SLEEPY HOLLOW is now in its second season on Fox, Mondays at 9 PM. With the episode order expanded to eighteen from last year’s ten, Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) – supernaturally buried during the American Revolution and revived last year – and police lieutenant Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie) face even more complications trying to stave off the Apocalypse.
Series co-creator/executive producer Alex Kurtzman is at a SLEEPY HOLLOW Q&A panel Fox holds for the Television Critics Association. Kurtzman, who also co-created FRINGE and a screenwriter/producer currently also an executive producer on HAWAII FIVE-0 (which he also co-created), SCORPION and MATADOR, has also been announced as the director of upcoming feature films VENOM and THE MUMMY. Despite how busy he is, he remains after the panel for awhile to answer further questions. This interview is a combination of his remarks on the panel and the follow-up conversation.
ASSIGNMENT X: How do you handle all of your projects simultaneously?
ALEX KURTZMAN: Well, I think the first thing is, you want to surround yourself with an extraordinary team and let them do the job they’re great at doing. We’ve spent a lot of time making sure that the time that we have is really spent focused on the task at hand. And sometimes that’s staying at thirty thousand feet. Sometimes it’s getting right in there and doing the writing. It depends moment to moment. But I think we [Kurtzman and producing/writing partner Roberto Orci] started in television, and the first muscle that you learn to flex is to be very limber about jumping from thing to thing to thing that’s right in front of you, because you’re writing while breaking story while in the middle of directing an episode while in the middle of posting [working on post-production]. By definition, you have to exercise that muscle. But we never do anything that we don’t feel like we’re going to be able to spend some really significant time committing to.
AX: What does having a season order for eighteen episodes, versus last year’s thirteen episodes, do for the show?
KURTZMAN: [The writers received] enough advanced warning to figure out how to strategize and plan the season correctly. And having enough time, we can account for it. We just want to make sure we’re stretching our story well and that there are no episodes in there that feel like they’re sort of middle ground episodes that are just transitions from one big storyline to the next.
AX: SLEEPY HOLLOW has a unique tonal balance between humor, drama, character development, mythology and the completely gonzo. How do you maintain that?
KURTZMAN: It’s so funny for us, because we were struck by how much people couldn’t quite figure out what we were when we first came out. I think for us, we feel intuitively that the key to that tone and that balance is making sure that there’s an emotional reality to the experiences your characters are having. And if you can give the audience that and you can let them buy into the reality of the show, you can ask them to go on any journey that you want.
AX: Can you talk about the relationship between Ichabod and Abbie? It’s very emotionally intimate without – so far, anyway – being romantic; Ichabod is still very much in love with his wife Katrina, played by Katia Winter.
KURTZMAN: I think Abbie and Crane need each other very desperately, and it was one of the things that got us so excited when we wrote the pilot, was this idea that as a man out of time, obviously he needs her for guidance, but that she has been so alone her whole life, with really nobody who believed the story that she knows in her heart was true, and along comes the strangest of people who is proof positive that, in fact, it is true. And so they have a very unique connection from the start, and obviously, as Season 1 revealed, a deeper connection than even they understood. And the level of intimacy, I think, is something that has to be played for what it honestly is, which is how much they need each other.
AX: You have a lot of demons and monsters on SLEEPY HOLLOW. Is there a key to creating a cool demon?
KURTZMAN: The key to that is always making sure that the characters are coming as some manifestation of a problem that our actual characters are going through. We always sort of use the idea that their inner demons are manifested as literal demons, and that’s why we hope the characters are resonant.
AX: To ask about some specific demons, the Horsemen of War and Death are very active on the show. Will we be seeing the Horsemen of Pestilence and Famine at some point?
KURTZMAN: It’s entirely possible, yes. We may very well be seeing Pestilence and Famine at some point. Not necessarily right away, but I think that’s on the docket.
AX: What are your feelings about practical effects versus CGI? SLEEPY HOLLOW seems to use a lot of practical effects.
KURTZMAN: I’m a huge fan of practical, as much as possible. Obviously, the best versions these days tend to be with directors who know how to augment practical with CG in the right way and how to light for it correctly, and that’s always exciting, but when you’re a child of STAR WARS [laughs], you want to do practical. It just feels more tactile and real. So figuring out how to do that, and meet the expectation of a modern audience about what a monster really is going to look like and how it’s going to be scary. Obviously, you don’t want someone in a rubber suit running around all the time, but I do think there’s a wonderful balance to be had there.
AX: SLEEPY HOLLOW has a large and vocal fan base on the Internet, particularly Twitter. How do you feel about them?
KURTZMAN: It’s completely undismissable, because they take it as seriously as we do. And so I think we owe them the courtesy and respect of listening to what they have to say, so that we can deliver for them. And in a great way, I think it keeps us on track. We can sort of tell by what we read, and we all read a lot, that there would be a certain point where they would feel betrayed by something that happened. And we hear that, so we always take that into account.
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