Interview: Tom Mison on ‘Sleepy Hollow’ Season 2 and an odd ‘Silence of the Lambs’ comparison

WILMINGTON, NC. Tom Mison doesn't roll with a posse, but Ichabod Crane's Revolutionary War attire does.

The last time I'd talked with Mison, he and co-star Nicole Beharie had dropped by the HitFix video studio and he was in civilian garb, which was at least a wee bit confusing. Oddly, the lack of wig/hair extensions on the 32-year-old Brit were less confusing at the time. Mison and Crane are closely interwoven at this moment and with Crane, nothing has proven to be more interwoven than the military uniform he wore for almost all of the first season of “Sleepy Hollow.”

So it's reassuring that Mison strolls into the make-shift press holding area above a Wilmington bar wearing both the newest incarnation of Ichabod's costume and his familiar flowing locks. Before he can sit down, though, Mison's jacket has to be passed along to professional who surely has other chores for different occasions, but is only available for this one purpose now.

There are things I can tell you about where Ichabod Crane finds himself in the second season and things I cannot reveal, largely because I don't know them. When we left Ichabod, he was in what we could delicately call “a predicament.” While visiting the set, I appeared as an extra in a scene from what will be the eighth “Sleepy Hollow” and I can tell you that the scene didn't take place in the confined space in which we last saw Ichabod. No, it was a confined space resembling a slightly hipster-y bar, but more on that as we get closer to the episode that I'm reasonably confident I briefly ruined.

How Ichabod extricates himself from the predicament and when Ichabod extricates himself from the predicament remain mysteries to me and Mison didn't share. If you want, however, to assume that there's a possibility he could spend the entire season in that predicament, you probably don't want to read any further.

Since our conversation began with the partial disrobing, Mison and I talked a bit about Ichabod's attire, before discussing how this season impacts Ichabod's dynamics with Katrina, Henry and other core characters.

How is the Abbie-Ichabod dynamic like that of Clarice and Hannibal in “Silence of the Lambs”? Mison explains that as well.

And what quality or characteristic is most central to playing Ichabod? Mison's answer is amusing.

The interview spoils nothing about Monday's (September 22) second season premiere of “Sleepy Hollow,” but it does say things about the second season, albeit mostly thematic things rather than plot things. Tread accordingly…

Check out the full Q&A…

HitFix: How comfortable is the outfit at this point and has it sort of been tailored to become more comfortable?

Tom Mison: It's much more comfortable. The coat from last year is the thickest heaviest wool coat and luckily we managed to fit it into the story that Crane gets some new clothes. In the finale of last year or the one before the finale he meets a girl, a seamstress at a Revolutionary reenactment.

HitFix: I think that was the finale?

Tom Mison: Good. I'm glad you know the episode!

HitFix: Wait, it was a two-hour finale kind of but the way it aired…

Tom Mison: I think it was the first of the two hours. That's right. Oh my God. I get so confused with this show. And she comes back and she has some new clothes, which fortunately are lighter and less stifling.

HitFix: Well, the fans sort of got into that last year the recurring outfit thing. Had you been thinking about that all when people started commenting on it?

Tom Mison: We knew. It's something that Len Wiseman and I discussed when we first met for the screen test was about the look of Crane. He always described it like a superhero's outfit. And a superhero, you never see Superman washing his pants and feeling he has to change his cape. So we always thought “Let's push it for as long as we think people will stay with us and then push it a little bit further,” which I think we did. But now mercifully there's a little respite.

HitFix: Well, but is it still the same outfit that he's wearing this season?

Tom Mison: Yeah. I mean it's still … This is the good thing about finding a character in a reenactment battle to provide clothes is that I can still stay in the period outfits, it's just now we can mix it up a little.

HitFix: Would there be any fun to him being out and about for a full episode in normal civilian-wear?

Tom Mison: I don't know, I think you'd lose something. I think it's always nice to have him standing out and just being a bit weird. I think it also – when you are constantly reminded of who he is and that he doesn't belong here, it's also helpful because you forgive the fact that he is occasionally just a dick. You know? And when you see him looking out of place and being weird, you forgive him a little.

