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Nicole Beharie, the talented actress known for her role in the TV series “Sleepy Hollow,” has always deserved better. Despite her incredible skills and undeniable charisma, Beharie’s potential was unfortunately overlooked and underrated throughout her career.
From the very beginning, Beharie proved to be a force to be reckoned with. Her portrayal of Detective Abbie Mills in “Sleepy Hollow” captivated audiences and showcased her ability to bring depth and complexity to her characters. Her chemistry with co-star Tom Mison was palpable, and their partnership became the heart of the show.
However, despite the critical acclaim Beharie received for her performance, the writers and producers of “Sleepy Hollow” failed to utilize her to her fullest potential. Instead of giving her character the development and storylines she deserved, Beharie was often sidelined and overshadowed by other characters.
This disregard for Beharie’s talent is sadly not unique to “Sleepy Hollow.” Throughout her career, she has been underused and underappreciated. It is clear that she possesses immense skills and a natural ability to captivate viewers, yet she has consistently been denied the opportunities that her talent warrants.
Beharie’s talent transcends any limitations placed upon her by the industry. Despite the setbacks she has faced, her performances continue to shine. She brings a depth and authenticity to each character she portrays, leaving a lasting impact on audiences, even in roles that aren’t deserving of her immense talent.
As we reflect on Nicole Beharie’s career, it becomes clear that she has always deserved better. Her talent, determination, and undeniable screen presence demand recognition and opportunities that match her abilities. It is our hope that the industry realizes the treasure it has in Nicole Beharie and begins to give her the recognition and opportunities she truly deserves.
When Sleepy Hollow was announced as a show in which Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) awoke in 2013, 232 years after his supposed death to face the Headless Horseman (Richard Cetrone, Jeremy Owens, Craig Barnham, and Neil Jackson) once again, the premise was met with some skepticism. Surprisingly, the pilot episode was well received among critics and the show went on to have a stellar first season. Mison and co-star Nicole Beharie, who portrayed Lieutenant Abbie Mills, appeared to have an insane amount of chemistry in the show, but reality turned out to be a little different.
In another excerpt of Burn It Down: Power, Complicity and a Call for Change in Hollywood, author Maureen Ryan details how the treatment of Beharie, a woman of color, was not equal to that of Mison, a white male. A previous excerpt from Ryan’s book mentioned how Lost faced a similar controversy with actor Harold Perrineau. Since many reports of controversy in Sleepy Hollow came from gossip tabloids, the show wasn’t considered in the long list of productions with toxic environments, but Ryan’s book has shed some light on the whole ordeal.
What Was Nicole Beharie’s Experience on ‘Sleepy Hollow’?
According to sources for Ryan’s book, Beharie came out of Sleepy Hollow with the “difficult to work with” label, up to the point where she preceded whatever she tried to say with “I’m not trying to be difficult.” Since the very beginning, Beharie was ostracized from the rest of the production, and this culture was perpetuated by the higher-ups of the show. Allegedly, while filming the pilot, Beharie had a falling out with director Len Wiseman, which resulted in the hiring of Lyndie Greenwood as Abbie’s sister Jenny Mills. Why? To have her as a potential replacement in case they removed Beharie from the show. Fellow star Orlando Jones says it was a double standard, since Mison didn’t receive the same treatment though being (in the words of another source) “a handful.”
During the filming of Season 1, a gossip news site reported Beharie bit her stylist, adding a nasty detail about how her castmates barked when she walked by. Jones tells Ryan he wasn’t aware of such incident and that, had it happened, everyone on the makeup trailer should’ve noticed. This and other issues were shared with showrunner Mark Goffman and other people of authority, but no action was taken.
What Has Nicole Beharie Said About Her Experience?
Although Beharie didn’t comment for Ryan’s book, in a Los Angeles Times interview, she did detail how the treatment she received wasn’t the same as Mison. While filming Episode 9 of Season 3, both Mison and Beharie fell ill. While he was allowed to go home to England to rest and recover, she was basically forced to do the episode by herself.
Beharie put pressure on herself to return to work as soon as possible, because she wanted to avoid perpetuating the “problematic” label that was already placed on her. Having been diagnosed with an autoimmune disease sometime before the show started, and seeing the toll it had taken on her health, she finally decided to depart Sleepy Hollow. Fans of the show took their discontent to Twitter and made #AbbieDeservesBetter a trending hashtag at the time of Abbie’s death in the Season 3 finale. She also comments on how the specific wording of the hashtag about deserving better shocked her. It showed how the audience felt connected to her all the way to getting a notion of the situation without her ever publicly saying anything about it.
