“Sleepy Hollow” returns with an all new episode, “The Sin Eater,” tonight at 9/8c on Fox. I’m a few episodes behind, but that didn’t stop me from sitting in on last week’s press conference, in which John Noble, who of course played Walter Bishop on “Fringe” and Denethor in “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy, discussed his guest-starring role as Henry Parrish on “Sleepy Hollow.”
I’m a huge fan of Noble’s, so you can bet I’ll be tuning in. Here are a few highlights from the press conference. And by the way, “Sleepy Hollow” has already been renewed for season two. Extra motivation to catch up if you’re behind!
On how Alex Kurtzman (writer/creator of “Fringe”) told John about the part.
I got a call through my management first, and then Alex contacted me and we took it from there. He ringed me in Australia. I was in Australia.
On his role of Henry Parrish in “Sleepy Hollow.”
It’s interesting, isn’t it, that the episode is called “The Sin Eater,” and it introduces this character of Henry Parrish. He’s a reluctant sort of a savior, but he has this ability, in a sense, to remove evil from a person. Hence the name, The Sin Eater.
Even though he doesn’t want to, he’s called into action basically to save Ichabod’s life, and he does. So that is our first introduction and we establish a relationship and you can see there is some sort of chemistry between him and Ichabod and the other principals.
On working with Tom Mison (Ichabod Crain).
The whole experience with the company was good. Tom, in particular, he’s a beautiful man, he’s also a fantastic actor, and so we had a lot in common. We also found that we had common ground and that we both have a theatre background, so we were able to talk across a whole series of issues of topics in that way. But really, it was the connection we had on set that was special, and when it happens, it’s terrific.
On his favorite moment with the new character Henry Parrish.
No one has any idea who this character is, and in this situation it’s a knock on the door. I haven’t seen the footage, but I imagine it’s just going to be one eye looking out through the door. And that kind of really creepy good moment; who is this new person, and then, of course, we open the door and meet Henry.
I only had two scenes, I think, in the episode, but they were two very big scenes and both of them were beautifully written, so I enjoyed it.
On what’s unique about Henry Parrish.
What’s happened – and I thank Alex and Roberto [Orci] for this – he’s another one of these really complex, multilayered characters. When I did Walter Bishop, the great joy of him was the layers that he had, and it gave me so much room to play with the psychological levels of the character, and Henry offers me the same. From what I’ve been told by the writers, that’s what we’ll see as time goes by. That makes going to work a joy for me – to play with these complex characters.
On whether the character will be ongoing.
Well, I’m going to do three more episodes this season, and then probably be back next year for quite a lot.
On how Henry Parrish differs from Walter Bishop.
[Henry] doesn’t have that extreme range that Walter had, the sort of mentally damaged character that he was. He doesn’t have, from what I know, that type of range. What I do see is the depth and the secrets and the psychological twists that I find very appealing about this character. He’s a mystery man, and we will reveal these mysteries. And I think as time goes by, those revelations will be quite a shock to the other characters and to the audience. That’s great fun to play that sort of thing, but he’s not a crazy like Walter was.
On doing guest spots on shows like “Sleepy Hollow” and “The Good Wife,” after being on “Fringe” for five seasons.
I’m just actually in the process of shooting a guest on “The Good Wife” this week. So yeah, I already know a lot of the people, so it’s great to come in and work with good actors. This time, I’m working with Julianna Margulies and Josh Charles. I know them; they are great actors, so that is a joy in itself.
But it can be difficult doing guests. The one with “Sleepy Hollow” is more than a guest. It’s not like a one-off where you come and your job there is to serve as a plot device, which is what a lot of guest actors have to do. There is a growth in this one. But sometimes guest acting can be very difficult, and in the past, I’ve found it’s tricky, but not at present. I’ve done a few in Australia this year and they have been great.
On shooting “Sleepy Hollow” in North Carolina.
