Vital Thrills got a chance to talk to the Hocus Pocus 2 cast and crew ahead today’s release of the sequel on Disney+. In attendance were Hocus Pocus 2 cast members Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, Doug Jones, Sam Richardson, Whitney Peak, Belissa Escobedo, and Lilia Buckingham.
We also chatted with director Anne Fletcher, executive producer Adam Shankman, and producer Lynn Harris.
In the sequel, it’s been 29 years since someone lit the Black Flame Candle and resurrected the 17th-century sisters, and they are looking for revenge. Now it is up to three high-school students to stop the ravenous witches from wreaking a new kind of havoc on Salem before dawn on All Hallow’s Eve.
The Hocus Pocus 2 cast also includes Sarah Jessica Parker, Hannah Waddingham, Froy Gutierrez, and Tony Hale.
Bette Midler, who reprises the role of Winifred Sanderson, said of the sequel finally happening: “This was kind of a dream come true, it really was. I mean, I’ve been, I don’t want to say, agitating but kind of like after I realized it was actually a phenomenon, I started asking people around my age and people like that, don’t you think they would be interested in a sequel? This was a long time ago. This was like 15 years ago, something like that. So here we are.”
Kathy Najimy, who plays Mary Sanderson, was asked about why the first film has such a following after all this time. She said, “You know, I don’t think that anyone could ever decide that ahead of time or else everybody would make that kind of movie. I think you just make films and you go on to the next one. And however the audience receives it is always a surprise.
She added: “So I think there was something in this film, I think, like Wizard of Oz-ish, where the generation shows it to their kids and shows it to their kids and shows it to their kids. It becomes part of the fabric of the history of the family. So I don’t think that anyone could ever predict, do you, like what would be…”
Director Anne Fletcher jumped in: “I agree. I think that’s right. I think it is generational. And I think it’s sort of perennial. It’s like, you can watch it with your whole family.”
She was asked about a musical number in the film and her mission for it. She said, “Well, the mission, in general, is the story and honoring the first movie and carrying into the sequel and making sure that I’m honoring these characters for the fans and bringing it into a new generation. The musical numbers are there for story. As I like to say, I didn’t feel like I could compete with ‘I Put a Spell on You’ which Bette and Marc Shaiman wrote.”
She continued: “And I mean, there was an original song. You guys did the arrangement and the lyrics. Can’t compete with that. So I didn’t try. So we stayed really focused on trying to stay more towards the story. And we just had so many fun options of songs to choose from. And that’s where we landed. And who doesn’t want to see Bette Midler sing?”
Executive producer Adam Shankman said of working on the film, “I remember my first day there was one of the flying scenes outside the cottage. And I swear to God I was looking and they had like guys on poles with you guys. It was amazing. I was like, going, like, and I had no idea what was going on. But it was incredibly magical at the time. And then when I got to be asked to be a part of any of this, I was just like, yes, please.
“But a lot of it had to do with can I just please do something with my friends? And because you, you know, you make new friends and new pods in every project that you do, hopefully. This time, this period of our lives has been incredibly isolating. And I hadn’t gotten to see people I know and love in a really long time. And so to be able to have the opportunity to be forced together [laughs] was really, really special to me.”
Doug Jones plays Billy Butcherson and spoke about why his character is a fan favorite, saying, “Probably because I was a zombie before zombies were cool, you know, yeah, right. And I was not a brain-eating zombie. That’s a big difference. I just wanted to go back to sleep. That’s all I want, really.
“I don’t want to eat anything. I just want to be left alone, really. So I think goofy, floppy fun. And he kind of matches the energy and the floppiness and the fun and the overdone characters of the sisters.” Jones said the makeup wasn’t that rough, and that he only spent two hours in the makeup chair each day. That’s short for him, considering some of the monsters that he’s played in the past.
Belissa Escobedo plays Izzy and spoke about why she likes the genre. She said, “I mean, Halloween is the best holiday. Aside from that, I just have always loved like spooky Halloween movies because I feel like it can be extremes on both ends. And then you also see like, campiness and how it can be fun. And I think it’s amazing that those like, you have one end of horror, and then you have this end of like camp. And they all bridge together in the same genre and like come collectively to celebrate this fun holiday.”
Lilia Buckingham, who plays Cassie, says this is her big break in film. She talked about the experience, saying, “I don’t think I really had any expectations. I was just happy to have a job. It was really the coolest thing. When I found out that I booked the role, we were all on Zoom together and right when we like hopped off, we were done screaming, I literally not to be dramatic, it’s almost like I’m an actor, but I like fell to my knees and was like, finally. And I was supposed to be moving into college in two weeks. And so it was a huge life change.”
She added: “But it was the best thing I could have asked for. I mean, I worked with legends and learned so much and I mean, Whitney [Peak who plays Becca], yeah, no, but I mean, it’s like and then I made best friends along the way too. And so it was really everything I could have asked for out of that experience. And so now I’m like here in a cool little outfit. And got to be on like a cool little carpet. It’s not real. It’s really not real. But I’m very grateful. And this is a fabulous team.”
Sam Richardson plays Gilbert in Hocus Pocus 2 and talked about the experience, “As a fan of the movie itself, like this was like directed right at me, when the movie came out. So I’ve been a fan of movies since it was in theaters. So to get to be in the movie as a fan of the movie from growing up and getting to watch these three and these three and Doug, as a fan in my eyes and watching myself it’s so many levels of inception. It’s very meta.”
Buckingham talked about her character Cassie: “Cassie was a lot of fun. I’m excited like for people to see her because I think she’s a very real kind… I mean, all of us are very real teenagers who go through teenage emotions that aren’t too, like, you know, we’re in such a camp, crazy movie. But the emotions are very understated in the sense that like, they’re very real.
“And like, we have this love for each other and this friendship, but I mean, every teen knows what it’s like to kind of go through a rough patch with your friends, and to have your first boyfriend or girlfriend and then do all of that and kind of figure it out. And I think she is a very good example of kind of just misstepping and not being able to figure it out until she communicates with her best friends. And that’s just the realest thing I’ve ever heard. We’ve all been through that. And so I’m excited for that.”
Peak added, “I think there is just like an interesting parallel of the older witches, but also, the three of us is just like, three completely different walks of life and just personality and individuality and then just kind of finding this bond where you can be selfless and completely comfortable with each other. But to answer your question, which I don’t think I’ve done is that, I think, from Becca, just her sense of valuing really the people that she keeps around her.
“I mean, she has a core friend group and you know, no matter what happens, she eventually gets to, you know, reuniting and just kind of putting their differences aside and the distractions of whatever happens and just making sure that she has her sisters behind her the entire time.”
Midler talked about the reunification of the sisters in Hocus Pocus 2. “We talked a lot about sisterhood. And we talked a lot about leaning on each other and counting on each other and loyalty to each other. I think in this world, there’s so much going on in this world that we never really realized until maybe the last 25, 30 years, maybe 50 years, things have changed for women, but things have not changed fast enough for women.
“And I think these three characters are really in a strange and odd way that they’re really quite positive for women. First of all, they’re very funny, which women are not allowed to be are not supposed to be. And they’re intensely loyal to each other, even though their relationships are… It’s a very broad range of emotions that they live through. And, but I think in a funny way, their bond is very, very strong. So in any situation where women are together, a bond of friendship and sisterhood is really, really important. And then this movie sort of shores it up.”