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"Sleepy Hollow" Showrunner Called Star Nicole Beharie "Crazy," New Book Claims

Sources who worked on the show claim that she became the scapegoat for a multitude of on-set problems.

The supernatural procedural Sleepy Hollow was considered by many critics to be one of the most promising new shows to debut in the fall of 2013. But by the end of its third season, the show was down one lead, as Nicole Beharie's character, FBI Agent Abbie Mills, was killed off. Between the end Sleepy Hollow's first season and Beharie's shocking departure, a portion of the series' viewership were very vocal online about issues they had noticed, particularly in the realm of Abbie—one of two initial protagonists—being sidelined or underdeveloped. Anyone who was a fan of the show and on social media at that time will remember how rumors flew about actors' temperaments and drama happening behind the scenes amid its drop in quality. Now, in her new book, Burn It Down: Power, Complicity, and a Call for Change in Hollywood, journalist Maureen Ryan is sharing insights from many people who worked on the once-celebrated Sleepy Hollow.

Cast and crew members told Ryan about how Beharie, who is Black, was systematically labeled as "difficult" and was not given the same treatment as her co-lead, Tom Mison, who is white. One Sleepy Hollow writer even claimed that Season 3 showrunner Clifton Campbell told her that Beharie was "crazy" and forbade her from talking to the actor. Read on to find out more.

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Neither star had ever led a show before.

Many sources Ryan spoke to noted that both Mison and Beharie, neither of whom had been the lead on a series before, seemed overwhelmed by the positions they found themselves in when Sleepy Hollow became a surprise hit. The show—in which a resurrected Ichabod Crane (Mison) and a present-day law enforcement officer (Beharie) team up to fight demons and other supernatural threats—was shot in Wilmington, North Carolina, which required some actors to wear heavy, period costumes in high heat, and filming reportedly often went long. Matters were also complicated by disagreements between creative team members and some upheaval at the show's network, Fox.

"It was very tense from early on," a crew member identified as Frank told Ryan.

Amid all of this tension, however, several sources claimed that Beharie became a scapegoat. While some people who worked on the show told Ryan that their interactions with the star were "professional" and "pleasant," others did not get along with her well, and word started to spread, including to the writers writing for her character, that she was causing problems.

"You're basically turning the writers against one of the leads. I think it's unethical to label the person a problem before the majority of people have had a chance to have an experience with the person," a source named Robert said, adding that the gossip "created a very us-against-her environment."

Mison and Beharie reportedly did not like each other.

A source named Paul said that Sleepy Hollow was "a situation where the two leads did not want to have a whole lot to do with each other" and even that Ichabod's frequent bows to Abbie onscreen were a solution to Mison and Beharie not wanting to hug each other.

These feelings were no doubt enhanced by what several sources told Ryan was unequal treatment among the show's stars. In a Los Angeles Times interview in 2020, Beharie claimed that both she and Mison fell ill during production, and that while "he was allowed to go back to England for a month," she was made to continue working and ended up "in urgent care." In Ryan's book, Orlando Jones, who played Abbie's boss Frank in Seasons 1 and 2, claims that Beharie worked longer hours than Mison (including due to issues the production apparently had with styling Black hair) and that he had a driver, while she drove herself to set. (For his part, Jones, who is also Black, claimed that he was offered a lower salary for Season 2 than he was for Season 1, eventually leading to his departure.)

Producers were pushing a bigger role for Katrina (Katia Winter), Ichabod's wife, and more focus on their relationship, even though fans were calling for a romance between Ichabod and Abbie. Also, Ryan writes that multiple sources claim that Lyndie Greenwood, who played Abbie's sister Jenny, was given more screentime because she was being considered as a possible replacement for Beharie in the early days.

Meanwhile, sources told Ryan that Mison could also be difficult to work with, though it was Beharie's behavior that was criticized.

"Tom was a handful too—he had his own set of issues," Paul said. "I've always said that on any other show, he would've been the biggest problem."

Both Mison and Beharie declined to be interviewed for Burn It Down.

One writer claims a showrunner called Beharie "crazy."

Nicole Beharie in 2014
Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images

For Season 3, Clifton Campbell took over as showrunner of Sleepy Hollow. Ryan spoke with Shernold Edwards, who was thrilled to join the show as a writer that same season. Edwards said that she previously had met and taken a photo with Beharie at an event and that she messaged her with the news that she had been hired, receiving a congratulatory response.

The writer claimed that she mentioned meeting with Beharie to talk about the show and her character one day in the Sleepy Hollow writers room. "He just went off," Edwards said of Campbell. "He was like, 'You can't talk to her. Nobody can talk to her. She's crazy.'"

This surprised Edwards especially because she said she was told during her job interview that, as a Black woman, she would be a friend to Beharie on the writing staff.

Campbell told Ryan in a written response that Edwards' claim was "patently false" and that he had never described Beharie as "crazy."

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A publicist spread an unsubstantiated rumor after Beharie left the show.

Nicole Beharie in 2022
Momodu Mansaray/Getty Images

Ryan covered Sleepy Hollow while it was still on the air, and in her book, she recounts something that happened after she wrote critically about Abbie being written off the show in a way that advanced the story of her white counterpart—Mison's Ichabod Crane. She claims that after her piece was published, a member of Fox's public relations team she identifies as Kelly forwarded her a more complimentary piece about the Season 3 finale and then called her. On the call, Ryan says, Kelly slammed Beharie as impossible to work with and repeated a rumor that she had bitten someone on the Sleepy Hollow crew.

In researching her book, Ryan was unable to corroborate the story that Beharie had bitten a hairstylist during the production of a Season 1 promo spot. Jones said that he had been with Beharie the entire day and that it would have been impossible for something like that to happen without someone witnessing it. Over email, the hairstylist declined to "discuss in detail what happened on Sleepy Hollow with Nicole Beharie." The journalist could not find anyone who claimed to have seen the alleged assault. Nevertheless, the rumor was repeated and impacted Beharie's career. As Ryan notes, the 38-year-old was absent from the screen for two years after leaving Sleepy Hollow, and she also writes that people in the industry have recounted the actor's reputation to her as fact.

Sage Young
Sage Young is the Deputy Entertainment Editor at Best Life, expanding and honing our coverage in this vertical by managing a team of industry-obsessed writers. Read more
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