nicole beharie

Nicole Beharie in Fox’s “Sleepy Hollow’

*In a story posted Monday, not only cites Nicole Beharie as the secret weapon of Fox’s breakout hit “Sleepy Hollow,” but makes the case that her character Abbie Mills is a better role model than “Scandal’s” Olivia Pope.’s Sadie Gennis writes:

Sleepy Hollow is totally insane – Ichabod Crane wakes up in 2013 only to discover that he and a local policewoman are destined to stop the apocalypse – but the show works. And as the viewer’s entry point into this world, a lot of this success is dependent on Abbie’s ability to make the crazy feel real. Otherwise, ‘Sleepy Hollow’ would be as cheesy as the premise seemed. But right from the start, Abbie proved herself as a relatable and capable narrator, treating the supernatural with a realistic hesitation and irreverence without allowing herself to be pigeonholed into the role of “The Skeptic.”

Though Sleepy Hollow has a female lead, in truth, her gender is a non-issue within the series. Not only does Abbie stay away from the typical television Working Woman uniform (unrealistically tailored clothes, perfectly coifed hair and red carpet ready makeup), but Sleepy Hollow never turns her gender into plot fodder. No one underestimates Abbie’s abilities as a cop because she’s a 5’1″ black woman instead of a 6′ white man. In fact, Abbie is one of the few people Chief Irving (Orlando Jones) seems to have any real faith in. And though fans already passionately ‘ship the pair, Abbie’s working relationship with Ichabod (Tom Mison) isn’t motivated by romance. She’s just there to get the job done.

Nicole Beharie and Tom Mison in "Sleepy Hollow"

Nicole Beharie and Tom Mison in “Sleepy Hollow”

Gennis continues…

Right from the pilot, Abbie was presented as fully realized hero — vulnerable, strong and rational — a pleasantly shocking change of pace compared to the often reductive women of network TV. More often than not, female characters — particularly characters of color — who prefer focusing on work rather than romance are depicted as harsh, unforgiving and emotionless. Yet Abbie has avoided becoming yet another Strong Black Woman stereotype and instead is just a strong character who happens to be a black woman.

This has earned Abbie comparisons with Scandal’s Olivia Pope (Kerry Washington), who seems to have become the new face of strong female characters. Yet while Olivia continues to be idolized for her every blink, she constantly falls victim to her own feelings like a lovestruck teenager, putting her career, her friendships and even lives in jeopardy all for Fitz (TonyGoldwyn). So while their ongoing affair makes for highly entertaining TV, it also stops Olivia from being the role model many believe her. to be. Abbie, on the other hand, provides an interesting alternative to Olivia, reminding viewers that woman can have successful careers and emotions, without having to sacrifice ethics, happiness and sense of personal worth.

However, what both Olivia and Abbie prove is that viewers crave diversity. Outdated race and gender stereotypes, while they still make work for Dads fans, aren’t cutting it for many modern viewers. And delightfully, Abbie isn’t the only person of color on Sleepy Hollow, nor is she even the only applaudable strong female character. Ichabod’s wife Katrina, though trapped in Purgatory, remains far more powerful than her mortal husband. And when Ichabod is kidnapped this week, it will be up to Abbie and Katrina to save him — and the entire town — before the Headless Horseman descends upon Sleepy Hollow.

While we’ll obviously miss watching Ichabod and Abbie’s odd couple dynamic play out this week, it’s about time she gest her due as Sleepy Hollow’s true hero.

“Sleepy Hollow” airs at 9/8c Mondays on Fox.