Exclusive Interview: Leigh Dana Jackson (Writer/Producer, "Sleepy Hollow")

This is possibly the most anticipated interview I’ve done in a while, and the excitement has been such that it scared me, to be honest. But here it is, the interview with Leigh Dana Jackson, one of the writers and producers of Sleepy Hollow.

For those of us who have watched Sleepy Hollow since the beginning, most of us are aware of how Season One is completely different from Season Two. I don’t need to go back into the specifics; you can just read my coverage to see what happened last year. However, Season Three promises to bring back much of the magic of Season One and then some, if you read the tea leaves of Jackson’s answers.

I was happy to write to Jackson via email about how he got started in television writing, the plight of POC characters in television, what happened during the writing process of this season, and his feelings about that Twitter situation that erupted over the word “patience.” I was also able to ask 10 fan questions out of the multitude of questions I received, and even though the questions are, basically, questions asking for spoilers,  the one-word answers he does give are very enlightening and should (hopefully) last the fandom until October.

Sleepy Hollow comes back to Fox Oct. 1.

How did you get started in writing?

The really short version: I worked as a development executive for Spike Lee; I went to the grad school (film school) at NYU; I moved to LA; I wrote a movie that never got made but got me hired to write other stuff that never got made; while I was writing stuff that never got made, I wrote a pilot that got me staffed on my first show; I’ve been writing TV ever since.

You’ve mentioned before that on previous shows you’ve worked on, you’ve always made sure to fight for the POC characters. How tough it is for POC characters to get proper treatment in television?

That’s a tough question. I think it’s getting easier to show interesting, dynamic characters of all sorts on TV. But there are still very few lead characters of color (we’re usually number two or number three, but rarely number one). And even when characters are cast as PoC, they’re still primarily written by straight, white men. That’s just, statistically speaking, a fact. And sometimes, writers who haven’t had certain non-mainstream experiences aren’t sensitive to how certain things may appear to the non-white (and also non-male, non-straight and non-cis) audience. So I try to make sure to represent at least the non-white perspective when and where I can. It’s a constant struggle, but it’s getting better (at least I think it is!).

When you came to Sleepy Hollow, were you aware of the avid and intense fanbase?

Nope.

One thing that unnerved me was how some fans attacked you for your Twitter request for patience re: S3. I read your Tumblr post and thought it was well-stated. What did you make of the whole thing (especially since that was, sadly, probably your first introduction to the fandom)?

As far as the passionate and angry response of some fans, I get it. People felt betrayed by the people they spoke to last season. They had little patience. I understand how that happens. At the same time, as a producer of the show, I know things that the audience (and io9) don’t. So while people were getting upset over Betsy Ross and were accusing us of only focusing on Crane’s relationships, I knew that we were in the process of casting Lance Gross. It simply hadn’t been announced yet. So I said, “patience.”

I can’t change the fact that the fandom doesn’t trust the previous regime. But as I pointed out, this is a new season and a new team. We should be allowed to succeed or fail on our own merits. That’s my opinion as someone on the inside. It’s up to the fans to accept that perspective or not. But I understand both sides.

One final thing I’ll say on this topic, though: passion for a show — any show — is great. But when it spills over into personal attacks or insults, I’m out. That’s not the kind of conversation I’m here to have. I won’t name any names, but there are some people I just won’t be engaging with going forward because of that tone. Other writers might be cool with it; it’s just not my thing.

Some fans have said that part of the attack was out of sheer desperation for information on Season Three. What would you say to fans who feel they are past their wits’ end?

As a fan, I wish Game of Thrones was on every Sunday all year long. But it’s not. And practically speaking, it can’t be. So I understand the passion and desperation Sleepy Hollow fans probably feel. It just means that people love the show and the characters. That’s awesome. In terms of being at their wits end, all I can say is that it’s August. Writers are writing. Actors are acting. Directors are directing. Editors are editing. We’ll be on in October and it’s gonna be great.

