Interview with John Noble from Sleepy Hollow

johnnoble1113smallSleepy Hollow is definitely a favorite here at, so it was an exciting honor that John Noble took some time to chat with myself and fellow colleagues about his guest appearance on the show. John is appearing as Henry Parrish, a Sin Eater. His performance so far has been astounding, and as usual, he brings an incredible level of intrigue and creepiness to any character he plays.

He was a delight to speak with and had a lot of interesting things to say about the show and his career. Let’s see what this legend had to say. [This call was before his first episode, so some of this info will be out of date.]

On his character

John: Oh, what can I tease? It is 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 saviour, but he has this ability, in a sense, to remove evil from a person; and hence the name, “The Sin Eater.”

I’ll tease you with that much, that 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 that you can see that there is some sort of chemistry between him and Ichabod and the other principals. So that is the tease.
Jump ahead to see what else John had to say.

On his experience working with Tom Mison

John: With him, look, the whole experience with the company was good. Well, 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, and 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

John: You know, it’s funny, the kind of favorite moments, believe it or not, are the first time that the character is exposed. No one has any idea who this character is, and in this situation it’s a knock on the door. And I haven’t seen the footage, but I imagine that 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. But really, the first instruction was my favorite moment I think.

On why Henry Parrish is so unique

John: What’s happened, and I thank Alex and Roberto 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. And 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, so that’s the main thing.

On how often will we see Henry

John: Well I’m going to do three more this season. So I’ve done one and I’m going to do three more, so that’s three out of four actually of those that are left; and then probably be back next year for quite a lot.

[Note from Megan: I am super excited to see him on the show again, and I’d love it if he even got to be a regular by next season. His character was such a fabulous addition to the cast.]

On how Henry and Walter Bishop (from Fringe) are different

John: Henry doesn’t have that, as I know so far, that extreme range that Walter had, the sort of mentally damaged character that he was. He doesn’t, from what I know I don’t see 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 guest starring on shows

John: I’m just actually in the process of shooting a guest on Good Wife this week. Yeah, well, yeah because I already know a lot of the people anyway. Do you know what I mean? So it’s great to come in and to work with good actors. This time I am working with Julianna Marguilies and Josh Charles. I know them; they are great actors, so that is a joy in itself.

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 I think, 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 the experience of going from one popular fan show to another

John: 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 cross-over 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 enjoying and find it fascinating if it’s good.

On why Sleepy Hollow is special

John: What’s amazing to me about it is that it feels like the perfect combination of all the favorite genres; it’s fantasy, it’s science-fiction, it’s horror, and 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, but it seems to be working really wonderfully at this stage.

On what he watches when he gets a chance

John: I watch an awful lot of documentaries and science shows. I tend very strongly towards documentaries. The shows, and when you’ve got time, is absolutely the, I watch the Good Wife; I have to say, 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, Penny, what are we watching at present on tele? Yeah and what is the only one we watch, I’ve got to find out from my wife.

You caught me offhand; I catch a lot of these if I have to. I used to enjoy Fringe. No, there is another one, I just can’t think of it. Homeland, we watch.

On his character being like a savior

John: Yeah, well very much in the episode that goes to air on Monday night, what’s happened in the episode is that Tom’s character has been kidnapped and his life, he’s about to lose his life, basically, and they realize there is only one way that they can possibly save him. And so Nicole’s character goes out to find this old dude, that’s me, and she somehow works out that he’s got special powers and he’s incredibly reluctant to speak to her and to help her find Tom. But he does and then ultimately, and we don’t know why he does this, but he actually turns up at the place and goes through a ceremony or procedure – and hence the term “sin eater” – to remove the evil from Tom’s character at great cost to himself. So he basically saves the life of Ichabod Crane in that episode, and hence, the term savior.

On his relationships with the other characters

John: Well, I’m not going to say too much about it, except that as time goes by we will see a relationship develop between Henry and Ichabod, which kind of feels like a father/son relationship. So let me just leave that, but there will certainly be a relationship between Henry and Ichabod. As for the Headless Horseman, I’m not sure yet, I’ve not really discussed that with the writers. But who knows, probably.

Well yes, because I think already there is a relationship with Abbie. She’s obviously asked for his help and she’s got it. And so I am looking forward to a kind of a growth there, perhaps not exactly the same way as he does with Ichabod; but a respect, a usefulness, a third member or fourth member of the team. And I love working with Nicole, so I expect something cheeky and wonderful and a bit fatherly will come out of that one as well.

On how he gets in touch with Henry

John: Kind of the best place to go for these characters is to the script very often. Seriously, I read it, 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 ahead, according to my wife. Then there is hope, you know, you go and see what the costume is and so forth and you discuss possible costume looks and hair and make-up looks. I don’t know, some things are obvious, some things you wouldn’t dream of doing. So I don’t have a, you know if I don’t get the walk right, I know what you are talking about, and I do hear some actors say that but that’s not the way it is for me. It’s not one single thing that does it, it’s more the internal chemistry and then that sort of comes out into whatever he looks like and however he walks and sounds and the voice he uses.

There are things like, I do always do some research on to how he speaks and so I certainly spoke to the writers at length as to what accent he may have. That tells you a great deal about things sometimes, you know, and so we decided on that. But no, it’s quite an organic process actually.
That’s all from this amazing man, who is bringing life to a fantastic character on an incredible show.

Be sure to tune in to Sleepy Hollow on FOX at 9/8c on Monday nights.

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