New characters abound for 'Sleepy Hollow' season four: a talk with Janina Gavankar

Credit: Rodney Ho

Credit: Rodney Ho

This was posted Thursday, December 29, 2016 by Rodney Ho on his AJC Radio & TV Talk blog

Fox's "Sleepy Hollow" has gone through a tumultuous three seasons e.g. up-and-down ratings, a showrunner change, departures of major characters including Orlando Jones season two and co-lead Nicole Beharie season three. It even shifted shooting location, from Wilmington, N.C. to Atlanta season three.

Despite Beharie's murky departure, Fox gave the show a fourth season of 13 episodes. Fox CEO Dana Walden muddied the waters during a phone conference call announcing the 2016-17 television series with this vague statement regarding Beharie:

“There were a variety of factors that led to the end of the season,” Walden said. "We ended up being put in a situation where that was a decision that needed to be made.”

She also implied that Tom Mison's Ichabod Crane character was more important: "What we know is that Tom Mison is a big star. And the Ichabod Crane character has been so central to the series and the storytelling and he feels like an original, big Fox character."

Some fans thought Beharie's Abby Mills character was downplayed over time and many expressed displeasure by her departure on social media.

"Sleepy Hollow" executive producer Albert Kim defended the move but also noted that Abby will not be forgotten. "It's not like Abby has been swept away," he said. "Abby stays with Crane. She is a huge part of why he's where he is. We honor that and maintain that."

Only two characters from season one remain: Mison's Crane and Lyndie Greenwood's Jenny Mills, Abby's sister. And they've moved the show's fictional home base from Sleepy Hollow to Washington D.C.

"D.C. seems like a natural place for Ichibod Crane," said Kim, who joined the show season two. "Crane can come face to face with institutions he helped found. There's a point where Jenny says to him, 'Welcome home, Crane.' Everything he worked for back in the day comes to play during the course of this season. It's a way to refresh the original concept of the show."

A whole raft of newbies show up for season four. I got to talk to one of them: Janina Gavankar, who plays a former Marine and is now a Homeland Security agent named Diana Thomas. A supernatural skeptic, Diana gets caught up with a demon at the Lincoln Memorial and meets Crane in the opening minutes of the season four debut. The two end up partnering with two employees a long forgotten Supernatural agency, a place that George Washington (in this world) created.

The season will show how that agency was a once integral part of the government. "It's now relegated to the dustbin of government bureaucracy," Kim said. Crane will help "bring it back to its former glory."

Gavankar is a veteran of entering shows already in progress. She came onto Showtime's "The L Word" in its fourth season and did the same with HBO's "True Blood" a few years later. Now she enters season four of this show. Her TV resume is extensive, ranging from NBC's dramedy "The Mysteries of Laura" to FX's comedy "The League" to a few episodes of the CW's Atlanta-based show "The Vampire Diaries" in 2013.

She said her "Sleepy Hollow" character is "no frills, no BS. She doesn't have time for any nonsense. She wants to fix problems and go home to her child."

But Crane changes Diana's world. "My whole entire perspective of the world changes instantly," she said, after seeing her partner get attacked by a demon. "Then this weird man shows up and he's helpful. She's reeling from all this information."

And her daughter Molly (played by a former "Masterchef Junior" contestant Oona Yaffe) , who is currently mute and on the autism spectrum, becomes a key player with a connection to Crane. The muteness will not last forever, Kim said. And those ties will be explained soon enough.

Gavankar said they shot actual scenes in D.C. In the first episode, she and Crane end up at the Jefferson Memorial and the Lincoln Memorial. What was odd, she said, were the restrictions while at those monuments. Only four people could be there, a skeletal staff more akin to a college movie production as opposed to the 50 to 100 people on a typical Fox set.

What was even odder was the fact they could not actually speak while on camera. They had to lip sync and insert their actual dialogue later.

Whether Gavankar's gig lasts beyond this season, she has plenty of other interests, mostly in gaming. She just launched a new website, which she describes as a dynamic online space for geeks of all walks of life to find in-depth interviews, counter-culture posts, and grab "Hack Packs," which are curated collections of unique life hack items, apparel, and tech accessories.


"Sleepy Hollow,"season 4 returns Friday, January 6, 9 p.m., Fox

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