HitFix: Now what is sort of the core thing that you have to remember that keeps Ichabod “Ichabod”? Regardless of whether he's in the past or the present, what is sort of the way that this guy looks at the world that's sort of consistent and that can't really change?

Tom Mison: From the very beginning I've always thought the mantra was: He believes he's the smartest person in the room. Or, actually, rather than that, his pride won't let him admit that he isn't the smartest man in the room. He doesn't want anyone to see it when he's confused. That always helps with the gags about the modern world. Or even when there are new creatures that he doesn't understand, it's always good he has to hide any ignorance that he has. That's really helpful, because he's still interested in things but it adds the lighter side to him as well. I've said before it could be so earnest, this part, and I think and everything, even the heaviest, heaviest films or shows need to be told with a level of lightness. I was watching, for no reason other than I flipped a coin between two films and it landed on “Silence of the Lambs.” And I watched that over the weekend and I thought, “First of all, Hannibal Lecter and Clarice Starling I'd say are very similar to Ichabod and Abbie. And also the way in which Anthony Hopkins plays Hannibal Lecter, the darkest most evil man in the world, it's light.” The actor approaches it with a level of lightness and a level of humo. Regardless of how dark and heavy the character is the actor has to approach it with that frame of mind.

HitFix: I want to hear more about the Clarice, Hannibal, Abbie, Ichabod of it all.

Tom Mison: [Laughing.] I knew I'd regret saying that.

HitFix: I just want to know what was sort of striking you as you were watching it?

Tom Mison: Two people who don't belong together who have to work with each other. It's two people who there are lots of things they strongly dislike about each other but also things, despite themselves, they admire about each other. You know, it's the beautiful moments when Clarice Starling admires Lector's intelligence and it's just flashes of it that make them a brilliant double act.

HitFix: And yet no one ships on Clarice and Hannibal.

Tom Mison: No. I know. Starlecter.

HitFix: How has the sort of pace been different this season? What episode are you guys in at this point?

Tom Mison: We're at episode eight now.

HitFix: How has it felt different doing this for a second time?

Tom Mison: It's funny, I was talking to Nicole about this not that long ago saying that it's very weird because it certainly feels like the same show. It's still Nicole and I are battling the forces of evil, but there's something about it that's different. And we worked out it's actually quite a compliment to the writers because there's a natural progression for all of the characters. So although we're the same actors, the same characters, they're different. Everyone's in a different situation than they were last season and that's just because they're well-written and all the characters have good strong arcs.

HitFix: And it seems like we're getting more Katrina and Katia this season. Could you talk a bit sort of about reaffirming that bond? Because it was always sort of something that was in the background last season but it was easy to forget a times that this was a guy that's married man, so how has it been to sort of have that moved up somewhat in the foreground?

Tom Mison: Well, I think, and I'm sure everyone would agree, Katrina, kind of more than anything, was there to serve a purpose last year, which is to progress the story. She's there to give us information and warn us about things. And that was kind of it, apart from a few flashbacks that was all you really saw of her. Now you start to explore their relationship a bit further and I'm pleased because you start to see why Crane wouldn't stop going on about her. You start to see reasons for his behavior towards her last year. But then equally there's a very interesting dynamic where finally she's in the modern world. Well she's with the Headless Horseman to begin with, she gets taken up by him, but finally they're together again. She's been waiting 200 and however many years and he's been waiting since he came out of the ground the first time. And it's weird. It's weird then being back together. He then suddenly realizes, “My wife lied to me s***loads. She was a spy, she was a witch,” there are a couple of other revelations that you find out. And then you get into the interesting relationship of, “I need to trust her but how can I?” You start building up your armies and she's a vital part of our army, but she's lied so much before, what effect is that going to have on the war and our relationship from now on?

HitFix: What do you like about their relationship? What are fans going to sort of like about seeing these two actually together?

