What It Was Like on the "Hocus Pocus 2" Set, From an Extra Who Lived the Magical Experience
Things have run amok (amok, amok) on Disney+ as October gets underway. The sequel to the much-loved Halloween classic "Hocus Pocus" started streaming on Sept. 30, delighting young and old fans alike. Our favorite witches — the Sanderson sisters — are back and casting spells on a whole new crew of Salem, MA, residents. Among those portraying the fictional New Englanders is Jess Lee, a Rhode Island resident who channeled her affection for the original 1993 movie into a background gig in "Hocus Pocus 2."
Though Lee, 35, isn't an actor by trade (in fact, she leads diversity, equity, and inclusion at a global life sciences and scientific instrumentation corporation), she exercised her on-camera chops while filming the movie as an extra in Newport, RI, last November.
"Everyone was so nice, and there was lots of bonding among superfans like me," Lee recounts to POPSUGAR. Now that she's spotted herself in the film, she's sharing exactly what it was like behind the scenes. Here's what Lee's magical experience was like.
POPSUGAR: Do you remember first seeing the original film? What did you love about it?
Jess Lee: I saw it shortly after it was released in 1993, but I didn't really fall in love with it until middle school.
I am a theater kid and so are the Sanderson sisters, in real life. The campiness of the movie appealed to me as a kid and still does. Nothing beats that first line of "I Put a Spell on You" — the costumes, the dancing, the utter theater majesty. Plus, it is probably one of the most quotable movies ever, and that is theater-kid joy. It's the perfect Halloween movie.
PS: How did you react when you heard they were making a sequel?
JL: Does screaming count? Because I definitely screamed, jumped up and down, and immediately grabbed my DVD copy to watch. I remember the sequel having lots of stops and starts, so once it was confirmed that the sisters were coming back, I was thrilled.
PS: So how did you get involved with the film? Had you ever done background or extra work before?
JL: Most of my friends and family know how obsessed I am with "Hocus Pocus," so when they posted casting calls for extras in Rhode Island, I got literally five texts with the link to apply. Words can't express the excitement when I got the call to be an extra — I knew this would be an experience I'd never forget.
And I had never done background work before. It's such a cool industry, and I learned so much just from being there.
PS: What was a day of filming like, and what did it entail?
JL: Filming was in Newport, and the shoots I was in were late afternoon into the evening, so we were on set overnight. They had great COVID testing and masking rules, which made me feel super comfortable. There was a ton of downtime, lots of doing scenes multiple times, and pretty decent food. I was on set in November  and it was super cold, but craft services had cider and hot chocolate, they placed heaters in the tents and moved our holding location indoors so we could warm up.
PS: What were the sets like in person?
JL: They turned Newport into downtown Salem for the Salem Fright Fest, and the festival sets were so intricate. My favorites were the callbacks to the first movie with the festival booth names and the big stage. Everything was big, colorful, and so well-thought-out.
PS: Did you meet any of the stars during filming?
JL: My first day on set, I was in the background of a scene with Tony Hale, Whitney Peak, and Belissa Escobedo. At the end of the scene, I walk up to Tony and he hands me one of his mayor pamphlets. He was extremely nice and super in the zone.
My last day on set was when the Sanderson sisters come into the festival, and seeing them in person was absolutely wild. Bette [Midler], Kathy [Najimy], and Sarah Jessica [Parker] truly seemed to be happy to be there, to be playing their characters again.
PS: If you had to pick, what's your favorite memory from the experience?
JL: My favorite memory was being in a scene with Doug Jones, who plays Billy Butcherson. Between takes, he talked to the group of extras in the scene with him. He expressed so much joy at being able to play Billy again, spoke about being back in the costume, and thanked us as fans of the film. He said that the sequel wouldn't have happened without the determination, love, and following of fans, and he is 100 percent right.
PS: We have to get your review: what did you think of "Hocus Pocus 2"?
JL: I loved it! It got the magic of the first movie while playing beautiful homage to it (there are so many Easter eggs!). What "Hocus Pocus" gave us was campy joy, perfect quotes, and Halloween fun. "Hocus Pocus 2" brings the nostalgia of the first movie and adds a drop of history and a heaping dose of thine own happiness.