Years after her shocking exit from Sleepy Hollow, Nicole Beharie is opening up about the circumstances surrounding her departure.
The actress starred as Abigail Mills -- a police lieutenant-turned-FBI agent who worked alongside Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison) to explore supernatural occurrences and prevent the Biblical end of days -- for the first three seasons of the show, from 2013-2016, but her fan-favorite character was killed off at the end of season 3, causing an uproar among viewers. Sleepy Hollow returned for a fourth season without Beharie, but was ultimately cancelled.
In an interview with the New York Timeswhile promoting her new film, Miss Juneteenth, Beharie admitted that she's shied away from speaking about her exit from Sleepy Hollow, saying, "I never wanted to talk about this until the resentment and bitterness was out of my system."
According to Beharie, her departure came after a harrowing ordeal of health struggles and unfair treatment at the hands of the show. "My co-star and I both got sick at the same time with the same illness and had different treatments," she recalled. "He was allowed to go on leave for a month and I had to continue working. There was a smokescreen of me getting my own episode, titled 'Mama.' By the end of that episode, I started to fall apart."
"They shut down production for two weeks because I got sick," she continued. "They sent in lots of doctors, and I had daily checkups to make sure I was actually sick because they had to get the production going. Every doctor said I wasn’t doing well and that I needed to rest. That is not what they wanted to hear."
Beharie said she ultimately got a lawyer and decreased her hours to "work through it." But then she developed an autoimmune condition and a bacterial infection, C. difficile, "which had me on eight different prescription medications."
"Sometimes I think that some people I was working with didn’t like that I was unwell but loved by the audience," she noted. "I would think they’d support that. But everyone of color on that show was seen as expendable and eventually let go."
The actress, who also recently appeared on Hulu's Little Fires Everywhere, said it's taken five years for her to undo the physical toll of working through her illness. And that's before the damage she says was done to her career.
"I tried to get work afterwards and people were like, 'We heard you were difficult,'" she recalled. "But no one can say I was late or unprofessional or negative."
While speaking with ET earlier this month, Beharie opened up about her experiences on "one particular TV show" that "completely changed the trajectory of my career and probably my life and health," though she didn't call out Sleepy Hollow by name.
"I think that's one of the things that made me understand Turquoise," she said of her Miss Juneteenth character, a struggling single mother who pushes her teenage daughter towards reliving her former pageant glory. "It's almost like looking back at a time before I woke up to the full awareness that people saw me -- even though I was serving their narrative -- that they were perhaps treating me as a second-class citizen, despite whatever I did to assimilate, or to work as hard as I possibly could. To undo the idea that, despite the value that you add to something, some people do feel like you are expendable in our lives and our contributions."
"There's a lot of things that need to change, and while we all feel privileged and grateful to be in this business, there are definitely people around that will just be like, 'Just be happy to be here,' where you don't necessarily get treated equally, or you get judged very severely," Beharie continued. "As we saw with #MeToo and Time's Up, women are coming out about some of those injustices, but there's, like, a double whammy there when you're Black and a woman."