Zach Appleman is a theater, television and film actor. He recently had a recurring role on The CW’s Beauty and the Beast and currently stars as Joe Corbin in the supernatural drama Sleepy Hollow. I chatted with Zach about Sleepy Hollow and his character Joe. To find out what he had to say, read on.
Did you watch Sleepy Hollow prior to auditioning for the role of Joe?
“You know, actually I hadn’t at the time. I didn’t have a TV. The only things I could watch were shows that were already on Netflix. Sleepy Hollow wasn’t on there yet, so I hadn’t seen it. But once I got the appointment to audition, I downloaded the first season on iTunes. I loved it and was like, ‘Oh my gosh, I have to book this job, I want to be on this show!’ (Laughs). I discovered it a little bit late, but once I did, I was hooked.”
Are there any personality traits you share with your character Joe?
“I think every time you play a character, you end up making it a mix of what’s on the page and who you are as a person. Obviously, I’m an actor and he’s a soldier so we come from two different places. But, I think that you’re going to see a lot of my personality in the character as we get to learn more about Joe and see some other sides of him this season. When we first met him in season 2, he was in a pretty dark place. He was full of anger and resentment about losing his dad and turning into a Wendigo, which is not the easiest thing to cope with (laughs). But, this season we’ll get to see a lot more colors. My personality will come through.”
Your first appearance was when Joe is cursed to become a Wendigo. How challenging was it for you filming that episode, especially with the heavy makeup involved?
“A little known fact, the Wendigo itself was not me in that costume! That was an actor we have on the show named Marti Matulis. He does a lot of the creature work. He also did the Sandman and the Yao-Quai at the beginning of this season. He’s several feet taller than me so it looks like the Wendigo’s bigger. (Laughs). It takes about five hours to get into that Wendigo makeup so if they had me doing it, the scenes where I had to transform back and forth, they would have had to stopped filming five hours then resumed. Since we used Marti, they could film me as Joe then when I morph into the Wendigo, they could swap Marti in. So, I didn’t have to do any of that. I give Marti a lot of credit! He does a lot of great work as those creatures and nobody never gets to see his real face. He doesn’t get credit like he should.”
What do you like best about working on Sleepy Hollow?
“Honestly, it’s the people who I’m working with. That’s the most important thing about any job. I love the rest of the cast, and the directors that we have, the crew and the writers. They’re all people who I enjoy spending time with. We spend a lot of time together on set, so that’s the first thing. The second thing is that I love fantasy, I love sci-fi, I love genre shows. That’s something that I’ve loved ever since I was a kid.
So, the opportunity as an actor to step into an imaginative world like this, which is unlike your day-to-day life, is such a joy. I love that fantasy element. I love getting to work with the supernatural and getting to work with magic! I love that I get to do that when I come to work since I can’t do in my every day life. (Laughs). When I was a kid, those were my favorite stories to watch. They still are as an adult. So, to get to be a part of that as a storyteller it is really a privilege and a real special thing to get to do.”
Well you got to play a similar sort of character on Beauty and the Beast as Anton, in which you were infected with something beastie. Did you book Sleepy Hollow before you got Beauty and the Beast?
“I did Sleepy Hollow first and shortly after filming Sleepy Hollow, I got that Beauty and the Beast job, which was really fun. I got to go to work and shoot lighting bolts out of my hands! It’s all my childhood superhero boyhood fantasies coming to life (laughs). Austin Basis is just the coolest guy! He and I had a bunch of scenes together on Beauty and the Beast, so I got to spend a lot of time with him on set. He is just the kindest person you will ever meet. The way he engages with fans is really fantastic. I was really happy that I got to work with him.”
The majority of your scenes are with Lyndie Greenwood, who plays Jenny. How would you describe the Joe/Jenny dynamic?
“I think it’s going to grow and change over the course of this season. Like any true partners, it has challenges, they have their ups and downs. But, I think they work really nicely together. They get each other, they understand each other. They’re both soldiers in a way. I mean Joe’s a professional soldier in the military and Jenny has been a soldier (in her own way) ever since she was young with her artifact hunting work.
So, I think they both have seen a lot of hard stuff. They both have been through a lot of tough stuff. I think that naturally helps them understand each other in a way that a normal civilian might not. I think they’re drawn to each other and they’re skill sets compliment each other. They also have fun. With the first two episodes this season we’ve seen them sharing beers! If that’s not the basis for a good partnership, I don’t know what is? (Laughs).”
