You didn't notice me?
That's me off to the right with the beard, bathed in green.
So here's what's happening for my character in the scene: My character is flirting with the attractive blonde at the bar. He offers to buy her a drink, but he's entirely unsuccessful at hailing the bartender. The object of his desire is able to bat her eyelashes at the bartender and get much prompter service. Story of his life, right? Once the drinks come, she's at least willing to toast my character, who gets his hopes up that he won't be leaving Club Twerk alone. Alas, her flirting is short-lived and, in a flash, she's passing ditching my character. But she doesn't go far, crossing behind him and finding new possibilities for intimacy with the gentleman to my character's right, which is entirely unfair, since the dude already has a girlfriend, which means he's a lot like Ichabod, monopolizing two women at once. My character pauses for a second, looks around and casually exits the bar. Yes, he's sad that he's leaving the fertile hook-up terrain of Club Twerk alone, but I assure you that he didn't pay for his drink. It's my assumption that the character is later eaten by the succubus, but as we've all learned from countless surprise-oriented TV shows, if you don't see a body, the character probably isn't dead.
For those who subscribe to a Unified Theory of FOX Drama Universes, it's completely possible that Bearded Man Walking Away From Bar from “Sleepy Hollow” is the same person as Bearded Massive Dynamic Scientist, who appeared in the Season 3 “Fringe” episode “Do Shapeshifters Dream of Electric Sheep?” I'll leave it for you to reconcile The John Noble Paradox created by the intermingling of these two universes. Somewhere a singularity is created surrounding the black hole that is my acting ability.
The funny thing is that if you watch the scene and ignore the stuff happening in the foreground, the stars of the show and their darned dialogue and the plot of the episode and all of that, you can see bits and pieces of my storyline, which I refined over at least 10 different takes, only two or three of which were necessitated by my waiting too long to leave the bar and thus not leaving room for Tom Mison and Matt Barr to carry on their conversation. Yes, my character is integral to the scene, because his absence creates the vacuum that allows Hawley and Crane to reflect on Abbie. If my character stays at the bar and looks for an alternative hook-up, there's nowhere for Hawley and Crane to have that chat and Hawley probably has to sadly retreat to whatever it is that he's doing when he isn't enlisted to roguishly help with the show's weekly adventures. I can't say if I really screwed up any shots with either my late exit or my positioning to the left or right of the gaffer's tape on the floor, but I know the assistant director isn't impressed with me. Perhaps if I had the VHS of my high school performance as Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird” he'd respect me more. Or perhaps this is just the latest confirmation of the folly of my teenage acting ambitions.
But, like I said, parts of the arc are in the episode. You can see some bar conversation. You can, I believe, spot my scorning paramour leaving me and she seems to be getting a hug from the gigolo sitting next to us, an excessive degree of familiarity given that they hadn't met previously.
And you can definitely see me walking away.
If you have a large, hi-def TV, you can probably also see that my shirt is kinda sweaty. I'm not proud of this, but one of the things you have to know about Club Twerk is that it was swelteringly hot, which is what happens when you stage a darkened nightclub on a 90-degree summer day in North Carolina, fill it with people and turn off the air-conditioning for the sake of audio. I've done set visits in Sahara-adjacent Africa and that had nothing on Club Twerk.
How hot was it? Between shots, Matt Barr had an assistant holding a tiny motorized fan to his abs, the 21st Century TV star equivalent of being a pharaoh attended to by fan-waving servants. Stars and extras don't generally hob-nob between scenes — in fact, it's pretty strongly discouraged — but I had just interviewed Hawley, plus I was blocking his next mark, so he amiably stood around and chatted as he was being cooled down.
That's why Hawley looks fresh as a daisy each time he enters the club and why I look as wilted as an overheated online reporter each time I leave. Oh and I also didn't get makeup or hair. The female journalists serving as extras in the scene received at least moderate pampering. I was just told to change from a black shirt into a plaid shirt.
The thing about looking for yourself as an extra is that you have to concentrate your focus so completely on finding something that's recognizably you that the rest of the world becomes a little bit of a blur. It's like when you're staring at a “Where's Waldo?” puzzle. You may come away having successfully found Waldo, but you probably can't speak with authority on the characters who aren't masquerading as hipster candy canes.
Watching the episode, I still kept my eye out for good shots of my scene partner Mackenzie, the UNC-Wilmington coed who played my thwarted conquest. This kind of exposure probably means more to her than it does to me. She's a communications major, but she's done extra work in many of the productions that call Wilmington home, including ABC's midseason drama “Secrets & Lies” and the upcoming Nicholas Sparks adaptation “The Longest Ride.” Yes, I resent her character for flirting with the hunky bartender — another UNC-Wilmington student and regular local extra — and ditching me for a previously attached barfly, but I appreciate the effort she put into workshopping our scene and I allow that she's probably more photogenic than I am. Fortunately, I think Mackenzie was more visible in an earlier scene at a different club, which was actually shot in a different part of Wilmington's Pravda bar using the same group of extras. We shared several glasses of flat, tepid ginger ale — masking as whiskey, not that anybody could possibly tell who's drinking what — together and I wish her well.
Will Bearded Man Walking Away From Bar's fate be mentioned in this week's episode?
Will he appear in a future episode?
But as long as FOX has serialized dramas and set visit opportunities, hope springs eternal. Might Bearded Man pop up as a “Gotham” derelict or an “Empire” A&R rep?
“Sleepy Hollow” airs Mondays at 9 p.m. on FOX.