Disney Channel dropped the Halloween movie to end all Halloween movies in 1998 with the release of "Halloweentown." The movie was such a hit that the channel followed up with three sequels: "Halloweentown II: Kalabar's Revenge" in 2001, "Halloweentown High" in 2004 and "Return to Halloweentown" in 2006.
Kimberly J. Brown -- you know you still read that name in the Disney Channel commercial narrator's voice -- starred as teen witch and all-around badass Marnie Piper in the first three movies. (Disney decided to recast her role
because they like to break teen hearts for reasons unknown in the final movie.)
MTV News spoke to Brown, 30, about what's she up to now, over 16 years since "Halloweentown" first premiered. Since then, she's gotten her bachelor's degree in business at California State University, Northridge and continues to act and make waves in the L.A. comedy scene. Here's what she looks like now, BTW:
Brown started acting at age 5 and was in three Broadway shows before age 9 (casual). She was even nominated for an Emmy for her performance as young Maria Lewis on the soap opera "Guiding Light." (Again, casual.) Then she began filming "Halloweentown" and finished up the movie series by age 20. Somewhere in between all that, she starred in Disney's "Quints," too. Whew. Here's how it all went down:
MTV: You were 13 when you landed the role of Marnie Piper in "Halloweentown." What was it like landing the starring role on a Disney Channel Original Movie?
Kimberly J. Brown: I was so excited. It was my first Disney movie ... Halloweentown was actually the third original movie that they ever did, so it was still when the channel itself was fairly new. I loved Marnie so much. Not only because she was a teenage witch, but because I thought she was such a cool person. I loved her personality and sense of humor. I think it was towards the end of the whole process of getting the role and everything that I found out I would be playing Debbie Reynolds' granddaughter and that was, of course, a huge icing on the cake ... to be able to work with her.
MTV: "Halloweentown" was part of your life for so many years. How did the series shape your childhood?
Brown: It shaped my childhood in a huge way. We had no idea when we were shooting the first one that it would grow to become what it is now. There [were] no plans for subsequent movies. To watch it grow over the years and then be approached for the other movies was a huge thrill and an honor. [People] were interested in seeing where Marnie and her family, where their adventures continued onto.
Meeting the fans along the way -- I don't know, I can't describe it -- it's really special to meet people and have them [be] so touched by the movies. And now, over the years, to relive the movie through not only the older fans but the younger fans now that watch it. It airs every year and it's just such an amazing experience.
MTV: Do you have a favorite movie from the series?
Brown: It's really hard for me to choose! I love them all for different reasons. I think the original one will probably always have a special place in my heart because it was the first one, and I loved the original town and setting where Halloweentown was.
I think each movie took on a different tone and adventure. The second one was a little darker, with the Grey Spell. It was really fun, being able to play that darker, edgier side of Halloweentown. And then the third one was really fun, being able to explore what those people from Halloweentown would be like in the real world. The opportunity for the comedy [that] played out in the third one was a lot of fun to do, too.
MTV: You recently announced that you're returning to St. Helens, OR -- the original filming location for "Halloweentown" -- for their annual Spirit of Halloweentown event. That's so exciting! How'd that come about?
Brown: News outlets had picked up that St. Helens recreates Halloweentown every year, because they have the original town square where city hall and the big jack-o-lantern is. They [Spirit of Halloweentown] approached me and asked if I would be open to it, which of course I was like, "Yes!" [I am] so excited to be able to go back and not only see it and be there but to meet everybody. I think it's such an honor that they even recreate it every year and pay homage to the movie.
As far as I know, I'm going to be kicking off the festivities and lighting the pumpkin, and then I think we're going to do some photos with fans. That's what I've heard so far, but I know they're still trying to work out all the details.
MTV: We have to ask you about Halloween tips, because duh. Do you have any favorite costumes?
Brown: One year when I was really young, I want to say 5 or 6, I dressed up as a princess. It was one of those costumes that was an eclectic mix of things that we had in the house and also parts of some [other] costumes. I remember a big magic wand with colored confetti and foil and a big star on top of it. I just remember being young and completely feeling like I was a magic fairy princess that night. From that point on, I really enjoyed not just going to the store and buying a costume in a bag, but part of the joy and fun of Halloween was -- for me at least -- creating part of my costume.
I had a couple years where my brother and I were into the scarier side of Halloween and [would] try to find some normal costume and try to make that person look dead. I think we dressed up as farmers one year but painted our faces like dead ghouls. I [think] the creative, actor side of me always wanted to see how much [of] the costume I could do on my own.
MTV: That's awesome. Do you have any costume DIY tips?
Brown: My biggest tip would be if you're on a budget, try to see what you can create based off of an everyday outfit. I think it's fun to take an outfit and then see what kind of supernatural or Halloween twist you can give to it."
MTV: Do your trick-or-treaters ever recognize you?
Brown: I do get recognized quite a bit from "Halloweentown," which is amazing to me because it's been so long. There was one year that I gave out candy in my Marnie costume, which was a blast. The kids would kind of look at me for a second. You could tell on their face[s] that they'd be like, "She looks familiar" and then it would hit them. It was actually Debbie Reynolds who gave me that idea! She did it one year, if I remember correctly, in her Aggie [Cromwell] cloak or something. So I did it one year, and it was just so much fun.
MTV: What's your overall Halloween advice?
Brown: Never underestimate the power of good scary music and a strobe light.
MTV: What projects are you working on right now?
Brown: I've been doing a couple different things. I was studying improv at Second City and started to create some of my own comedy stuff with a few of my friends from there, so that's how some of those original skits came about. I have a couple things that I've been developing not only as an actor but as a producer. I've always wanted to stretch that muscle a little bit, because I really enjoy the behind-the-scenes parts of production. I'm waiting to hear back on a couple of other [acting] projects, so nothing specific quite yet but there's a few things that I'm waiting to get the final go-ahead on.
I do have an Etsy store that I do some crafting on with one of my best friends. I like to paint. My friend is much better at the crafting side of things. She's one of those people that's brilliant at taking different materials and making something out of it. We ended up starting it just for fun as a hobby on the side.
MTV: What advice would you give to your younger self as she starts her "Halloweentown" days?
Brown: If I could talk to my 13-year-old self I would probably tell myself to -- boy, how much time do you have? (laughs). I would probably tell myself to be a little kinder to myself and that it's OK to be myself and to go through all the experiences that you're supposed to as a teenager. I think sometimes at that age we start to ... feel like we have to grow up a little bit faster. And I think sometimes [we] tend to put pressure on ourselves where there doesn't need to be any.
I would tell myself to enjoy being a teenager. Everybody's journey is going to be a little bit different. I know it sounds cliché, but to love yourself as you are and embrace all those different aspects about you because time flies fast, it really does.