‘Sleepy Hollow’ Catholic Star Orlando Jones on Good and Evil

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If you haven’t been watching Fox’s supernatural drama “Sleepy Hollow,” currently airing its second season on Mondays at 9 pm. ET/PT, you’re missing one of the best-written, funniest, scariest, loopiest and most exciting thrill rides in primetime TV.

Click here to see a story I wrote about its premiere in the fall of 2013, but in short, it’s a combination of Washington Irving (“The Legend of Sleepy Hollow” and “Rip Van Winkle”), “National Treasure” and the Book of Revelation.

British actor Tom Mison plays Ichabod Crane, recast as a soldier/spy in the Revolutionary War, in the employ of Gen. George Washington (nearly every major figure of the period gets mentioned or seen in a flashback, from Benjamin Franklin to Daniel Boone).

On the field of battle, he killed a mysterious horseman (later revealed to be his old pal and romantic rival Abraham Van Brunt) and is himself slain, but a spell cast by his secret-witch wife Katrina (Katia Winter), causes both him and the now-Headless Horseman to be revived in 21st-century Sleepy Hollow, N.Y.

The Horseman is revealed to now be Death, one of the Four Horseman of the Apocalypse; Katrina was stuck in Purgatory (but now she’s out); and there are demons in the woods … but going any further in describing the complicated plot would take up too much space, so just click on the Wikipedia page and read it yourself.

Suffice to say the Apocalypse is at hand, the Devil is moving in the world, and Crane, platonically partnered with Sleepy Hollow cop Lt. Abbie Mills (Nicole Beharie), is out to save his marriage, his son, Henry (who is now a Sin Eater, a servant of Moloch and the Horseman of War, played with great gusto by John Noble), and the world, usually in that order.

Although its plot is fantastical, and its interpretation of Revelation could charitably be described as loose, “Sleepy Hollow” has always been respectful of both the notion of faith and of people who have faith (I discussed this last spring here).

In particular, there’s the character of Frank Irving (a nod to Washington Irving, the founder of the “Sleepy Hollow” feast), played by Orlando Jones, the town’s former police chief. At first skeptical of Abbie’s wild stories, he became a believer during season one.

A Catholic with a failed marriage and a daughter in a wheelchair after a car accident, Frank was seen struggling with his faith, with the help of his longtime friend, Father Boland (David Fonteno).

At the end of last season, when a demon possessed Frank’s daughter, causing her to kill Boland and a police officer, he confessed to the killings, sacrificing himself to protect her.

This season, Frank’s been seen in prison and in a psychiatric hospital. Henry, posing as a lawyer, tricked him into signing a contract with Moloch in his own blood, thereby selling his soul. He’s beset with temptations, including the one to kill the unrepentant man who struck and injured his daughter.

Jones , himself a Catholic, took time out from production in Wilmington, N.C., to answer a few questions  about Frank Irving, the state of his soul, and why he’s not getting much help from his pals right now …

Catholic Vote: When you heard that Irving was going to be jailed for crimes he did not commit, what when through your mind, from a character standpoint?

Jones: Irving is the disciple who has lost faith. After his daughter’s accident, he wrestled with his belief in God, and how a higher power could allow Macey to become paralyzed. His decision to confess to the murders of his priest and a fellow officer was driven by his commitment to protect his family at any cost. Mostly, I was thinking about how long it would take before Abbie and Ichabod bailed him out. I mean … they’ve got to #FreeFrankIrving at some point.

CV: Irving is facing huge temptations in prison, including despair and the desire for revenge on the man whNicole-Beharie-Orlando-Jones-Tom-Mison-Sleepy-Hollowo hurt his daughter. The writers will decide how it all comes out, but what about that dilemma appealed to you as an actor and a thoughtful person?

Jones: As I mentioned before, I’m especially moved by the complexity of the choices he needs to make about what it means to be good or evil, and how the choices we all make impact us implicitly and explicitly. Selling his soul may not have been a decision that Irving made knowingly, but I think he understands that it’s not a choice he can run away from.

The only path forward is one with great moral hazards, but he was (regardless of his noble intentions) a co-creator in his current circumstances. Good and evil; right and wrong — those can too easily become abstractions that don’t really allow for the full range of conflicting emotions.

Irving may end up making the wrong choices for the right reasons. That’s an interesting place to come from as an actor and a human being.

CV: If you, Orlando, were to sit down with Irving and offer him advice on how to survive his ordeal, what would you say?

Jones: I’d tell him to get a new lawyer. I’d tell him not to sign documents with his own blood. And I’d tell him to put his “friends” on blast, because nobody is coming to visit this dude. I mean … come on Mrs. BAMF? Where are you?

(BAMF is sort for “bad a**”, etc., and “Mrs. BAMF” is Jones’ nickname for the character of Jenny Mills, played by Lyndie Greenwood, Abbie’s gun-toting, loose-cannon sister. Although Irving’s dedicated to his family, Jones, an avid user of Twitter, Tumblr and Instagram, likes to joke about the “chemistry” between Frank and Jenny. For the record, Jenny’s only got eyes for Nick Hawley, played by Matt Barr, an expert in ancient artifacts who’s helping out the demon-fighting team in season two.)

CV: What advice would you give to Crane about dealing with this wife and son (which are problems of a whole other order)?

Jones: Crane’s gonna need to figure that one out on his own. He’s not too good at taking advice. That family is more dysfunctional than the Kardashians.

CV: In your own life, what value have you gotten from trials you’ve endured, and what got you through them?

Jones: Life is a series of peaks and valleys, and that’s sort of par for the course. I’ve done the best I can not to take myself or anything else too seriously. I’m accountable to those in my trust circle, and I expect the same in return. Ultimately, the greatest value I can take from any trial is to endeavor to “fail better.”

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of CatholicVote.org

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A native of the Adirondacks and Saratoga Springs in northern New York State, journalist and fiction writer Kate O'Hare now lives in Los Angeles, where she's on a neverending quest to find a parish in the L.A. Archdiocese with orthodox preaching, excellent traditional music and parking.

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