By the final day of New York Comic Con, many attendees seemed dead on their feet, their eyes glazed, their breath heavy with a hint of "Back to the Future" promotional Pepsi. But the Sleepyheads were vibrating with excitement as they filled the 3,046-seat Main Stage.
With "Sleepy Hollow’s" third season having kicked off two weeks earlier, the fans were ecstatic to see the Fox drama’s stars, and possibly glimpse a preview of Episode 3, "Blood and Fear." Their frenzy reached a fevered pitch when the warm-up team offered a trivia contest, in which four Sleepyheads faced off to show their devotion and knowledge of all things Ichabod and Abbie. By the time moderator Kim Roots took to the stage, the audience was tittering with anticipation. However, events took a turn when she shared details of the panel.
No Nicole Beharie, Tom Mison or Orlando Jones (R.I.P. Captain Frank Irving). And while an episode of “Sleepy Hollow” was to be screened, it was the previous week's, "Whispers in the Dark." As gasps and jeers began filtered through the crowd, Roots begged for calm, saying, "I'm only the messenger," before reminding fans that meant they'd once again see the scene in which Ichabod handles Abbie's delicates.
Following the screening, Root returned to introduce those members of the cast and crew who were able to slink away from the series' demanding production schedule: "the toughest chick on TV" Lyndie Greenwood (who plays Jenny Mills); "once a Wendigo and now he's part of the team," Zach Appelman (Joe Corbin); "spy/seamstress extraordinaire" Nikki Reed (Betsy Ross); and writer/co-executive producer Raven Metzner.
After Root explained a shift in the "Sleepy Hollow" production schedule was to blame for Mison's absence, Appelman offered, "I'm your replacement Tom. Just picture me being taller with longer hair, and floppy arms. But Tom actually just texted me and said, 'I've sent you an email to read to the panel. Don't look at it until you're onstage.' So I haven't seen this yet."
"You're going to do it in the accent, right?" Greenwood interjected, earning wild screams from the crowd.
Appelman shot her some playful side-eye before continuing: "OK, here goes. If it's vulgar, it's not my fault. I haven't seen it yet. [In British accent] 'Dear Sleepyheads, I wish I could be there with you to watch that episode we've all seen before. But alas, I had to remain in Atlanta for weekend. I think we can all agree that the panel in front of you is all the more impressive without my hairy mug grinning at you. And it's nice that it's made up entirely of women. [Appelman and Metzner exchanged a glance, while Greenwood and Reed chuckled.] Although I agree that Zach's reading of this letter is a little lackluster, perhaps together we can spruce up his dead-eyed performance a bit. On the count of three, all shout, “Show us your pecs, Zach.” One. Two. Three. [The crowd gleefully does as instructed.] Come on. You can all do better than that. One. Two. Three. [The crowd bellowed “Show us you pecs, Zach!” much louder than before.] That's much better. But, God, I hope he didn't. Again I wish I could be there, but I think I just earned a place in this year's Pantomime Season so I'll see all of you down on Margate Pier.’”
Momentarily dropping the accent, Appelman said, “The hell is that?” before continuing, “Ugh. ‘Fight the good fight, comrades and just look at those pecs. Lovings, Tom.’" For the record, Appelman did not reveal his pecs.
However, Reed did display some insight into one of the more curious moments from the previous week's episode: After Betsy Ross told Ichabod Crane she'd "take care of" the villainous and suspicious General Howell, she reappeared in her knickers with his redcoat wrapped around her. Ichabod responded with shock, and Betsy insisted it wasn't what he thought. So what was it? "Not what you would hope," Reed teased. "We actually shot a scene."
Metzner interjected that the scene was cut for time, but could end up on the eventual Season 3 DVD. Then he offered a bit more detail on what Ross was up to, saying, "She led him down a path, and left him tied and gagged."
"Besty tends to do that," Reed concurred. "I mean, nothing makes her more excited than making Ichabod uncomfortable. It's what she lives for."
Roots then pushed Metzner for Season 3 teasers, and he obliged, declaring, "Crane will face a nemesis of his that he really can't stand, face to face. He'll have to go up against him. Abbie, who has got this whole new job, is going to come under some pretty serious fire. And someone in our crew is going to switch sides. I can't say much more than that."
But what's Ichabod Crane without the Headless Horseman? Will the iconic villain be back? "This year is the second tribulation,” Metzner said. “The Headless Horseman was part of the Moloch crew. So I'm not going to say yes or no, but let's dig into the awesome new challenges that are facing our heroes. And never say never. We'll see."
Another creature the crowd hopes to see resurrected is The Kindred. "We love the Kindred,” Metzner replied. “We have a lot of people here that should be writers on the show. There's some great stuff coming down the line. We should all know [the writers] are all big fans of the show's monsters as well. We all love The Kindred. Believe me, there's writers in the room who would very much like to see The Kindred come back. So, let's keep our fingers cross."
Sleepyheads showed ardent interest in how Crane's new ally Betsy Ross developed. "One of the things we love to do for this show is take figures from history and moments in history and flip them on their ear," Metzner said. "So, this a character that we really wanted to explore for a while. … We're really so happy that we have Nikki here to be the unexpected, amazingly interesting and super cool Betsy Ross."
