The popular Fox TV series, Sleepy Hollow, gained a large following during its run from 2013 to 2017. However, behind the scenes, a hostile work environment plagued the show, particularly for one of its lead stars, Nicole Beharie. A new book titled “Burn It Down” by Maureen Ryan has shed light on the tumultuous working conditions on the set of Sleepy Hollow, which allegedly included discrimination, creative floundering, and a lack of support for Beharie.
The Hollywood Reporter reports that the relationship between Nicole Beharie, who played Detective Abbie Mills, and her co-star Tom Mison, who portrayed Ichabod Crane, was far from perfect. Sources claim that the two actors “did not want to have a whole lot to do with each other.” This alleged tension between the co-stars led to Mison’s character’s famous “courtly” bow instead of a hug, as the actors did not want to embrace each other.
Despite the fans’ calls for a romantic relationship between the two characters, both actors believed their characters should not evolve into such a relationship. Neither Beharie nor Mison have commented on these claims from the book.
The book also claims that, after an alleged conflict between co-creator and director Len Wiseman and Beharie during the pilot filming, actress Lyndie Greenwood was brought on as a potential replacement for Nicole Beharie. Greenwood played Jenny Mills, Abbie Mills’ sister, in the series. This suggests an underlying tension between the show’s creators and Beharie from the beginning.
One of the issues highlighted in “Burn It Down” is the imbalance in the writers’ room. In the first season, the writers’ room included three people of colour. However, the second season consisted of an all-white male team except for a single woman of colour.
Allegations of misconduct and bias
Maureen Ryan stated that uncovering the misconduct and bias in her Sleepy Hollow reporting made her want to publish the book. She wanted to provide context to the trajectory of Nicole Beharie’s career and expose the mistreatment she faced on the set of Sleepy Hollow.
Multiple sources told Ryan that people in power on the show claimed they did not have “a good experience with Nicole.” According to co-star Orlando Jones, This perception was passed on to others, including writers who had not worked with her, creating a “double standard”.
According to sources, Nicole Beharie often prefaced her statements with “I’m not trying to be difficult,” even though they never witnessed her being difficult. Beharie’s treatment was allegedly different from that of her co-star Tom Mison, who was described as “the star” by a producer and “a handful” by another source.
In a 2020 interview with the Los Angeles Times, Beharie mentioned that she and Mison were both sick during the filming the show’s first season. Mison was able to return to the UK, but Beharie was left to film an episode on her own. Unfortunately, this resulted in Beharie requiring urgent medical attention.
The book claims that there was a lot of creative floundering and confusion among the show’s leadership team from the very beginning. One person who worked on the show noted early “red flags” over how problems were handled, and blame was assigned or reassigned.
Mison and Beharie went through steep learning curves, sometimes involving friction with colleagues. However, Beharie’s growing pains were treated differently from Mison’s. One source stated that “when a bunch of white guys say a person of colour is difficult, I tend to assume that there’s a lot more to that story.”
Writer Shernold Edwards, who worked on Sleepy Hollow under then-showrunner Clifton Campbell, claimed that her experience on the show turned “hellish” with a miserable vibe on set. When she suggested meeting with Beharie to talk, Campbell allegedly “went off,” calling the actress “crazy” and forbidding Edwards from speaking with her.
Campbell has denied calling Beharie “crazy” and stated that she was professional, cordial, and fun. He also claimed that both Mison and Beharie were treated the same on set during his season.
Sleepy Hollow is one of many shows exposed in the book. Lost, Saturday Night Live, The Goldbergs, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and more are covered.