Warning: This article contains spoilers for Hocus Pocus 2.
Did the (surprisingly sweet) Hocus Pocus 2 ending have your heart feeling warmer than a trio of witches stuck in a local high school's flaming kiln? Same. But, as the citizens of Salem know, well-intentioned virgins with access to flammable materials and mystical wax columns pose a significant threat to their municipality every Halloween. Though the sequel film bids an emotional adieu to Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy's beloved characters, it establishes a new coven to potentially carry the series forward — this time played by "good" witches Becca (Whitney Peak), Izzy (Belissa Escobedo), and Cassie (Lilia Buckingham) — if the portal to hell were to open and allow the witches to terrorize New England once more.
So, what's in store for the new, magically inclined threesome? EW exclusively caught up with the stars to break down Hocus Pocus 2's best moments, including Winnie's heart-wrenching final monologue, that Garry and Penny Marshall reference, the future of the series, Hannah Waddingham (more, please!), and reveal what Thora Birch would have done in the film if she'd reprised her role as Dani as originally planned. Read on for the full conversation.
Disney + Lilia Buckingham as Cassie, Whitney Peak as Becca, and Belissa Escobedo as Izzy in 'Hocus Pocus 2.'
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: The film positions the three of you as equivalents to the Sanderson Sisters, first through colors you wear in the first scene together: Becca in green, Cassie in purple, Izzy in red. Did you audition knowing you were the equivalents to the sisters?
BELISSA ESCOBEDO: Not at all. They didn't tell us how we were going to be introduced to the witches. It wasn't until we got the script and read it that we were like, oh, we're kind of like parallels.
LILIA BUCKINGHAM: When I auditioned, I feel like Cassie was a completely different character. I thought it was a much smaller role, going into it, and by the end I was like, oh, we're the movie!
Once you learned that you'd be parallels to the witches, did you incorporate elements of them into your performance?
WHITNEY PEAK: Although there are similarities, all three of us are so different and well-developed individually as characters, it was about the writing and where the story went. If we tried to pick up their behavior, it'd be a different movie. That might take away from our characters.
BUCKINGHAM: The script does enough with similar undertones in each characters' arc.
In one scene, we see the witches fly by the windows of Salem citizens, and Winnie passes a couple watching a scene from the first movie. Did you have discussions with director Anne Fletcher or the writer, Jen D'Angelo, about what that scene means?
ESCOBEDO: Watching it [at the premiere] I was like, hey, I know that scene! That scene put me in a mental pickle. It's very meta.
PEAK: I don't know what the intention was from Anne and Jen, I think it was just a fun Easter Egg for the original watchers of the movie.
BUCKINGHAM: It makes you think, did they, in the Hocus Pocus cinematic universe, make a movie about the Sanderson Sisters, and that's why they have so much lore about them and why drag queens dress up as them?
ESCOBEDO: Like, how does Salem know about everything with the Sanderson Sisters? It's a cute little idea.
BUCKINGHAM: Does Bette Midler exist in the Hocus Pocus cinematic universe? Do I, as Lilia Buckingham?
PEAK: Jen, the writer, exists in the universe as the kid's mom from the Magic Shoppe. She's dressed as a pirate, she's the mother to the lovely actor who asks, "What's a virgin?"
ESCOBEDO: One of the most iconic lines!
Disney + The Sanderson Sisters ride again in 'Hocus Pocus 2.'
There's a remarkable shift in tone for Winifred after her sisters perish because of Magicæ Maxima. What were your impressions of the scene, and how do you feel about the Sanderson Sisters going out on a warm note instead of an evil one?
ESCOBEDO: It wasn't in the first script; it was during [additional photography] that we came back to the ending. Seeing that, through the screen, it's translated well. But, seeing her do that monologue live was life changing.
BUCKINGHAM: The crew gave a standing ovation.
PEAK: She was improvising. It was different each time. She'd go on a well-thought-out monologue, saying goodbye to her sisters and having a weird come-to-light moment of deciding who she wants to be.
BUCKINGHAM: It was like Bette saying goodbye to her character, almost.