Season Three has been built up by everyone who’s watched Sleepy Hollow from the beginning as the “make it or break it” season, seeing how badly received Season Two was. Did you and the writing staff rewatch Season Two or go over notes from Season Two as to how to bring Sleepy Hollow back on track this season?

We all watched Season Two and we talked about what we thought worked well and what the fans didn’t respond to as positively as we may have hoped. The network and studio also had strong feelings about the first two seasons. So my very simple answer is that our goal for Season Three is to do more of what worked in the first two seasons and less of what didn’t.

In general, what can fans expect this season, both in character development and action?

Um, lots of character development and amazing action. If I say any more, Fox might have me gagged…

How did the Bones crossover come about? What can fans expect from that?

Not sure how it came about (it was already in the works when I got here).

How bad is the big bad this season?

SO big. and SO bad.

Pandora is an interesting addition to me; what can you tell me about her?

Not much, unfortunately, without getting into spoilers.

I did receive many questions from fans, and many of them would probably have spoiler-filled answers. But here are a couple of the questions they wanted me to pass on:

Is there more bonding time for Jenny and Abbie?

Yes.

Does Abbie learn more about her past, what makes her a witness, and/or does she meet another ancestor (like the one that was found as a stone statue in the gorgon’s cave in Season Two)?

Maybe.

How is the time jump from Ichabod killing Katrina to “several months later” in Season Three handled? Will we get to see Ichabod having some PTSD moments from the trauma of killing his wife?

You’ll see…

Does Abbie get a love interest?

Good question.

We see Ichabod gets a haircut; does he also get a job?

I thought being a witness was his job!

 

Are any fan favorite characters coming back this season (like Big Ash, Yolanda, Seamus the Shaman, Grace Dixon, etc.)?

Maybe.

Where are characters like Orion (the evil archangel) and the Kindred? Or, in other words, do hanging storylines from Season Two get wrapped up or continued this season?

Maybe.

What is the situation with Betsy? What is her role in the group?

Betsy is a character we’ve mentioned in the past, so we’re just exploring that story further.

Will Abbie have romance this season?

Good question.

What are your opinions on the Ichabbie (Ichabod/Abbie) pairing?

It’s the reason I chose to work on this show. They have a chemistry on screen that’s really wonderful to watch.

  • J. Lang

    He did not answer any of your questions straightforwardly. And how can being a Witness be Ichabod’s job. If I am not mistaken, a title do not clothe, feed and take care of your other monetary needs. That fell/falls on Abbie, which does not make sense.

  • Okay, those were completely uninformative/informative answers. I loved them.
    Its true the second season felt like the creators were vamping around for a plot but since they have changed crews, I’m going into this new season with a positive attitude. That’s all I can do.
    I cant really get angry about it until I see it, if thats whats going to happen.

  • Reblogged this on Geeking Out about It.

  • I like this guy, and I understand why he can’t say more. We didn’t get much out of his answers, but it was interesting to learn about his journey that landed him on the Sleepy Hollow team. The final question and his love of Ichabbie is awesome. The part I’m most concerned about is:

    “As far as the passionate and angry response of some fans, I get it. People felt betrayed by the people they spoke to last season. They had little patience. I understand how that happens. At the same time, as a producer of the show, I know things that the audience (and io9) don’t. So while people were getting upset over Betsy Ross and were accusing us of only focusing on Crane’s relationships, I knew that we were in the process of casting Lance Gross. It simply hadn’t been announced yet. So I said, “patience.”