Reed added, "She's definitely not the Betsy you'd envision, sitting in her rocking chair sewing a flag. She's a slightly different version of her. I wish I could take credit for her, but I will say as an actress I try to find characters that I not only contribute something to but that I can take away something from. So I think it's pretty cool that I get to go to sleep at night with a little bit of Betsy home with me. She sort of feels like the ultimate woman in a certain sense, for her time especially. She has that rogue gene. So I'm grateful for that,
playing a multifaceted woman from this time period is pretty cool."
Season 3 also introduced a new villain in Pandora. Although actress Shannyn Sossamon wasn’t in attendance, Metzner fielded a question about how this mythical figure will factor into the show.
"Pandora does have secrets, and so do I," he said, scoring laughs from Sleepyheads. "Pandora's a really interesting mythic creature because there's so many versions of Pandora. In some versions, Pandora is a god herself. In others she's a woman who is given the box as part of a dowry. One thing that sort of remains constant is that when the box is opened all the evils in the world comes out and what is left in the box is a little bit of hope. So all I can say is that on 'Sleepy Hollow' we always try to make things our own. So, when we take something like Pandora, we try to make a 'Sleepy Hollow' version. She's a character we're really excited about and the box has opened, so there'll be some exciting dangerous things coming up."
For fans fretting that Crane has been more comic relief than hero lately, Metzner offered some assurances. "Ichabod has many, many sides. We all love to see him both celebrate and be confounded by the modern world. That's always a lot of fun," he said. "But he's going to go through a lot this season, both emotionally and be challenged like I said by figures from his past. Also, there are the challenges of the world right now in front of him. He's not going to be ever just comic relief."
Fans likewise voiced concern about the upcoming "Bones" crossover potentially diluting the "Sleepy Hollow" characterr. Metzner explained a bit about this process, while carefully dodging spoilers. "The 'Bones' room, we were in touch with them since the very beginning. And they've been very, very generous," he began. "While their characters will be in our episode and our characters in theirs, I was on the 'Bones' set with some of our characters, and when they came around they had their writers as well. Our characters are very well-protected. And actually I think it's going to be a lot of fun."
But it was a could-be crossover that threw the audience into hysterics. When one fan asked about the possibility of "Sleepy Hollow" meeting the newly revived "X-Files," the room was flooded with the sound of exaltation and excitement. It's a feeling Metzner shared, saying, "I was in this room yesterday and was lucky enough to watch that [new ‘X-Files’ panel and episode]. I mean, that would be awesome. We have a lot of genre fans in our [writers] room, as well as fans who are just fans of good television and good movies. We talk about a lot of shows, and 'The X-Files' is one that we talk about because it's a great mix of mythology and at the same time a mix of great standalone episodes. We talk about how they did that so well on TV for all those years. Yeah. That would just be -- I literally teared up watching [the new 'X-Files' episode] here yesterday, just seeing those four characters. We're going to have a really awesome crossover episode coming up [with 'Bones']. Maybe if that crossover is completely awesome, then maybe everyone will be like, 'Oh, this ['X-Files' meets 'Sleepy Hollow'] is the logical next step.’"
Reed fielded a question about historical research, saying, "Coming into this, that was my first question for the writers. I wanted to know what kind of research they did, what I needed to do, and how we could marry the two … because it is their own spin on [Betsy Ross]. I was trying to figure what out there was real with Betsy. And seems to me the most accurate information out there was a book her grandson wrote. But then you take that and go, 'Well, that's still someone else's interpretation of her life.' So at the end of the day, while there are components that must be real world accurate, you do have certain creative freedom to bring to it whatever you want her to be. And they just did such a great job [of writing her]. I did do a lot of research, and then I realized that I could really rely on them to do that as well. They take that seriously."
Greenwood joked, "I'm Canadian, so I learn a lot of American history from the show." Then her onscreen could-be paramour (if fans have their way) gave the crowd a Mison update. Apparently, the "Sleepy Hollow" star had been watching the panel's live-feed stream between shoot setups.
"Speaking of foreigners," Appelman said, "Tom just texted me, 'That accent was a disgrace.' What should I write back?" A few voices from the audience shouted out almost in unison, "You should have been here!" Appelman smiled, and said, "Texting that right now."
The panel moved on with hoots and hollers as a fan asked whether Abbie would ever take Ichabod to New York City, which is of course a short drive from Sleepy Hollow. "As a New Yorker, born and bred here," Metzner began, "I'd really love to see that too. It's funny: We have a long list in our writers room of places we'd like to see Crane and Abbie go. And that is right up there at the top of the list."
Finally, the event -- and New York Comic Con itself -- drew to a close just in time for one final text from Mison. But Appelman was reluctant to share it. "Tom did respond to that text," he said to the expectant audience. "And I actually can't read it aloud." The Sleepyheads entreated him, chanting, "Read it!" With a wry smile, Appelman replied, "Use your imaginations."
"Sleepy Hollow" airs Thursdays at 9 p.m. ET/PT on Fox.