“Bette said to embody the character more than I think is necessary. Bigger is always better with her,” Taylor Henderson, who played the younger version of the eldest witch, told Today in an interview published on Thursday, October 6. “She said to use what Winifred has to be the character — the hair, the hands, the teeth. Oh my God! When I put the teeth in for the first time that helped me so much to become her better.”
The 15-year-old, who booked the part in September of 2021, revealed that she “watched [Hocus Pocus] every Halloween for as long as I can remember,” but after landing an audition for the sequel, the Evil Lives Here star played the film over 40 more times to properly prepare.
Over the course of two months, the Texas native carefully studied Midler, now 76, in the 1993 original – who she was a person, her relationship with sisters Mary (Kathy Najimy) and Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) and her mannerisms on screen.
“When you watch the [first] movie, that’s something that you notice about Winifred — that weird thing she’s doing with her hands with her fingers by her face. I thought it was really important to add that in because obviously she does it a lot,” Henderson said of her character study. “Winnie is always moving. She’s everywhere all the time. She’s up in everyone’s business. She loves her sisters so much. So, I really focused on that because I think that was really important.”
Hocus Pocus 2, which takes place 30 years after the first movie, sees the Sanderson sisters returning to Salem after two friends — Becca (Whitney Peak) and Izzy (Melissa Escobedo) — accidentally light the black flame candle. The girls then must find a way to stop the child-hungry witches from casting a spell that will make them all-powerful by sunrise.
The follow-up film also gives audiences a glimpse into who the Sanderson sisters were before they became menacing witches — and what events transpired to make them that way.
Henderson, Nina Kitchen and Juju Journey Brener, who play young Winifred, Mary and Sarah, respectively, were wildly praised for their performances as the teen trio following the premiere on September 30, with fans especially appreciating the accuracy with which Henderson brought Midler’s iconic character to life.
“Give young Winifred Sanderson the Academy Award,” writer Evan Ross Katz posted via Instagram following the Disney+ release. “She is AMAZING,” actor Claybourne Elder tweeted at the time.
Henderson told Today on Thursday that director Anne Fletcher had a big part in coaching the Virtual Vocals Cabaret alum on how “Winifred speaks and her facial expressions,” which helped her nail the performance as the trio’s ringleader.
“We talked about a lot about where in the script is an appropriate time to laugh with [my sisters] and where is an appropriate time in the script to yell at them, make a face of them and call them dumb or whatever,” she said. “So that was interesting to figure out.”
She added, “They influence everything [Winifred] does. All of her lines are based on everything (her sisters) do. That was really cool to discover with her. She’s very protective over them, which was pretty easy. I’m pretty close with both of the two girls who played my sisters. I do feel very protective over them so that was probably the easiest part.”
Following the Halloween adventure’s New York City premiere on September 27, Henderson revealed that she and the Beaches star caught up on the red carpet to discuss her performance. “She said she really, really likes me in the movie, which was amazing. That is all I wanted and all I needed,” the teen actress gushed.