When the first Hocus Pocus was released 29 years ago, it received little fanfare. But despite its critical and commercial shortcomings, the film became a cult classic and built a coven that would demand a sequel. And since we are living in the streaming age, a Hocus Pocus 2 has a place where that could work.
In the film, three high-school students, Becca (Whitney Peak), Izzy (Belissa Escobedo), and Cassie (Lilia Buckingham), must stop the ravenous witches (Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy) from wreaking a new kind of havoc on Salem before dawn on All Hallow’s Eve.
The Nerds of Color had a chance to participate in the Hocus Pocus 2 press conference to talk to the cast about the long-awaited sequel and what it was like to bring their characters back to life for a new generation.
Of course, with every sequel, you have to introduce new characters, especially since it’s been nearly three decades since the original was released. Rather than recreate the ’90s or early 2000s, Hocus Pocus 2 takes place in modern-day Salem and finds Becca, Izzy, and Cassie dealing with all of the pressures of living as high schoolers. Though there’s a generational gap between the trio of friends and the Sanderson sisters, their sisterhood has some similarities.
“I think it’s an interesting parallel between the older witches and the three of us. Three completely different walks of life and just personality and individuality and then just finding this bond where you can be selfless and completely comfortable with each other,” Peak said of the generational gap. The actor knows audiences will resonate with Becca’s sense of valuing her friends and the idea of uniting and putting differences despite some of the social distractions of high school popularity contests and boyfriends.
“I admire that she has this blind loyalty to do anything for them. No questions asked,” Escobedo said of her character. “Totally would go against evil, which is like yeah, for you. Yeah. I love that about her.”
Additionally, Escobedo is every familiar with the horror genre, having worked with Ryan Murphy on American Horror Story. And while it is her favorite genre, she loves exploring both the fun and scary sides of the horror spectrum. “Halloween is the best holiday. Aside from that, I just have always loved spooky Halloween movies because I feel like it can be extremes on both ends,” she said. “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.”
“I mean, all of us are very real teenagers who go through teenage emotions that aren’t that don’t ruin such a camp, crazy movie. But the emotions are very understated in that like, they’re very real,” Buckingham said of the film’s relatability. “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 misstepping and not being able to figure it out until she communicates with her best friends.”
As for the Sanderson sisters, Midler never thought the day would come that she would star in a Hocus Pocus 2 sequel until it was officially announced. “I realized, ‘oh, we’re really gonna do this,’” she said. “It’s kind of a dream come true. I’ve been, I don’t want to say agitating, but kind of like after we realized 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 like 15 years ago, something like that. So here we are.”
Likewise, Naimy never saw how Hocus Pocus could be such a hit with audiences back then and how it continues to be a hit now. “I don’t think that anyone could ever decide that ahead of time, or else everybody would make that kind of movie,” she said. “I think you make films, and you go on to the next one. And however, the audience receives it is always a surprise. Yeah. So I think there was something in this film, I think, like Wizard of Oz-ish, where you really the generation shows it to there because this shows them to their kids, to their kids. So becomes this part of the fabric of the history of the family.
But Midler and Naimy weren’t the only ones to reprise their respective roles. Doug Jones also returned to play Billy Butcherson, the zombie resurrected by the Sanderson sisters to help them create havoc all over Salem. “I was a zombie before zombies were cool. I was not a brain-eating zombie. That’s the big difference,” Jones said. “My character was there because he really wanted to sleep and be left alone. So I think goofy flappy fun, and he kind of matches the energy and the floppiness and the fun and the overtime the characters of the sisters.”
For Sam Richardson, who plays Gilbert, it was a dream come true for him to be a part of Hocus Pocus 2. “I’ve been a fan of movies since it was in theaters, you know and so like to get to be in the movies a fan of the movie from growing up. To watch these three and these three and Doug, as a fan in my eyes, it’s very meta. Now I get to watch this movie of watching myself watch them.”
Hocus Pocus 2 debuts exclusively on Disney+ on September 30, 2022.