Tom Mison: I think it's surprisingly human considering it's a witch and it's a man 250 years old, come back from the dead. You see a surprisingly human marriage with them. Where there is questions of trusts, there is underlying undying love between them. The difference between what they need and what they want. It's like with everything on this show, there are lots of different levels to it. The relationship isn't black-and-white.

HitFix: Now obviously once he extricates himself from where we left him in the finale, as we assume he will, what are we going to see byway of sort of fatherhood from Ichabod? Are we going to get to see sort of that dynamic play out a little bit more now that he knows?

Tom Mison: Yeah. Yeah. Of course. That's another one of the strong battles with Katrina and you've got Abbie saying “We've got to go and kill the Horseman of War.” And you've got Katrina saying “That that's our son.” Crane is stuck in the middle and we know from last season that whenever he stops being a man of logic and starts following his emotions, that's when he gets into trouble. When we capture the Headless Horseman last season it's when Crane lets his emotions get the better of him, the Horsemen escapes. Crane's emotional drive to go and find Katrina leads him to draw the map to Purgatory, which then causes a whole load of trouble for him and Abbie. So he realizes he has to return to being a man of logic and he's got Katrina saying one thing, Abbie saying another and he has to make a decision. What would be the best move in this war? You can fight the enemy either as the Horsemen or appeal to him as your son.

HitFix: And what is it like looking at John Noble and being paternalistic to John Noble?

Tom Mison: Oh man, just bring anything with John Noble is fun. He completely had me fooled last year because I didn't know… I knew that it was going to be revealed that he's my son, I had no idea about the Horseman. He did. And I remember thinking when we were shooting last year, we'd be doing a scene and I'd look at John and it's like, “He's doing something weird in this moment. There's like a weird flash of a reaction and it's really weird.” And I thought, “That's really clever of him. He's playing kind of a weird old man,” when actually he was playing the Horsemen of War all along. So he had me fooled, never mind of the audience, I was tricked and I was in the room with him. And he's doing that even more this year just fooling us.

HitFix: Do you think that means that he still knows other things that he's not sharing with you guys?

Tom Mison: I don't want to know what John knows. [He looks across the room and points.] Oh there he is over there. Look at that. He sitting over there all innocent all cool with his sunglasses talking to a lady. All casual. And he's plotting something.

HitFix: How frequent is that the case that one of you will know something that the others won't know?

Tom Mison: Quite rare. I think because we often get too excited and run and tell each other. I was shooting with Katia the other day and we were talking about what each of us had heard about the end of this season and going into a potential season three, and if there was something I didn't know about Katrina that she told me, just because we're not very good at keeping secrets.

HitFix: So how much going forward do you feel like you know about Ichabod?

Tom Mison: Up to ending – well most of this season – all of this season actually. I know what the cliffhanger will be. And I know a couple of rough ideas for season three. 

HitFix: And the writers are that forthcoming with you guys?

Tom Mison: Oh yeah. If we ask they”ll tell. Although actually… No. Damian Kindler, who is just one of the best absolute best writers, he had a cliffhanger at the end of his episodes in this season and I just finished reading it and I sent him a text saying, “What does this mean? What does this mean?” And he sent me back a picture of himself just giving me the finger. And so he wouldn't tell me. He refused to. I had to call our showrunner to find out.

HitFix: And did he tell you?

Tom Mison: He did luckily, but Damian no, he wouldn't. I think they do take great pleasure in torturing us occasionally.

HitFix: And just the last question, how was Comic-Con different this year from last year? How is sort of being out in this world different after a year of people knowing this show and knowing you?

Tom Mison: It was bigger. It was a bigger room with people who were there because they want to see more of the show. And that's amazing. When we were talking about last years Comic-Con where we premiered the pilot, no one knew anything about it and then a year later people know more about the show than I do. And that's really nice.

Also check out my interview with “Sleepy Hollow” co-star Orlando Jones.

“Sleepy Hollow” returns to FOX on Monday, September 22.