Marnie Cromwell (Kimberly J. Brown) is whole heartedly obsessed with Halloween. Witches, vampires, ghosts – Marnie is attracted to the strange and exciting aspects of Halloween. Like so many others, Marnie longs to feel special and part of something bigger. The problem is, Marnie’s mother Gwen (Judith Hoag) is all too eager to keep her three children far away from Halloween or anything to do with magic.
On the eve of Halloween, their grandmother Aggie (Debbie Reynolds) shows up at their home and clearly has magical powers. Marnie overhears Aggie and her mother speaking about her and discovers a wonderful secret, she is a witch! Marnie, Dylan (Joey Zimmerman), Sophie (Emily Roeske) follow their grandmother on her way home only to find themselves in Halloweentown. Marnie soon discovers there is much more to being a witch than meets the eye. Evil forces are a foot, working to undo the sanctuary that harbors all of Halloweentown’s exotic residences. The Cromwell’s have to work together to help save Halloweentown.
One of Disney channels best and most original holiday movies of all time, Halloweentown. I recently had the pleasure to ask Judith Hoag (the mom in Halloweentown) some questions about the Halloweentown series.
You can also download the exclusive Halloweentown theme ringtone, enjoy! Continue reading below:
Hi Judith! Thank you so much for taking the time the answer some questions.
Adam: How did you get involved with the Halloweentown series?
Judith: I auditioned for the job in LA. and Michael Healy, an executive at Disney was a fan of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and he’s the one who pushed for me to get the role.
Adam: What was it about the Halloweentown script that spoke to you? Did it have anything to do with playing a witchy role?
Judith: I thought it was a really sweet script and I loved that Debbie Reynolds was attached to it.
Adam: Do you feel like your role was easy to get into?
Judith: No – it was a challenge! There were so many things on that first day of work that went wrong – it was a bit of a nightmare. The producers and I had really different ideas about what my character would look like and that was a battle that I lost. So I had to figure out how to make this work for me the actress & as Gwen the character. My wardrobe was ill-fitting and unattractive & my hair was ridiculous. Well, I thought, Gwen is a witch who’s pretending to be human, she’s lying to her children & friends about who & what she really is. Of course she’s going to look odd – she’s being completely inauthentic about who she really is. She’s living a lie. Okay, I can work with that! And that changed my entire day. Now I could make sense of the chaos and work with it. That’s the beauty of spinning problems into solutions.
Adam: Did you have any idea that this character would continue for 3 sequels?
Judith: No. I was shocked each time another script showed up.
Adam: Was it easy to step back into Gwen after the first film?
Judith: No. There were fresh challenges waiting for me in Vancouver. Again I had to take the limitations of what was happening on the set and spin into something I could work with. This is a seriously crazy business and not for the weak of heart and that is the fun of it. How to make it fun? You have to bring your most positive attitude and open mind with you. I’ve learned that when I do that everything changes!
Adam: The interaction between Gwen and Aggie is fantastic. They butt heads when Aggie changes the leftovers into a live chicken. You really see a regular, normal family dynamic in that scene, even without the magic. Do you feel like the film has that real life relatable quality?
Judith: Absolutely, we’re a real family that just happens to be witches.
Adam: What was it like working with Debbie Reynolds and the rest of the cast?
Judith: It was a love affair all the way around. It was fun to watch the kids grow up. I really felt like they were my kids although there were definitely times when I needed to take them in hand. They were and are precious to me. On her first day Debbie introduced herself to us as “Princess Leia’s mother!” What?! She’s a living legend! She’s self deprecating and charming and hilarious and filled to the brim with juicy stories.
Adam: In the first Halloweentown movie, Gwen is totally against anything having to do with Halloween or magic. As the movies progress, you come to realize Gwen is certainly capable of using magic. Later she seems to even like using magic. Gwen’s children seem to really force her out of the “broom closet” don’t they? Even after the first film, Gwen kind of remains in denial until her date turns out to be a total frog, literally. I feel like the common theme for Gwen in the first two films is that she has to face her past and the truth. Do you have any thoughts about that?
Judith: Nobody is fun to be around when they deny the truth of who they really are and that was the case with Gwen. When she finally allowed herself to relax and embrace who she really was, a member of the ancient and illustrious Cromwell Witch Family, she could finally settle into herself and enjoy her life. That’s when she became fun!
Adam: My favorite sequel of all the films is Halloweentown High. I feel like Gwen really seems to embrace who she is a mother and a witch. Do you have a favorite of all the Halloweentown films?
Judith: That was a favorite for me too. Although by the 4th movie, they really started writing for my character so I loved that one too. I think as lovely as Sara Paxton was and is, it was a shift for us to have a new Marnie.
