role call

Kimberly J. Brown Answers Every Question We Have About Halloweentown

On riding brooms with Debbie Reynolds, dating her Disney movie co-star, and how the writers changed the ending at the last second. Photo: Courtesy of Disney Channel

I am a grown-ass adult woman and it is the month of October and I am in possession of a Disney+ log-in I stole from my mother — like I said, a grown-ass woman — so that means there is simply only one thing to do: park it on the couch and watch every installment of the Halloweentown series. Except the fourth one, where they replace Kimberly J. Brown with Sara Paxton and expect us to just, uh, not notice? Not care? No, we do not acknowledge the fourth film. (Sorry, Sara.) We recognize Kimberly J. Brown and Kimberly J. Brown only as the one true Marnie Cromwell in this house.

We caught up with Brown earlier this month to discuss the 1990s cult classic, working with the Debbie Reynolds, dating her villainous former co-star, and, because it’s 2020, TikTok.

Do you remember getting cast in the role in Halloweentown? How much did you know about the project when you went in for it?
I remember having gone through, I believe, two auditions. I think I did the scene where Marnie tells Dylan about the conversation that she heard downstairs where she is slowly starting to figure out she’s a witch.

Very, very slowly.
Yes, very, very slowly. Yes. And I think I did the first, too, when you first meet the family arguing about going out to trick-or-treat. I don’t believe I had seen the entire script. But I mean, being 13 and having an opportunity to play a teenager who was figuring out she had magic powers was just like … What? This is so cool.

Halloween has become a bit of a personal brand for you, but were you into Halloween when you were cast in the film?
Oh, absolutely. There’s really no wonder as to why I took to acting so quickly when I was young. Any opportunity for me to become a different character, I was all over it. I was a witch, a princess; I did different scary things with my brother, the whole gore makeup thing. Plus, you get to go out and get candy? I was disappointed it was only one day a year.

I’m curious what the flying scenes were like for you on set? The special effects, particularly in the first installment of Halloweentown, look so lame now that they’re almost camp.
It was actually a blue screen. We did that on the final day of shooting. We basically sat on a very skinny stool, high up in the air, with the broom attached. They rocked the broom back and forth and did shots traveling the camera around us to get various angles. It was our last day of shooting and we did that all day. Debbie [Reynolds] and I up on a stool. I just remember thinking like, You are never going to forget this day. That isn’t the kind of thing you get to do all the time.

You’re probably the only person who rode a broom with Debbie Reynolds, that’s true.
You’re probably right, though I don’t know how many magical witches she played in her career.

What was the worst scene to shoot?
I think it was in the second movie. They had me do two different kinds of broom-flying scenes and it just was not the most comfortable way of getting moved around. These awkward, like, bicycle seat kind of things. Something you don’t really think about until later and you do it and you’re like, Oh, yeah, that’s what a spin class feels like. It looks so exciting and magical on screen. Not as comfortable as it looked.

Were there scenes that didn’t make the final cut of the movie?
The one that I remember the most, that we didn’t end up filming because they ended up changing the ending, was in the first Halloweentown. It was originally supposed to end not with Marnie putting the talisman in the pumpkin. It was supposed to end with her putting it in the middle of a forest. The danger of going into the forest was that it made you grow older as you walked further into the forest. Marnie was going to age considerably. I had gone through the process of getting a mask made. They did the whole plaster of Paris over your face and everything. And then the ending was rewritten.

The mask was to age you up?
Yes, they were making one that would make me look much, much older. I still have the cement mold of my head, which is just random and weird, but it’s also cool. The mold was to make the mask fit perfectly to my face. But right after we did the mold is when they rewrote the ending.

Couldn’t have been before.
I know … but then I wouldn’t have a cement mold of my head in the garage, so who is the real winner here?