What Happened in ‘Sleepy Hollow’ Without Nicole Beharie?
Co-star Jones further commented that Mison and Beharie were “out of their depths” with Sleepy Hollow being the first time they led a series. Both of them were on a learning curve and were offered no guidance, according to The Hollywood Reporter article. One of the sources for Ryan’s book also states that Mison and Beharie weren’t too fond of each other, which resulted in Ichabod Crane’s bow whenever he met with the lieutenant. No other physical contact was encouraged. Even when fans rooted for an Abbie-Ichabod relationship, the pair allegedly were against this happening.
The book also mentions how Season 1’s writing room had three people of color but, returning for Season 2, the writers were all white except for one woman of color. Additionally, it alleges showrunner Clifton Campbell became defensive when people of color suggested changes to the stories. This could’ve resulted in Abbie’s role slowly being diminished as the seasons progressed.
Having this background now, explains why Sleepy Hollow’s storylines after Season 1 had such an uneven quality. Season 2 had too much focus on Katrina Crane (Katia Winter) and her sunken marriage with Ichabod. Season 3 clunkily intertwined Pandora (Shannyn Sossamon) with the Headless Horseman. Being also aware of the not-so-amicable relationship between Beharie and Mison makes Abbie’s death as a sacrifice to save Ichabod a bit jarring. While Season 4’s soft reboot headlined by Mison and Janina Gavankar as Diana Thomas was better received than Season 3, Beharie’s absence was strongly felt. Besides, what was the point of a show called Sleepy Hollow not taking place in Sleepy Hollow but in Washington, D.C. instead? Consequently, Season 4 ended up being the show’s final season.
Sleepy Hollow isn’t just another example of adverse workplace conditions affecting a TV show. It’s also an example of the toll that toxicity can take on an actor’s career. It’s also heartbreaking taking into account how enthusiastic Beharie was when she got the role. Representation matters, but casting people of color in main roles is not enough. Follow-up needs to be ensured through the pursuit of equality and safe working environments. After exiting the show, Beharie’s roles were limited. It took years for her to get a starring role again, which she got in 2020’s Miss Juneteenth. In the same Los Angeles Times interview, she says she’s made her peace with her experience in Sleepy Hollow. She’s happy the world is now at a place where staying quiet is not an option anymore.
In conclusion, Nicole Beharie’s portrayal of Abbie Mills in the television series Sleepy Hollow was nothing short of exceptional. Her talent and dedication to her craft were evident in every scene, showcasing her ability to bring depth and authenticity to her character. However, it is unfortunate that Beharie did not receive the recognition and opportunities she truly deserved for her outstanding performance.
Throughout the show’s run, it became increasingly clear that Beharie’s character was often marginalized and undermined. Despite playing a strong and integral role in the storyline, Abbie Mills continually faced limited screen time and character development. This not only hindered Beharie’s ability to fully showcase her talent, but it also detracted from the overall quality and potential of the show.
Beharie’s portrayal of Abbie Mills was deeply impactful, as she deftly navigated the complexities of her character’s journey. She seamlessly transitioned between vulnerability, strength, and resilience, captivating audiences with her powerful performances. Beharie’s range and versatility were truly extraordinary, leaving viewers yearning for more of her talent on their screens.
It is a shame that Beharie’s potential was overlooked and underappreciated by the show’s creators. Her character’s storylines often took a backseat to others, which ultimately undermined the depth and significance of her contributions to the show. This lack of recognition is not only unjust, but it also speaks to the broader issue of representation and systemic biases within the entertainment industry.
Despite the challenges she faced, Beharie’s talent and dedication to her craft shine through in her portrayal of Abbie Mills. Her profound impact on the audience and undeniable chemistry with her co-stars solidify her as a standout performer. While she may not have received the recognition she truly deserved in Sleepy Hollow, Beharie’s talent and potential should not be disregarded.
Hopefully, Beharie’s work in Sleepy Hollow will serve as a catalyst for change within the entertainment industry. It is important to recognize and support talented performers like Beharie, who not only bring magic to our screens but challenge the existing norms and represent underrepresented voices. It is clear that Nicole Beharie always deserved better, and it is our responsibility as viewers to demand more inclusive and equitable opportunities for actors of all backgrounds and abilities.
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