Ichabod Crane, the terrified teacher in Washington Irving's seminal American fable The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, has been portrayed in a broad variety of ways over the years by actors from Will Rogers to Johnny Depp.
But he's never been English. Until now.
There's no mistaking the fact that Tom Mison, who plays Crane in Fox's luxe new series Sleepy Hollow (9 p.m. Monday on Fox29) is a Brit.
On the phone from Wilmington, N.C., where the show is being shot, his voice has a plummy cadence and modulation that recall Jeremy Irons. And he refers to the police rank of his costar, Nicole Beharie, as "leftenant".
Are you kidding? Prime time is lousy with British actors doing American accents - often for no viable reason. The one time they let a Brit sound like a Brit is for this inherently American character? Translation, please.
"I hope you're not suggesting it was a response to my [attempt at] an American accent," Mison says with mock affront.
Actually, that's exactly what we were suggesting.
Mison, 31, insists that the show's creators, Alex Kurtzman and Bob Orci, knew what they were getting when they began holding auditions for the role in London.
Kurtzman backs him up.
"It became clear that you had to believe this was a man from 200 years ago or this was not going to work," Kurtzman says. "All the American actors that read sounded as if they could have been from the San Fernando Valley.
"So we started auditioning British actors and saw Tom Mison, who blew the doors off the place," Kurtzman continues. "He was entirely credible [as a colonial], and every woman in the office swooned when he walked in."
There's no denying that Mison, a stage actor who played one of Rebecca Hall's lovers in the mini-series Parade's End, brings a certain Byronic flair to the role of Crane.
But nationality isn't the only thing that's changed in this iteration. Irving's story, written in 1820, was set in 1790. The Fox series takes it back further, to the Revolutionary War, in which Ichabod is on special assignment for General Washington.
Wait, an Englishman - a Cambridge professor, no less - fighting for the colonials? Wouldn't that make him a traitor?
Hold that thought, because the fun is just starting. After beheading a gruesome Hessian officer, Ichabod collapses. And wakes up more than two centuries later in the here and now, where it falls to him to prevent the Apocalypse. Got all that?
Abundant flashbacks mean that Mison has spent a good deal of his summer in period woolen military garb. In the South.
"I'm very grateful for wearing these costumes in 90-degree heat in this stifling humidity," he says with a touch of sarcasm. "We've been running around in the woods all day in brilliant sunlight, so if I sound a little daft during this interview, you'll know why."
Kind of makes a guy pine for the foggy climes of jolly old England.
"I'm very surprised at how much I miss home," he says. "I've gotten very homesick. Especially doing an historical show. You can't walk down the street in London without running into a 17th-century pile."
It'll all be worth it this week, when Mison is launched as a major sex symbol. Glamour magazine has already anointed the actor "your new fall TV crush," declaring that he "looks like the long-lost brother of Bradley Cooper and Tobey Maguire."
"Don't be ridiculous," he demurs. "I'm far too English to be a sex symbol."
"You play Ichabod Crane or Darcy or Heathcliff," he says, ticking off literature's legendary hunks (now we're being sarcastic), "and you're a sex symbol. It's all the clothing. I take off the breeches, and nobody looks at me."
Actually, Tom, a great many people will be watching Sleepy Hollow expressly hoping that you do take off the breeches.