What was the initial ending?
ESCOBEDO: She had an emotional moment, it was the same ending, the sisters perish, and she's like, "What have I done?" It was in the same realm, but this ending gave more of her turning to us and saying, "You're so lucky to have your sisters." That was new.
BUCKINGHAM: We also didn't have the scene of us walking in the park. That was [additional photography].
The final shot is great. Was it always scripted that the three of you would walk down the street doing the shuffle that the Sanderson Sisters were known for?
PEAK: It was scripted.
BUCKINGHAM: I was horrible at it! I kept messing up. I'm so sorry, you guys.
ESCOBEDO: Anne was passionate about it not coming off as us making fun of it or us trying to be them, she was like, "Make it your own, but also make it real." We had to do it a lot, but it was for the better because we're not trying to recreate the Sanderson Sisters. It's impossible, but something came over [the characters] in that moment. If you listen, they're like, "That's what they did in the Walgreens. What?" And then we run off [grunting].
BUCKINGHAM: It's a tribute to instead of a recreation.
Disney+ Sarah Jessica Parker, Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy, and Cobweb the cat in 'Hocus Pocus 2.'
How do you interpret the last scene, with the bird following you? What do you think happens next for Becca, Izzy, and Cassie?
PEAK: It's an open-ended movie. So much could happen next. Both extremes, too. If there is a next movie, we could be our coven, much older, but the Sanderson Sisters could come back, and we'd have to kick their asses again.
ESCOBEDO: We did do that.
PEAK: That final scene where the sisters vanish, and Winnie's processing a lot of things, there's a callback to the beginning of the movie where the Witch, played by Hannah Waddingham, the [young Sanderson Sisters] ask her where her coven is, and she responds by saying that Salem isn't the kindest to witches, she also says the book doesn't like the power spell. So, maybe she did it and made the same mistake, and she's warning the three of them.
BUCKINGHAM: If there's a third, I want one of us to get corrupted by the power. I just know it would be Cassie.
ESCOBEDO: The three Sanderson Sisters never knew because they didn't read the warning, but the three of us know, so we know what we'd be risking.
Do you think there's potential in the world of this film for the witches to resurrect again, or do you think they're done for good?
ESCOBEDO: I think you can never fully get rid of the Sanderson Sisters.
PEAK: They can always come back. It would be hard to create a third movie without the Sanderson Sisters, because it's their movie. They are Hocus Pocus. It's hard to imagine what a movie would be like without them.
BUCKINGHAM: Maybe a Hannah Waddingham prequel. More Hannah Waddingham screen time.
ESCOBEDO: What if Hannah Waddingham comes back for us?
She's the bird at the end.
ESCOBEDO: Yes, she transforms into the bird in the beginning. Technically we never saw what happened to the Witch.
PEAK: We know she's not dead.
You came to this film after it built such a legacy, with returning actors, and others who didn't. Did you reach out to the original teens for advice?
PEAK: I tend to be afraid to take up space and I'm nervous to interrupt people's lives, so I pictured it like, [I wouldn't want] a DM from this random girl that's like, "I'm about to do this movie, can you help?" I didn't have the confidence. I think it would've been received much nicer [by them].
BUCKINGHAM: I didn't want to bother them!
ESCOBEDO: We almost had Thora Birch.
We reported that in March.
ESCOBEDO: We almost had her. She was going to be our schoolteacher.
Was it just one scene?
ESCOBEDO: I remember talking to Anne about it being a thing where she was our teacher, and we went to her for help.
PEAK: I think it would've been a bigger role if it was played by her.
ESCOBEDO: In that [version of the script] there wasn't a Gilbert [Sam Richardson's character].
BUCKINGHAM: We had to have a mentor figure.
Do you remember any other changes?
PEAK: No, but I did get to see Bette Midler not dressed as Winifred for the first time during [additional photography]. She showed up to read off-screen for us while we did coverage for a scene, and she looked so cool. Blazer, jeans, white trainers, reading her Sunday New York Times. Like, you're the coolest person on the planet.
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