Sept. 15--LOS ANGELES -- The biggest challenge for Tom Mison, who's playing Ichabod Crane in FOX's updated version of "Sleepy Hollow," is playing a man determined to stop a facially challenged demon while trying to adjust to a strange new world.
In this latest incarnation of Washington Irving's tale, Crane and the Horseman have been in a dormant state -- aka Rip Van Winkle -- since they faced each other on a Revolutionary War battlefield. Crane's trying to keep his head in a world where everything has changed, while the Horseman just wants to find his.
"Sleepy Hollow" is the first new network show to debut for the fall 2013-14 TV season.
Mison laughs at a question about how he thinks he would react if he suddenly woke up in a world 250 years from now.
"I would just die," Mison says. "That's the fun thing to find out. What things around him would fascinate him. I imagine, it would be things that are very useful to him. Solutions to problems that he may not even realized he had in the 18th century."
He points to a scene in the opening episode where Crane gets into a car for the very first time. He's more amazed by the electric window than the workings of the engine. It was finding that sense of curiosity -- rather than just having Crane be awestruck by the strange new world -- that was the key for Mison playing the character.
Mison knows that if a person woke up 250-plus years into the future, it would take months -- maybe years -- to fully comprehend the advancements. Such a timeline would kill a TV program. That's why the producers came up with a way of speeding up Crane's acclamation to the 21st century.
"It's Ichabod's pride and him not wanting people to see that he's confused by things," Mison says.
Lofty subjects will confuse Crane, like how he left a world where he was fighting for the ideals of the founding fathers and joins a time when those ideals are in practice. There also will be mundane moments of madness, such as being told a sandwich costs $25, a huge amount of money in the 18th century.
In a small way, Mison understands what Crane's experiencing. The British actor has gone from a world of theater, TV and film in his home country to the brash and big TV experience of America. He jokes that the first thing he noticed in landing his first American television show was how much better the on-set catering is here.
"None of what you see from Ichabod is acting. I'm genuinely that baffled constantly. I think even more than it being different from British television is just it's different. It seems to be different from any television," Mison says. "Being on this is much more like being on a film set. And I think you can see from the results that it looks much more like a feature film than something on television."
The modernized "Sleepy Hollow" will put him in the sites of literary purists who revere Irving's work. That doesn't concern Mison, who starred five years ago in the British TV series "Lost in Austen." The show was about a young woman from present day who finds herself living the Jane Austen book "Pride & Prejudice."
He smiles and says, "When you're messing with the Austenites, they can be pretty heavy. Hell hath no fury like an Austenite that has been scorned."
"Sleepy Hollow," 9 p.m. today, KMPH (Channel 26.1)
Returning shows: "Dancing With the Stars," 8 p.m., KFSN (Channel 30.1); "Bones," 8 p.m., KMPH (Channel 26.1)
New shows: "Dads," 8 p.m., KMPH; "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," 8:30 p.m., KMPH
Returning shows: "New Girl," 9 p.m., KMPH; "The Voice," 9 p.m., KSEE (Channel 24.1); "The Mindy Project," 9:30 p.m., KMPH
TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, email@example.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com.
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