NCIS star Sean Murray says stepsister Troian Bellisario had a childhood crush on his Hocus Pocus character
Sean Murray may be a constant presence on the nation’s televisions thanks to his starring role on CBS’s NCIS, but 10 years before he made his 2003 debut as NCIS Special Agent Timothy McGee, he was stealing preteen hearts in a little movie called Hocus Pocus.
EW caught up with Murray to mark NCIS’s 450th episode and asked him to dish about his status as a ghost hottie and his thoughts on the 2022 sequel, which saw the return of Bette Midler, Sarah Jessica Parker, and Kathy Najimy’s centuries-old witches to plague Salem, Mass.
Murray, 45, played Thackery Binx, the human boy who’s turned into an immortal black cat by the Sanderson sisters, and he’s amused by his status as the first crush for a specific segment of elderly millennials.
“It always cracks me up,” Murray said. “That has been brought up to me a couple of times.”
One of those times was when his mother, Vivienne Murray, married producer and screenwriter Donald P. Bellisario in 1998. When Murray met Donald’s children, one of them was already familiar with his work.
“Troian Bellisario, who became my stepsister after a certain point, was acting a little weird around me when she first knew me,” Murray said. “She then told me years later it was because when she was a kid, she had seen Hocus Pocus and had a crush on me and she was trying to work that out.”
Bellisario, known for her role as Spencer in Freeform’s Pretty Little Liars, was 8 years old when Hocus Pocus was released in 1993.
Murray said no one involved in the original film expected it to have this kind of staying power, particularly given its release date in July, far outside of the typical witching season.
“At the time, we were just doing our thing. We didn’t know what it would become,” he said. “It was a bomb when it was first released.”
But the film’s second life on cable TV — and in the hearts of viewers who love its particular mix of campy and creepy — gave rise to years of rumors about resurrecting the Sanderson sisters.
“I’ve always been asked, and I’d say, ‘I don’t know anything about it. As far as I know, nothing’s happening,'” Murray recalled. “And then Bette green-lit it and gave the go-ahead to do the sequel.”
With the September 2022 release of Hocus Pocus 2 on Disney+, Murray started noticing that his longtime fans now have a new audience to introduce to the film.
“I was seeing the kids that grew up on Hocus Pocus, they now have kids, and they’re showing their kids Hocus Pocus,” he said. “It’s really cool seeing the second generation discover Hocus Pocus and be like, ‘You know what? This is like the greatest Halloween movie ever made.'”
Murray wasn’t involved in the new film, nor were any of the actors who played the children in the original, including Thora Birch, Vinessa Shaw, Amri Katz, and Amanda Shepherd. Although fans have asked him about the absence, Murray understands why he wasn’t included in the sequel.
“To me, Hocus Pocus is really about those three women, those three witches,” he said. “It actually makes total sense to me that you would have a newer group with the witches and not necessarily from the original group. You know, we’re all old and wrinkled now. Who wants to see us?”
And of course, poor Thackery has the extra challenge of being, well, dead. And ghosts aren’t known for aging.
“That’s true,” Murray said. “You sleep pretty good over that 200-something years.”
Even without an appearance in the sequel, Murray said Hocus Pocus-mania picks up every Halloween, which means that he regularly collects new fans.
“I still kind of look like I’m 14 years old to a certain degree,” he joked, “so I’m somewhat recognizable from the Hocus Pocus days.”