    –To me this sounds like confirmation that Betsy Ross will be there for Crane and Lance Gross’ character for Abbie. I’m completely confounded by Sleepy Hollow doing everything they can to keep Ichabbie from not happening. I don’t even care about romance on my supernatural shows and usually fast forward through the cheesy stuff, but now I just want Ichabbie rolling on the ground in passionate sweat in the S3 premiere. When you have two attractive leads, people ship them. It’s just what happens. Now I understand not wanting to rush into it to keep the excitement alive and let people hang on the ‘will they, won’t they’ aspect, but most shows thrive the audience’s desire to see the leads together. While they might bring in a person here or there as a plot device to show jealousy or worry or whatever to bounce off the leads, they DON’T do everything in their power to try and make us not want to ship them any longer. I’m glad Lance Gross was added because this once wonderfully diverse show was getting a whitewashing so blatantly racist I don’t see how people who claim not to be racist could pretend they didn’t see it BUT I’m disappointed that they think if they bring an attractive Black man in fans will decide it’s OK to keep the leads apart. It’s just another bait and switch. We’ll be so distracted by Lance’s sexiness, we’ll forget that Ichabod ever pined over Abbie? No. It’s very disappointing. While I hope both Gross and Reed have real purpose, I do hope any romantic inclinations are strictly there as a plot device and not drawn out too long. I firmly stand by Katrina should’ve been revealed as evil straight out of purgatory at the end of season one. She would’ve been an appropriate plot device and never pushed to the forefront in the disgusting manner she was. Ichabbie IS Sleepy Hollow, and the execs over at Fox better get that in their skulls. I know the writers are limited by the the larger story they must tell, but we finally got Goofman out and I really hope that doesn’t mean more of the same.

    • barb

      “I just want Ichabbie rolling on the ground in passionate sweat in the S3 premiere”
      This^

      “I firmly stand by Katrina should’ve been revealed as evil straight out of purgatory at the end of season one. She would’ve been an appropriate plot device and never pushed to the forefront in the disgusting manner she was. ”

      Yes oh yes!! I almost quit the show because of her.

  • barb

    Well his answers told us nothing! As long as Katrina nevere comes back I will keep watching!

  • NB

    Not surprised by the one-word answers. Folks need to remember the writers aren’t in charge of promos and have contracts to honour. Fox sucks big time at promoting Sleepy for reasons only they understand.

    That said I’m most intrigued by the non-commital responses to fan faves returning, Abbie’s love life and fixing dangling storylines. We already know Headless isn’t returning (which I’m not happy about; Headless could easily be restored to S1 BAMFery given Katrina’s death) and I hope they can deliver on the so BIG so BAD for S3.

    I do agree that this season and new team have to be judged on their merit and not by past yardsticks, but it’s always difficult for a fandom that’s deprived of basic things like promos, interviews etc combined with poor S2/Orlando Jones leaving/SDCC pullout with unbelievable explanation etc to be patient.

    Nonetheless it was great that you got to interview him (nice feather in your cap!) And hope to see you do many more.

  • I just have to say I cackled mightily at the fact that you asked about Abbie’s romantic life twice. Good job, Monique!

    As for LD, some shouldn’t be seen as most of fandom #1 and #2 if other writers who also engaged didn’t get the same “tone” there is likely a reason for that. I understand his position but, he could have handled the dialogue a bit less condescendingly.

    • Thanks! I’m glad you liked the recap.

      To defend Leigh, let me say that when he says “some,” he really means “some,” not “most.” He (and for that matter, myself) knows that most fans are cool. But the both of us have been needlessly attacked by some fans, which is very upsetting. A lot of writers probably want to engage, but 1) not everyone’s all about Twitter; a lot of writers doesn’t use Twitter in the same way as other writers and 2) they might not feel comfortable saying anything because they don’t want to spoil anything for fans. The idea in the fandom that the writers hate the fans is false from my perspective, but I’d like to put into rotation the suggestion that perhaps some (literally a handful of) fans out there approach the writers in the completely wrong fashion. From personal experience, there are some fans, in this and any fandom, pretty much, that engage writers (and journalists like me) et al. with their own condescending, disrespectful tone and that’s annoying. That’s just my two cents. I am glad you liked the article!

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