It’s a beautiful little town called Wilmington; gorgeous beaches and a lovely old historical part of the world. So, my first impression is that it’s a terrific place.
On going from the fan-based show “Fringe” to a recurring guest on “Sleepy Hollow.”
It’s like getting lightning in the bottle twice, if you can understand the analogy. I know that there is a cross-over between these two shows. To start with, the creators, Roberto and Alex, are the common link. I know from just talking to fans over seven years, going back to “Lord of the Rings” through those years at “Fringe,” that there is a huge crossover within these science-fiction fantasy areas. So I feel very comfortable in that area, very fortunate in a sense to have that stable base out there of people that I know enjoy it and find it fascinating.
On the special-ness of “Sleepy Hollow.”
What’s amazing to me is that it feels like the perfect combination of all the favorite genres; it’s fantasy, it’s science-fiction, it’s horror, it’s historical, and it’s also almost a procedural in the sense. So it’s like the writers have linked them all together incredibly cleverly, and the look of the show is fantastic. So they’ve managed to do something with alchemy and make it all work, and it seems to be working really wonderfully at this stage.
Probably one of my favorite reading topics is history, early American History would be at the top of that list. I find the whole [Revolutionary War] period absolutely fascinating and have read widely on it. And when you link it in with this extraordinary legend that was written in, what 1826 or something, when Irving wrote the book, this American legend that is so rich and potent, it’s almost like a perfect combination.
On what he watches in his spare time.
I watch an awful lot of documentaries and science shows. I tend very strongly towards documentaries. I watch “The Good Wife,” and I’m not saying that because I’m on it at present. We’re watching, I’m just trying to think what we’re watching … [calls to his wife] … “Penny, what are we watching at present on tele?” I’ve got to find out from my wife … I used to enjoy “Fringe.” And, oh yes, “Homeland.”
On the rumors that he’ll be involved with a big film franchise, possibly “Star Wars.”
That would be a dream … I would certainly consider other things, but “Star Wars” is the one that appeals to me most.
On working with Nicole Beharie (Lt. Abbie Mills on “Sleepy Hollow”).
She’s such a pro, so prepared. You’ve heard that term used, I’m sure, when people are so prepared when they come to work. So it is very easy to engage very quickly and at a quite deep level with actors who prepare like that. She’s gifted, that goes without saying, and I’m really looking forward to doing more work with her. I just got a sense that we’ll probably develop something quite special. I have great respect.
On his appearance on “The Good Wife.”
It’s kind of a flashback about a really nutty Australian bloke. In the episode, it was a flashback, but he was shot in the back of the head. When I was doing it, they were saying, “Oh we’ve got to have you come back.” I said, “I can’t because you’ve just killed me.” They brought him back for more interplay with Alicia, so it’s a lot of fun. I love working with these guys, they are such good people. And the crew of “The Good Wife,” so many of them were the crew in our first year of “Fringe” in New York, so it’s like being back with family.
On how he “found” the “Sleepy Hollow” character of Henry Parrish.
Kind of the best place to go for these characters is very often the script. I don’t know how I absorb things, to be honest with you, but I do and I just absorb them. I don’t over-read it and I don’t really ever spend much time learning them. But, apparently, they just sit around in my head, according to my wife. So it’s not one single thing that does it; it’s more the internal chemistry and that sort of comes out in what he looks like and how he walks and sounds and the voice he uses.
On getting to the heart of Henry Parrish.
You know, it’s a funny thing, when you play any character, you know how we are sympathetic towards ourselves? No matter what we do or what we say, there is a certain amount about ourselves that we love or else we wouldn’t get up in the morning and keep breathing. So for me, it’s when I take a character on board, I like them. John Noble doesn’t always agree with them, but the character understands what he’s doing, and he believes that he’s doing the best thing by making the best choices.
I think if someone is honest, then it’s easier to sympathize with them or empathize with them, it’s very human. There are certain aspects of that that I can see looming very large in this Henry character.