Adam: Now I have to ask you the question that I am sure you are frequently asked. Why do you think Kimberly was recast with Sara Paxton? Some of the lines in Return to Halloweentown appear to have been specifically written for Kimberly. I think the choice to recast Marnie was a bad one, specifically because Kimberly was already established at Marnie for three of the films. Kimberly has said she was ready and able to return to the role, but she does not want to even begin to try to understand Disney’s formula.
Judith: I think that sometimes we have to learn some lessons in & about our professions. I certainly did when I was younger and was fired from the Ninja Turtle movie franchise. That was a very tough experience for me and mistakes were made on both sides. I would say the same thing about Kimberly and the Disney Channel. This business is not for the feint of heart – it’s the big leagues and playing ball can be really tough sometimes.
Adam: When acting in the role of Gwen, do you feel like Gwen is a part of you and vice versa? What do you feel like you bought to the role?
Judith: You always bring a part of you into any role. I am very playful by nature but Gwen was not. It was a matter of finding out why I didn’t want to be a witch and then playing with that. She became closer to me in the 3rd & 4th movies.
Adam: When acting, did you ever have the opportunity to adlib any of your lines? Sometimes actors can really get a feel for who the character is, even with body language or the way something is said.
Judith: Some directors really let you play with the words and give you the freedom to make them your own. On these movies, they pretty much wanted us to stick to the script and say it as written. So you’ve just got to try to make those words fit into your mouth and sound like they came right out of your heart. Our last two directors were probably the most relaxed and easy going, so the sets were freer places to play & bring your ideas.
Adam: I also noticed in the only bonus features, there is a scene in Halloweentown High where “Sophie” seems to be frozen. Do you recall any scenes that didn’t make it in the final edits?
Judith: I can’t think of any of the top my head.
Adam: I have always thought Halloweentown would be great as a short series. Many shows are doing 13 episode runs these days. I would love to see more of the series. If you did another Halloweentown movie, where do you feel the story of the film could go? Many fans have been asking for another sequel. Do you think there is any possibility of getting Disney to do an additional sequel, with Kimberly reprising her role?
Judith: I think there’s a whole other story with Sophie finally starting her training. But honestly, I think too much has time has passed and Disney has moved on to other things. I would be shocked if they reprised the series. But then I was shocked each time another film showed up!
Adam: Do you hear from or keep in contact with any of the cast members? I know Emily Roeske was not in Return to Halloweentown, I heard she quit acting?
Judith: I keep in contact with Kimberly pretty regularly and I occasionally run into Lucas Grabeel. I haven’t heard from Joey in years & yes Emily doesn’t act anymore. I’d love to work with Debbie again.
Adam: Did you know that the Halloweentown series would become a cult hit? Or that it would trend on Twitter with thousands of people talking about it years later?
Judith: It never crossed my mind. Ever. But I could say the same thing about Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. These two movie franchises have such a devoted following and I’m genuinely touched that they made a dent in so many kids lives and that they still have such a fondness for the movies.
Adam: What do you think it is about the Halloweentown series that appeals to the fans?
Judith: Who doesn’t like witches? You need look no further than the magnificent work of JK Rowling and Harry Potter! The HT series borrowed from her and she borrowed from the big daddy, JRR Tolkien. Throw in a little Sinclair Lewis’ “The Lion The Witch & The Wardrobe” and you can see that our appeal would be obvious. Fantasy & witchcraft feeds our imagination and our desire to believe that we are not just human but special beings, who maybe even could hold ancient powers. Really, who doesn’t want to be a witch?
Adam: Did you get to keep anything or film/take any photos while filming the Halloweentown series? I bet fans would love to see it if you did!
Judith: I have the mask & hands I wore when I transformed into a creature in the second movie. I also have some gorgeous elf ears that I wear whenever possible. I didn’t take enough pictures though.
Adam: Is it a surprise when fans recognize you from the Halloweentown series?
Judith: No. I’m an actor and I’ve worked for many years on many projects so I get recognized a lot. Plus Disney shows our movies practically on a loop throughout most of October
Adam: Have you heard any funny stories or comments from fans about the Halloweentown series?
Judith: Stories from fans…? All I can say is that they are a sincerely sweet & devoted bunch.
Adam: Have you ever thought “you know, it would be great to be a Witch and have real magical powers?”
Adam: Do you happen to enjoy Halloween in real life?
Judith: In my heart I am 5 yrs old so yes, I love Halloween.
Adam: Would you take another role playing a Witch?
Judith: I love anything having to do with witches and the supernatural.
Adam: Is there anything you are currently working on that you can talk about or want to plug?
Judith: I have a new TV movie coming soon called “Shattered Silence” that also stars Liz Vassey, Kelli Goss & Jenn Proske. It’s about bullying and it was a special experience for all of us, great friendships came out of it. It should premiere in next few months but I’m not allowed to say on which network just yet…and you can catch me next month on the new NBC show “Grimm”. Also in November I start shooting a pilot called “Skin Deep”. I’ve started writing so it will be fun to see where that takes me.
I wish you the best with your career!
Thanks Adam, my pleasure!