I used to think nothing created would ever be as delightfully wholesome as the nineties-era Disney Channel original movie Halloweentown (1998). What could be better than a story about a pubescent witch coming of age and into her power in suburbia? In short, its setting: a fictional safe space for all that folklore taught us to fear—vampires, werewolves, ghouls, goblins, and of course, witches and warlocks. Only in such a haven could a werewolf could be a trusted hairdresser, a feline teach aerobics, and a slapsticky skeleton drive a cab.
Then, some two decades later, I’ve discovered Kimberly J. Brown—the witch Millennials know as Marnie Piper—and her her nemesis, Kalabar (played by Daniel Kountz), had not only become TikTok sensations, but are engaged. Finally, a love story that doesn’t make me want to die!
As someone whose entire personality is Halloween, I’ve never understood why Hollywood hasn’t made the holiday the backdrop of more tear-jerking, swoon-worthy romances, the way it does ad nauseam with Christmas. Sure, love is a subplot in some of our most hallowed spooky stories—Practical Magic, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Interview With A Vampire, etc.—but Halloween hasn’t yet become an entire Hallmark romcom genre, and frankly, I have a problem with that. Where better a meet-cute than at a costume party? And what could be more romantic than witnessing someone pierced through the heart physically and metaphorically? At the end of the day, aren’t we all just wearing a mask in the torturous exercise that is dating? Fortunately, just in time for All Hallow’s Eve, Kimberly J. Brown has confirmed to Jezebel that she shares these sentiments.
Brown and I spoke via Zoom about the nostalgia of Halloweentown, finding love in a haunted place, and why spooky season is for lovers. (The interview has been lightly edited for length and style.)
The first Halloweentown film, if you can believe it, was made in 1998. Yet, its legacy hasn’t just endured among Millennials—it’s now reaching younger viewers. Was there ever an inkling that this would be the case when you were filming the first?
No, is the short answer. We had so much fun making it, and it was definitely special to the cast and the crew. To even get to play like a teenage witch was so exciting to me at the time, and I think Halloweentown was like, the fourth Disney Channel original movie ever. It did really well initially, and we kind of just got to watch it grow, so it was such a unique experience—not to just watch the channel grow, but watch the movie grow, too. It really went beyond anything that we could have ever imagined for it because as an actor, you’re just happy when people watch what you do. And the fact that it was watched so much that they wanted to then make sequels. I’m so grateful that the fans have really just made it what it is over the years now. It’s incredible.
And of course, the late, great Debbie Reynolds played your grandmother—a flex that I’m not sure a Disney channel movie would be able to pull off today.
Yeah, it is a little bit different now. I mean, they don’t make as many. They used to make like, a monthly movie every year which I think about now, like, wow, that’s incredible. I remember her [Reynolds] talking about her granddaughter [Billie Lourd] a lot when we were filming. I think she was excited to do something in a kids genre. She just loved performing so much and was so grateful that she got to continue to keep performing. She showed me what a gift it was to be in a position of making people happy through performances, and it really nice to, as a 13-year-old, have such an amazing person to learn from and to watch, but also to see somebody who was a huge legend but didn’t act like it.
OK, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about your Halloween love story which you and Daniel Kountz have so generously shared via TikTok. In the Halloweentown sequel, you famously tell his character, “I’m in control of my own future and it doesn’t involve you.” The irony.
Absolutely. People always ask if there was anything romantic going on during filming, and there was not! We just had a great time working together. He came into, you know, the element of all of us having worked together before, and I thought he, being the new guy, handled it all so well. Then, we didn’t see each other for probably at least 10 to 12 years and just stayed social media friends. But about six years ago, I reached out to him because I was filming some content and doing some comedy sketches for my YouTube channels, and I thought it would be really fun to have him in one of them. So, we ended up reconnecting and working on some of the sketches with my friends from Second City and UCB [Upright Citizens Brigade], and just over the course of spending time together, we both realized that we were starting to have feelings for each other. It was like, oh, wait a second, and unexpectedly took off from there.
What have the two of you made of fans reactions?
We knew that the fans would be shocked, but their reactions, I think, way surpassed anything that we could have expected, because they just have been so great and so funny. Many have made lots of references to the film, like, “You should watch your spell book, Marnie.” A lot of people surprised me and said that they always wanted Marnie and Kal to be together.
There aren’t a lot of love stories being made where Halloween serves as the backdrop, which I think is part of why people were so excited to learn that you and Daniel had one IRL. What about this holiday lends itself to love?
I think the realm of Halloween—and magic—really lends itself to possibility or potential beyond our everyday lives. I think to be able to dream, or to play with the magical aspect, means going beyond what we see in front of us. There’s a lot less judgment and no need to put on airs on this holiday. You just get to enjoy in your own unique way, but are still accepted and supported by everybody else. It always lends itself to an air of mystery, too. I think that could be really fun for a good love story—maybe trying to figure out who a secret admirer. Also, it’s a spooky holiday, but I also just think it’s a really cozy time of year.
The Halloweentown series isn’t necessarily about romantic love, but it definitely hinges on the power of intergenerational relationships. If the latest Halloween franchise, as Jamie Lee Curtis put it, is made unique by “trauma,” what makes Halloweentown special?
I love the quote that everybody’s carried on over the years—“Being normal is vastly overrated”—because it kind of sheds a different light on the genre. Throughout all of the Halloweentown movies, there was always such a universal message of not judging people by their cover. I just loved that we got to take relatable, universal issues among humans and, I would hope, illustrate them in away for people to understand.
More from Jezebel