Sleepy Hollow opened up the archives and invited us in to poke around their set. There I got first-hand experience in a small, but pivotal, role as an extra—plus a ton of on-set photos of Ichabod's haunts and creepy supernatural world.
Earlier this summer, io9 was invited to the Sleepy Hollow set to observe and participate in the creation of one very supernatural episode. So I went, not to actual Sleepy Hollow in upstate New York (where I foolishly assumed this was being filmed), but to Wilmington, North Carolina, home of The Creek. Once inside the glorious studio that housed "Leftenant" Abbie Mills and Ichabod Crane, I had unfettered access to just about everything in sight that wasn't a spoiler. Needless to say, I went a bit insane with the camera and this is what happened.
Upon arriving, I was instructed to gather in the lobby of my hotel at 9 AM in my best "club attire." There, a small group of journalists, including myself, would spend the day on set observing, interviewing the cast (interviews that I will be sharing with you all later this week) and prepping for Club Twerk, the hottest club in the fake Hudson Valley. This meant scene infiltration and integration—this meant acting.
Off set I readied myself. I put on my best black dress and a sweater, because I am old and assume that sweaters are things young people wear to clubs. Makeup and hair came over. An exceptionally sweet woman braided one journalist's hair and twisted up the locks of another female colleague (they both looked sensational). Then she turned to me with an expression that can only be described as a polite fret. Lighting stuck: I was to have a bump-front faux-hawk 'do. I felt like a dangerous pony.
Searching inside my soul I discovered "Nikki" with two k's. This was Nikki's hair, Nikki's night out. Nikki was ready.
Quick like bunnies, the small group of journalists was ushered into the pre-lunch rager. And it was hot, very hot. So hot. In order to film inside this club, the air conditioning had to be turned off—but it was still packed like a normal club. My group slid into the back and I prepared to let Nikki take the wall and unleash some moderately appropriate dance moves. But then the crew moved us forward. As the physical bar moved closer, I passed several young handsome strangers and it dawned on me: Nikki might be too old for Club Twerk.
The scene was between Ichabod and new Sleepy Hollow addition Matt Barr, who plays roguishly handsome Indiana Jones-type character Nick Hawley (pictured above). The two gents were on the hunt for a monster—a party monster, if you will. And the trail had led them both into this abyss and right up to the very bar where I was standing with two other journalists. We were instructed to dance and be chill. Those two things don't coexist in my world, but fuck it this was happening.
Action! Music blasted straight out of the sky and the super-sexy patrons of Club Twerk sprang to life. For five hot seconds, the beat was bumping into the bar, and then it cut out. SILENCE. But the crowd continued to jerk and move as if the music was still playing. Now, I'm not a great dancer by any means, but I dread to think of what I look like when I'm dancing to imaginary tunes in my head. So I focused on the task at hand; Nikki was thirsty. I picked up a pint glass of yellow beer-like looking liquid, realized I was holding a warm, fingerprint-coated nightmare and immediately put it back down on the bar because germs. The glass hit the wood with a thud. The bartender gave me his kindest, "Why would you do that," eyes. I retaliated with my own, "I write stupid stuff on the Internet; I don't know what I'm doing," face. He then gestured at the coaster. "Ooooh right the noise," I murmured. Another mistake. "Shhhh," a voice from an unknown source hissed. This was off to a bad start.
In walks Tom Mison. He is in full Ichabod Crane mode: hair flowing, eyes darting. Ichabod enters the club spit-firing his dialogue in the disdainful manner that only Mison can get away with. He's at once fascinated and derisive, a beautiful balance. Oh, Ichabod, you hate everything, and that just makes us love you more! What's even stranger is that Ichabod is still in full period dress and yet he sticks out way less than his cohort Nick Hawley. The blonde-headed Hawley is wearing the traditional "good guy" henley paired with a shoulder gun holster. Yes, this is apparently the kind of character who walks into a club with a gun. It's ridiculous, but only in the way that makes Sleepy Hollow wonderful (Hello, shirtless scorpion acid trips).
The two characters are generally unamused with the situation and make their way to the bar. There Ichabod gives Hawley the third degree about his intentions toward Abbie Mills (who is sadly not in this scene). While the love interest angle is implied, Hawley appears much more interested in Ichabod's implied love assumptions. "Did she say something?" he asked, in such a manner that I have to assume that this love connection is merely a flirtation on Hawley's side. But it's a flirtation that drives Ichabod mad, and that's great.
However, I'll never know the answer, because that's the end of the scene. And the assistant director has just popped up to ask me to stop looking at the camera. Take Two.
Action! I freak out over a fake cocktail glass that has plastic ice in it. Because ice makes noise. These guys think of everything!
Action! I try a waving-arm dance. The second the scene is over, a crew member runs over and informs me that my bracelets are clanking together. She applies a goo around a part of these bracelet that stops them from knocking into each other and making too much noise. It's like rubber cement but only sticky to itself. It is truly a wonder of creation (pictured above).
Action! I realize that every extra around me is covered in this goo. Their arms, ears, anything that makes any sort of clink noise has been dampened by this wonderful goo.
