Hunger (and Teamwork) Take Over ‘Sleepy Hollow’ (VIDEO)
Think you’ve experienced hunger? Wait until Sleepy Hollow tackles what happens when Team Witness comes up against an insatiable monster.
The hour, appropriately titled “Insatiable,” also marks an important milestone for the off-screen Sleepy Hollow family: It is writers’ assistant Keely MacDonald’s first produced episode of television.
We spoke with MacDonald—who is currently one of 13 participants in the Fox Writers Lab, which nurtures and provides networking opportunities for promising scribes, about her journey on Sleepy Hollow, experiencing the production process from a new angle, and more.
You’ve worked on the series since Season 1. What jobs have you had before penning this script?
In Season 1, I was fortunate enough to be one of the research interns for the show. When the show was starting, we did a lot of research on historical storylines and different kinds of monsters and American lore—or any lore, really. Anything you could draw from; that would be helpful with twistory. So I ended up being one of a couple of interns for research purposes. And during that time in Season 1, I ended up being able to take up other jobs; the show has always been amazing towards mentoring young writers. They let me come in the [writers’] room and write on the board, and be a part of the whole process.
In Season 2, I was bumped up to showrunners’ assistant where I worked for [then-showrunner] Mark Goffman. That was amazing because that’s a whole different side of seeing the show. It was so great to be even more a part of the process.
In Season 3, they bumped me over to writers’ assistant, which was great because I was actually a part of the creative process in the room. I learned a lot as a writer. I actually felt like it was the first time I could say something and give input in storylines and it might be reflected in the show. And then in Season 4, I’m a writers’ assistant again, but I’m so lucky that the EPs—Clifton Campbell, Albert Kim and Raven Metzner—and actually the entire staff as a whole were so supportive and they let me give it a shot with this episode. I am really, really excited for how it turned out.
How did the story for this particular episode come about?
The biggest thing is the next couple of episodes after mine were the end run arc of the season. So for me, there was a bunch of things we needed to do with the characters, like were there any storylines we need to wrap up? And really the episode, in my opinion, is about teamwork and being on the same page. We wanted something that thematically fit with that…when you’re on a team, you have to involve everyone. Ultimately you’re going to be stronger for that. We ended up coming up with the hunger demon, and they had to be on the same page as they fought it. It was all about the teamwork.
How vital was your own history with the show in crafting the episode?
Definitely very vital, because whenever we’re coming up with something in the room, I think we like to make sure things come from a character standpoint, first and foremost. When you tune in to TV, you want to have really strong dynamics and relationships as well as the personal journey. It’s good, on a show like ours, that you can have a monster or something like that that thematically relates. It was good to have a bunch of research in my brain.
How involved were you with the pre-production aspects: the casting, the monster design, etc?
Honestly, it was amazing. Our EPs are so supportive. Even from the beginning, our showrunners Clifton and Albert really wanted me to be involved. Raven really mentored me through every step of the process. The writing part of it, I’d do my part of it and they’d give me notes.
[Then] I got to be a part of all of the meetings. I got to be a part of casting and wardrobe. In the end, they even sent me out to set [in Atlanta]. Theo Travers, who is one of our producers, went with me. That was completely amazing; it was the most valuable experience ever. And I also got to meet our crew. I’ve obviously talked to them over the phone over the last couple of seasons, but this was the first time I was on set and could meet them in person and learn every single step of the process.
What was it like the first time you experienced the actors say words you had written?
Oh my gosh, it was crazy. I had met some of the actors before and everyone was really sweet. Lyndie [Greenwood (Jenny)] was so nice and Janina [Gavankar (Diana)] and Tom [Mison (Ichabod)]. Jerry [MacKinnon (Jake)] and Rachel [Melvin (Alex)]. The entire cast. And the first one was a big archive scene. It was one of those moments when I was like, “Oh my gosh, these words we wrote are actually coming out on screen.” And to hear them say it was even better. To hear Tom Mison say a line you wrote!
The episode also features a couple of important (and touching) Jenny and Ichabod scenes. Given your history with the series, what was it like writing those moments?
That’s my favorite scene, especially in the end…those two characters have been there since Season 1, and especially for me who has been there, too, it just meant a lot having them do those highly emotional scenes. Those characters have been through everything. Those actors have been together for such a long time. I really think it goes to the heart of the show which is really about the characters and their relationship, even amidst all of this mythology. Especially watching it, I was emotional. They are so talented, and having a great Crane and Jenny moment—they are still so close and working their way through it. It was the best.
How involved did you get to be with the post-production process?
I definitely, for the post-stuff, hadn’t known a lot before. They let me sit in and observe which was great for the next time I’m writing. The most cool thing was I went to playback a couple of weeks ago with Clifton, and that’s where you give the final notes on everything and you watch it on a big screen. And that was crazy awesome, because that’s when you see the final product, and the fruits of your labor have come in to this. It’s a fun episode. I hope fans enjoy it as much as I enjoyed watching it!
Did you keep any souvenirs from the episode?
This was the nicest thing: they made me a [director’s] chair with my name on it. So it says Keely MacDonald on one side, and it has the Sleepy Hollow logo on the other. They actually let me keep it. It makes me happy every time I look at it. Everybody made such a good effort to make me feel very welcome. It’s the best group of people ever. I’m so grateful for them.
What was your favorite aspect of the experience?
It was the [Ichabod and Jenny] scene. Watching them do that one, it meant so much to me. Those are two characters I’ve been close with and I have loved for so many years. So watching that happen was everything.
You’ve been active on social media over the years in promoting Sleepy Hollow. What are your plans for Friday when its your episode?
We’re so lucky on Sleepy Hollow because we have such a good group of fans, especially on Twitter. It’s so much fun to live-tweet. I am going to live-tweet definitely East Coast and hopefully the West Coast as well. It’s great to interact with all of them. It’s funny, because all of the fans have seen me come up through the years and I know them on Twitter. I hope they enjoy it as much as I’ve enjoyed tweeting with them. I’ll definitely be live-tweeting.
Sleepy Hollow, Fridays, 9/8c, Fox