Nicole Beharie Shines At PaleyFest's 'Sleepy Hollow' Panel
Photo Credit: S & A
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Nicole Beharie Shines At PaleyFest's 'Sleepy Hollow' Panel

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The

panel facilitator begins thanking the crowd, indicating the end of the panel

and the veterans rush the stage with the fans who catch on quick right on their

heels.

If you’ve never been to a PaleyFest panel or

other fan-centered event, at this point you’re confused for a few milliseconds.

You might even ask yourself what you missed – what do they know that you don’t?

Then you realize everyone is clamoring for autographs, a chance at close-up

time with the object of their affection. This is how you separate the vets from

the noobs.

Fans lineup along the front of the stage in

congested layers, arms up, waving various paraphernalia while the actors take

their places at the edge of the stage in an effort to show their appreciation

in the form of autographs, fleeting conversation and awkwardly posed selfies.

This part isn’t a requirement or guarantee, some

stay for it and some don’t. Time constraints are assumed. Everyone

participating is working as fast and furiously as humanly possible to connect

with as many people as humanly possible before the clock expires and a man in a

dark suit, adorned with an earpiece begins pulling people away and shutting

down the process.

Nicole Beharie is the first one with pen to paper

and the last one to leave the stage. Lyndie Greenwood makes her exit only

moments before.

The 31st annual PaleyFest (The Paley

Center for Media) played host to the cast of Fox hit Sleepy Hollow on Wednesday evening at Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles.

Among those present were series leads Nicole Beharie, Orlando Jones and Tom

Mison, newly upgraded season two series regular, Lyndie Greenwood and recurring

star John Cho. 

Noticeably

absent was the other newly upgraded series regular, John Noble. The show’s

executive producers, Alex Kurtzman, Roberto Orci, Len Wiseman, Heather Kadin

and Mark Goffman anchored the panel as well.

The panel kicked off with a clip of the

jaw-dropping season finale followed by an introduction of panel participants.

The facilitator asked the usual questions seeking any information the show

runners could provide on season two, including potential new characters,

Ichabod’s newly dysfunctional family and getting hoodwinked by his own son,

Jones’ Frank Irving going to jail to protect his recently possessed daughter –

you know, the usual stuff.

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There was no way of getting through a panel with

a room full of fangirls and fanboys without discussing shipping. Mison admitted

that in the beginning he didn’t even know shipping was a thing. A Google search

provided him with a little more than he bargained for when he ran across fan

art that wasn’t exactly PG-13.

While there’s no denying the chemistry between

Beharie and Mison or Abbie and Ichabod, show exec, Heather Kadin attributed the

strong and apparent chemistry to the “honest and powerful friendship” between

both Beharie and Mison and Abbie and Ichabod.

Beharie echoed the sentiments of Kadin, stating

once again that she loves Abbie’s relationship with her newfound bestie as-is.

Hesitantly, as if expecting disapproval, she stated that in regards to fans

shipping the pair so fervently based on the chemistry they see: “people see

what they want to see happen.”

As if on cue, the crowd voiced their disapproval

in a low groan and while Beharie gave an apologetic grimace at the crowd’s

reaction, she didn’t shy away from her stance on the matter. In previous

interviews Mison has stated, in mild dismissal of Ichabbie, that his character

is married. His facial expressions reverse-mirrored Beharie’s leading us to

believe he might be here for the Ichabbie ship after all. Either that or he’s

trolling the fans something terrible.

One thing Beharie and Mison did agree on was

their favorite episode. When asked, the panel bounced between a handful of the

same episodes from season one, with “Midnight Ride” being both Beharie and

Mison’s favorite. Other favorites included the pilot episode for Cho and Jones

as well as “Sin Eater” for Beharie as a second choice.

Then the questions got interesting and the

answers did too. When asked whom they might cast for the other horsemen, a

mention of veteran actor, Idris Elba garnered a visual exhibition of approval

from Beharie and some additional verbal co-signs from the crowd. Clint Eastwood

was another great name-drop from Greenwood.

The fans had several great questions as well. One

fan wanted to know which show the panel would choose for a crossover episode.

The answers ranged from the upcoming series Salem

to Love Boat. It was Beharie’s

suggestion, with a disclaimer that it was not in jest, of the HBO classic The Wire that left most of the audience

a bit puzzled. A few fans voiced their approval – presumably the few members of

the audience familiar with the show. 

Beharie’s

answer, though perhaps unexpected wasn’t entirely surprising. Neither was the

fact that she ended her very first answer by noting, “by the way it’s really

great to see so many women in the audience.” Her praise of Lyndie Greenwood was

no surprise either.

On working with Greenwood and the dynamic of the

Mills sisters, Beharie said, “For me it’s been a huge gift.” She spoke on

getting closer to the actor who plays her character’s sister, as well as

building chemistry. She noted that getting close enough to an actor to give an

honest portrayal of that type of dynamic requires “a lot of vulnerability – “

the kind of  “you would see in a movie

where you have a ton of time.”

“So the fact that we were able to get so close

and get so raw right away is a testament to who she is,” she added. Greenwood,

who appeared genuinely touched by the sentiments, added that she felt welcomed

by Beharie.

In an industry where most of the actors of color

are competing for the same few roles it’s easy to operate in a spirit of

competition. Instead, one of the things most notable about this rookie actor is

the way and how often she champions for others, especially women and people of

color.

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If you’ve been following Beharie’s career at all

then her answers, comments, infamous facial expressions, nor actions from

Wednesday night’s panel could have surprised you. Her face was telling in her

approval of the answer one of the series’ executives gave in response to the

question of if the remarkable diversity among the cast was intentional or

happenstance. (Ultimately he said it was both – they wanted a cast that was more

than capable of telling the stories and tackling the issues that come as a

reflection of “our changing world” and not just having diversity for the sake

of having diversity.)

Among

those unsurprising actions was Beharie’s decision to politely ignore the member

of security who kept trying to pull her off stage while she was signing

autographs and connecting with fans. Pointing to a crowd of hopeful and eager

admirers she gently and firmly told the member of security that she had already

promised the group she would come back to them. She stayed true to her word.

When the same security member sternly and

repeatedly told fans to have their pens ready to make the process faster, she

was patient, even giving fans a heads up if their sharpies were running dry.

When the fans requested selfies she did her best to comply, despite the super

chic pencil skirt and black patent pumps that restricted her movement. She made

quick and pleasant conversation as she signed her name and smiled for pictures.

Beharie is in fine company with the über talented

cast of Sleepy Hollow, her own acting

chops on full display in every project on her resume. Gauging talent is

subjective and open to debate – though a side-eye is deserved for anyone how

dare question her talent.

Undeniable is the whole of Beharie’s artistry and

her willingness to be a vocal advocate of visibility, diversity and

empowerment. Signing on to smaller indie projects she believes in that don’t

quite have the budget to pay her what she’s worth is Beharie putting her money

where her mouth is.

The Sleepy

Hollow panel at this year’s PaleyFest was just another prime exhibition of

those qualities.

With the cult following of this breakout hit and

critic ratings not too far off one could safely bet this remixed and flipped

version of Washington Irving’s classic will be around for a while. It’s an even

safer bet to say Nicole Beharie will be around, relevant, and doing much bigger

things for as long as she wants to.

Shadow and Act is a website dedicated to cinema, television and web content of Africa and its global Diaspora. With daily news, interviews, in-depth investigations into the audiovisual industry, and more, Shadow and Act promotes content created by and about people of African descent throughout the world.

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