If Sleepy Hollow had a spin-off, I’d love to see a Jenny/Joe spin-off.
“Put me down for that! I know Lyndie would love it too.”
Is there a memorable moment from the set that stands out in your mind?
“Well there’s a bunch. I’m trying to think what I can say. This doesn’t give too much away. There’s a scene in an upcoming episode that’s memorable. Lyndie and I actually have martial arts backgrounds. She did Kung Foo and I did competitive karate and Kung Foo for years and years. We have a scene coming up which was really fun to shoot where we get to put our martial arts to use! It was really awesome. That was definitely one of my favorite days on set. So, I think viewers are going to like that. We certainly liked doing it.”
No stunt double for you?
“They always have the stunt double there and they always do a couple of shots with the stunt double, because you never know what will happen. We were able to do that whole scene ourselves though! That was nice.”
Would you like to see Clancy Brown make a return appearance in a flashback as August so we can see more of Joe’s relationship with his father?
“I would love that! Clancy’s amazing! I would love if that happened. I have never gotten to work with him. Last season when I was doing my episode, he actually had a flashback with Abbie. He was on set and we got to meet each other backstage which was awesome but we didn’t get to work together. I hope we do soon, because he’s such an amazing actor.
Given the fact that he’s only in the pilot and a few flashbacks, he has made such an impression on the show! His presence is felt all throughout it. That’s really the mark of a talented actor. To be able to leave such a powerful sense of their character with such a limited amount of screen time. Even though his character is long gone, you still feel Sheriff Corbin’s ghost watching over these characters in Sleepy Hollow which is wonderful. In a way, he brought Abbie, Jenny and Joe together which is really nice.
Those sort of stories of sons losing their fathers or not meeting their fathers’ expectations is something that is seen in so many shows because it’s such a powerful theme. I’ve played that on stage. I’ve done Death of a Salesman and Hamlet which are both stories about these young men struggling with the loss of their fathers. So, when I got the script for Sleepy Hollow, I felt this is something I get and something I’ve explored before.
As much as Sleep Hollow is a show about the supernatural and about demons and the tribulations and the Apocalypse, at its heart it’s really a story about family. The Mills Family, The Corbin Family and by extension, sort of Crane joined that family. It’s really nice to get to explore that. As the season goes on, we’ll get to see more of those familial relationships and how they grow. Fans will be happy, there’s a lot more of that coming up.”
Would you like to see character switch ups among The Witnesses? Would you like to see Joe have more scenes with Crane?
“Without giving too much away, that’s something that will be happening in the first couple of episodes this season. There will be more material in which the group is together, the four of them and you’ll get to see the power of that group. Tom and I have fun when we get to work together. Fans haven’t seen Crane with guy friends.”
What has been your favorite episode of Sleepy Hollow thus far?
“The first episode I did last season will always be special to me, because that was my introduction to this world! I’m really proud of that. But there’s a few episodes this season leading up to the midseason finale which I’m also proud of and so excited about. They were the ones where I got the scripts and I couldn’t put them down! I read them and would go, ‘Oh my gosh, what’s going to happen next? I need to get that next script now’ (laughs). We’d be on set talking to the writers saying, ‘You have to tell us what happens’ and they’d be like, ‘We can’t tell you.’ When I’m reading the script and have that reaction, that makes me really excited that the fans are going to have that same reaction too. So, those are coming up and I’m really excited for people to see them.”
Outside of your character Joe, who would you have loved to have played? And it could be a man or woman character.
“That’s a great question! I keep teasing Tom about doing a bad impression of him (laughs). I really would like to play a bad guy or something really evil, that would be an option too.”
Years from now, what would you like people to say about Zach Appleman’s career? What would you want your legacy to be?
“That’s a tricky question. My career has never been about fame and fortune. Winning an Oscar isn’t my goal. I just love telling stories. So, when I’m looking back on my career, I’d like to be really proud of the work I’ve done. Really proud of the stories I’ve been able to tell, whether that’s on stage or in film or on TV. That’s the important thing. What is the body of work I’ve been able to do? Have people enjoyed it and what have I contributed?”