Action! I worry for the entire scene that my shoes are too loud when I move. Decide to stop moving my legs entirely and just dance from the torso up.
Action! My sweat has soaked my ridiculous sweater that I insisted on wearing into this fake club.
Action! Another journalist sits a few spaces down the bar from me, this clever devil has developed cues and interactions with other extras far beyond my own. His character mutely gestures to the lovely co-ed at the bar, asking her if she'd like a drink. She declines. He continues this pantomime every, single, take. It's the Groundhog Day of rejection.
Action! I spend most of the scene accidentally smearing all my makeup off my face with the sleeve of my wet sweater.
Action! The silence has taken over. I begin to hear a ringing sound. No one else hears this sound. Or maybe they're all just lying about it on purpose.
Break for a second while Mison and Barr are fanned and padded by makeup. How they're not sweating through their multiple layers of fabric is one of life's greatest mysteries. Mison looks over in our general direction, smiles and asks, "Fun, right?" "How do you do this every day?" I reply.
Action! I realize halfway through the scene that I'm dancing to a different beat than anyone else.
Action! I've started to get the hang of things. Full of unearned confidence, I turn to the colleague on my left, nod to the bartender and mouth,"He's hot, RIGHT?" My fellow journalist turns her head, glances at the man in question and shrugs. I was gobsmacked. I thought we were cool? And now this is what you do, you shame me on national television? My family and friends will tune in only to watch me be reduced to a bartender-ogling club monster who couldn't even conjure up the respect of her so-called fake television friends. The shame was unending.
The crew rearranges the entire setup and now the camera is filming Mison and Barr while walking backwards through the crowd. Hollywood is weird, man.
Action! The AD walks up behind my co-visitors, leans in DURING THE SCENE and whispers, "OK after he's done talking, just walk in front of the camera." I instinctually decline. He smiles and says, "OK, now." The silent club becomes a reverberating nightmare echo chamber of my shoes clomping around. I walk past the two actors mid-scene with a look that my cat gives when she's leaning back to bite me. "Maybe you'll be a wipe," someone suggests. I'm sorry, America.
Our scene is done, or at least the studio is done indulging the pony girl that keeps pointing to her chest and mouthing the word "Nikki!" Kudos to the band of hot youths that were still pantomiming the greatest night of their lives later on in that day when we checked back in. You're all champions.
The actual episode won't be out until much later this year, don't worry I'll be sure to alert you all to its presence.
After the hour of filming, we left Club Twerk and headed for the production offices. This is what greets everyone when they step into the official office world of Sleepy Hollow, the cast collective (as I have now named it).
Here's a little video I quickly shot of the archives, a.k.a. Abbie and Ichabod's secret clubhouse. This place is covered, top-to-bottom, with props—and not just skulls, candles and the usual occult stuff. It's Sleepy Hollow specific: Freemasonry books, statues of the Founding Fathers, all sorts of good secret society memorabilia and a gargantuan painting of "Washington Crossing the Delaware." (I say Potomac in the video. Sorry they can't all be winners!) Actually, the size and presence of this painting makes me think that perhaps in Sleepy Hollow world, this is actually the original, the one supposedly destroyed during World War II.
Pages from the book I was scanning:
Close-up shot, looks like maps of Sleepy Hollow. Makes sense. Good thinking, Abbie.
This place has everything, even a wasps' nest. I assume these are evil German wasps or something.
The elaborate tunnels you see on TV were also part of the set. Alas, they were too dark to photograph, but the Headless Horseman's prison was not. And hooooo boy, that was amazing. This is an image taken through the interrogation window that was installed last season. Not sure why the room still exists (what with the Horseman free in the new season), but it's clearly too gorgeous to take apart. No surprise here, the chains are all fake, and it was kind of hilarious to see plastic crates filled with foam chains strewn about on this set.
Technically this is Ichabod's cabin now, right? It's owned by Sheriff August Corbin (Clancy Brown), but now the Englishman resides there.
Clancy! And sister Jenny Mills!
The forest is a fake! Look at that big fake forest. Tons of sets have big faux location backdrops, but the Sleepy Hollow backdrop is a little bit insane. In real life, it feels like the creepy forest wallpaper that was up in my dentist's office, but on camera it looks real. It even kind of looks real in my iPhone photos.
Creepy tunnels. It was here that I cut my hand while I was doing my "I love Sleepy Hollow and I'm going to touch everything" dance. I'm pretty sure my blood is now mixed with Ichabod's blood and we are one. Whatever, it's canon.
And don't worry, we made it to the Dawson's Creek mural, which is on the Sony Screen Gems lot, the very same place where Sleepy Hollow shoots.
In the end I learned a lot of things at the Sleepy Hollow set. I learned that I am not the greatest fake clubber and that extras work hard. So hard that it is absolutely unfathomable to imagine doing all those things while hitting your marks and reciting your memorized lines. Also I learned a hell of a lot about the new Sleepy Hollow season, which we will be revealing in a slow drip over the rest of this week and the oncoming days. So stay tuned!
Full disclosure: all travel expenses were paid for by the studio. Top Tom Mison photo by Jean Bentley.