Advertisement

'Hocus Pocus 2': Doug Jones says returning as Billy Butcherson was 'surreal' (exclusive)

Watch: Doug Jones and Sam Richardson talk to Yahoo about Hocus Pocus 2

After a 29-year wait, the Sanderson Sisters have returned from the grave in Hocus Pocus 2.

Also returning is Doug Jones as scruffy haired zombie (and Winnie’s old flame) Billy Butcherson from director Kenny Ortega’s original.

“For me, it was absolutely surreal to be back in this look,” shape-shifting actor Doug Jones tells Yahoo.

Read more: Everything new on Disney+ in September

“I looked in the mirror when they were done with my make-up, hair and wardrobe and thought: ‘Oh my gosh: two minutes have gone by in the last 29 years.”

Doug Jones as Billy Butcherson in HOCUS POCUS 2, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Matt Kennedy. © 2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Doug Jones as Billy Butcherson in Hocus Pocus 2. (Disney)

Directed by 27 Dresses director Anne Fletcher, this long-awaited follow-up to 1993’s nostalgic autumnal classic sees unsuspecting high school misfits Becca (Whitney Peak) and Izzy (Belissa Escobedo) accidentally relight the Black Flame Candle and bring witchy trio Winifred (Bette Midler), Mary (Kathy Najimy) and Sarah (Sarah Jessica Parker) back to the present day.

With a thirst for power and eternal youth on their minds — plus some unfinished business dating all the way back to their 1600’s New England origins — Salem’s most notorious witches cackle, sing and scare their way through a fun follow-up that conjures plenty of fan-service without shying away from delivering something new that builds on the world and its much-loved characters.

Kathy Najimy as Mary Sanderson, Bette Midler as Winifred Sanderson, and Sarah Jessica Parker as Sarah Sanderson in Disney's live-action HOCUS POCUS 2, exclusively on Disney+. Photo by Matt Kennedy. © 2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Kathy Najimy as Mary Sanderson, Bette Midler as Winifred Sanderson, and Sarah Jessica Parker as Sarah Sanderson in Hocus Pocus 2. (Disney)

As a die-hard Bette Midler fan, Jones has openly admitted in the past that he regularly had to pinch himself when acting with his musical icon in part one.

Jones explained that seeing this iconic star of stage and screen in full Winifred wardrobe once more was an equally surreal experience, despite almost three decades having passed.

“Seeing the three witches was like ‘Okay. There they are looking younger and more vibrant than ever. This is just surreal,’” he tells us. “I think I’m having a dream and I don’t want to wake up.”

Watch a trailer for Hocus Pocus 2

No stranger to intense make-up regimes (see: the awesome Pan's Labyrinth), Jones went all out in reanimating the dusty undead Billy in the first Hocus Pocus by keeping live moths in his stitched-up mouth.

Did he go to the same lengths this time around? “Thank heavens, No,” he says with a sigh of relief.

“My mouth has already been cut open. I come out of the grave talking this time — I’m not happy about it, but I’m talking — and the moths have already flown out years and years ago.”

Read more: Sam Richardson wants a Marvel role

While we’ll keep the reason for Billy’s reawakening a secret for now, one of the key players in bringing the Sanderson Sisters back is the mild-mannered yet mysterious Gilbert. Played by The Afterparty’s Sam Richardson, he’s the owner and operator of the old Sanderson house — now a witch-themed museum — and is more than a little obsessed with Winnie, Mary and Sarah.

Sam Richardson as Gilbert in Disney's live-action HOCUS POCUS 2, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Disney Enterprises, Inc. © 2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Sam Richardson as Gilbert in Hocus Pocus 2. (Disney)

“Surreal is the answer I would give,” says Richardson on becoming part of this beloved Halloween classic.

“From being a fan of the movie and the characters to making a wish, blowing out a candle and then all of a sudden I’m in the world with them — it was its own magic."

As for Gilbert’s role in the movie, Richardson keeps things cryptic: “For the sisters, Gilbert is an absolute fanboy. He’s built his whole life around the myth and mythos of the Sanderson Sisters and of course, everybody in this town knows the legend of Billy Butcherson…” he explains.

“Learning what that is for Gilbert is another fun storyline.”

Despite harbouring an unhealthy obsession with the Sanderson Sisters, it’s Billy that Gilbert ends up spending much of his time with, resulting in a unlikely — but welcome — comedic double act.

(L-R): Belissa Escobedo as Izzy, Whitney Peak as Becca, and Lilia Buckingham as Cassie in Disney's live-action HOCUS POCUS 2, exclusively on Disney+. Photo courtesy of Disney Enterprises, Inc. © 2022 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
(L-R): Belissa Escobedo as Izzy, Whitney Peak as Becca, and Lilia Buckingham as Cassie Hocus Pocus 2. (Disney)

“Working with Sam is an absolute dream. No two takes are the same and they all work,” says Jones of their on-screen partnership. “I was working with a comedic genius. I loved it.” Richardson jumps in: “Much to the detriment of the editor right?” he jokes.

“It was so much fun and we became friends so quickly”

As with many legacy sequels, in addition to pleasing long-time fans, Fletcher’s Hocus Pocus follow-up also subtly lays the groundwork for more spellbinding action should the stars align.

With that in mind, could Billy be convinced to return from the grave one more time? “Well, never say never,” says Jones.

“After the first movie ended we thought we were all done. I thought I was dead forever and the witches were gone forever but they were revived so it can always happen,” he reasons.

“This is a world I wouldn’t mind revisiting again.”

Hocus Pocus 2 arrives on Disney+ on Friday September 30.