After a two-week hiatus that felt like two centuries for “Sleepy Hollow” fans, Fox’s freshman hit returns Monday with an intriguing new character played by “Fringe” actor John Noble.
The character, Henry Parrish, also known as The Sin Eater, is a “reluctant sort of savior,” according to Noble who spoke to the press in a conference call last week. “He has the ability to remove evil from a person in a sense, so hence the name The Sin Eater. Even though he doesn’t want to, he’s called into action basically to save Ichabod’s life.”
In the episode, Abbie (Nicole Beharie) enlists Henry to help Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison), who's been kidnapped. Henry, who has supernatural powers, might be the only person who can break the bond between Ichabod and Headless, who returns in the episode.
“There’s only one way they can possibly save him, so Abbie has to go find this old dude — that’s me — and she somehow works out that he’s got special powers, and he’s incredibly reluctant to speak to her and to help her find (Crane),” Noble said. “But he does. Ultimately, and we don’t know why he does this, but he goes through a ceremony or a procedure to remove the evil from (Crane).”
Noble will appear in three more episodes this season, and Henry Parrish will become a more prominent figure next season — if Fox renews the series. In a separate conference call with reporters last week, Mison said that Henry “will become a very, very important character,” and Henry and Crane seem to develop a father-son bond, according to Noble.
“Our first scene together is just me and him sitting opposite over a table,” Mison said. “He came in and sat down and we did the scene. I was quite surprised when someone shouted, ‘Cut’ because I forgot that there were cameras and other people around the place. When you are acting with someone like John, you completely lose yourself. He’s mesmerizing and brilliant. I rather like it, yes.”
Noble, 65, is best known for his work in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy and Fox’s “Fringe,” and has a rabid following among science fiction and fantasy fans. He said he is “very comfortable” performing in those genres and was drawn to “Sleepy Hollow,” which is produced by the “Fringe” team, because “it feels like the perfect combination of all the favorite genres. It’s fantasy and it’s science fiction and it’s horror and it’s historical. It’s almost a procedural in a sense. They’ve managed to do something with alchemy and make it work.”
The show also can be surprisingly funny, especially when it pits Ichabod Crane against modern technology. In what is sure to become a classic moment on the show, Crane sat in his car in the Oct. 14 episode seemingly talking to himself rather poetically about losing his wife, Katrina. A sobbing female voice who says, “I’m so, so sorry,” is later revealed to be the car’s Northstar Assistance.
“The temptation could be to go nuts with the comedy, not just for me but the writers as well,” Mison said. “We worked out during the pilot that the only way you can sell the comedy is to play it as straight as the period stuff. Finding the balance between the confusion and those funny scenes and the more serious scenes, the way to balance them is to play them with a very similar tone. Everything is very real for Ichabod. It’s a saving grace in terms of performance and stops me from hamming it up.”
Like Walter Bishop, Noble’s beloved character on “Fringe,” Henry is complex and a bit of an eccentric who offers the actor “much room to play with the psychological levels.”
“He doesn’t have that extreme range that Walter had — the mentally damaged character that he was,” Noble said. “From what I know, I don’t see that type of range. What I do see is depth and secrets and psychological twists that I find appealing. He’s a mystery man. And we’ll reveal those mysteries. As time goes by, I think those revelations will be quite a shock to the other characters and the audience. That’s great fun to play. But he’s not a crazy like Walter was.”
"Sleepy Hollow" airs at 9 p.m. Mondays on Fox.
— With additional reporting by Tara Bennett.