I saw on your TikTok you actually have a number of props and costumes from the movies floating around your house.
I do. I have the book from the first movie. The producers were kind enough to give me a copy of it. I had no idea how symbolic that would become. The fans love the book and it’s very special to me. Disney gave me Kalabar’s bat assistant from the first one — that puppet. I kept Marnie’s outfit from the second movie, that I also wore in the third one. The whole purple cloak and everything. I have one of the stand-in little brooms that Marnie carried around in her pocket from the second movie. I have the scrolls from the third Halloweentown. I wish I had grabbed more.

Do you keep those things out year round or do you just bust them out in October?
Usually they’re safe and tucked away, but with social media and everybody on there loving to see the throwbacks, it has been fun to pull some of those things out and post them.

You mentioned Kalabar, the mayor. I’m curious, do you think he was a good mayor? Like did Halloweentown have accessible health care for everyone?
Maybe if he hadn’t been evil to his core. He was definitely driven and had a vision. His vision was just very screwed up.

Something else that I have learned from TikTok is that you’re dating your Halloweentown II co-star, Daniel Kountz. How did that happen?
We’d stayed in touch over social media after working together. I hadn’t seen him for probably a good ten years or so. I was writing some new sketches and stuff for my YouTube channel and we reconnected. I wanted him to be in some of them, because I thought the fans would get a kick out of it. We ended up doing a small, short film I directed. It’s a follow-up to Halloweentown 2 about where Kal would be now. In that process of doing all that, it just unexpectedly turned romantic. That was a nice surprise. It has been really fun over the years watching the fans figure that out. And then freak out.

So the romance didn’t start on set as teens?
No. We were friends and we got along really well. He was in a relationship at the time and he’s a little bit older than me. It just wasn’t that kind of thing at the time. Professionally speaking, I don’t usually think it’s good to get on that path anyway.

Do you know there’s actually a not-so-small community of fans online who are very sad that Marnie and Luke do not end up together in the end?
I can understand that. I think they always had the most solid relationship as friends in the movies. I could see why they would want it, you know, especially considering that later Marnie went for a mortal and all that. But then there’s also some fans that have been like, “Oh, see, I’ve always wanted Marnie and Kal to be together.” And I’m like, “No, Marnie would have never gone for Kal in a million years.” Everybody has their theories.

Speaking of theories, a number of fans refuse to recognize the fourth film, which you’re not in, as canon. What happened there?
It’s one of those things that I chalked up to being the craziness of the entertainment business. That was the choice that they made, and we kind of moved forward. I appreciate the fans and, you know, the support and everything since.

Have you seen it?
Parts of it here and there, but no. I didn’t really sit and watch it. No.

I have to say I want justice for Sophie who was clearly, no offense, a much better witch than Marnie was from the jump.
That’s funny. The dynamics between Marnie and her siblings were one of my favorite aspects to play in the movies.

I also laughed while watching the third movie and realizing that Aggie gets out of a car she’s driving and the steering column is on the wrong side of the car for the United States.
Yeah, it was just those little quirky notes that they put in there — they wanted things to kind of feel not human. These are the things people have definitely noticed over the years.

Is there anybody you’ve been surprised to learn is a Halloweentown fan?I get stopped at the most random times. The last time I flew, one of those very stern looking TSA agents looked at my license and then looked up at me and then her face changed. It’s little moments like that still make me smile and catch me off guard because it’s kind of the last place you expect somebody to be like, “Oh my God, I love Halloweentown.”

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The conversation is between Marnie’s mother, Gwen, who wants to raise her child as a mortal, and Marnie’s grandmother, Aggie, who insists the girl get training before she turns 13 and loses her powers as a witch. Gwen doesn’t allow her children to go out on Halloween. After Marnie discovers she’s a witch and travels to Halloweentown, where she helps defeat a demon named Kalabar who was kidnapping citizens, Halloweentown 2 follows the evil antics of Kalabar’s son, conveniently named Kal. Daniel played Kal. Phillip Van Dyke played a goblin who, at one point, had been cursed by a demon to look handsome. Sophie is Marnie’s younger sister, who is also absent from Halloweentown 4. Halloweentown High follows a sort of exchange program between the mortal world and Halloweentown.
Kimberly J. Brown Answers Every Halloweentown Question