Jon Mark Beilue: 'It's crazy I get to watch myself'

Jon Mark Beilue Sep 28, 2022
  • Featured
  • Social Sciences
  • Arts
  • Jon Mark Beilue

Jon Mark Beilue: 'It's crazy I get to watch myself'

Taylor Henderson, WT instructor's daughter, in ‘Hocus Pocus 2’


Taylor Paige Henderson, like many her age, spent her younger years in the living room with her family during the Halloween season watching “Hocus Pocus,” the 1993 fantasy comedy horror film starring Bette Midler and Sarah Jessica Parker that became a seasonal classic.

Like no one else her age, Taylor, almost 16, has a new connection to a nearly 30-year-old movie.

“It’s pretty crazy that this Halloween, I get to watch myself,” she said. “’Crazy’ is about the best way to describe it.”

What began as a 5-year-old playing an oyster on the Amarillo Little Theatre stage in “Alice in Wonderland” now 10 years later has Taylor in the role of a young Winifred Sanderson in “Hocus Pocus 2,” the sequel scheduled for release Sept. 30 on Disney+. Midler is the adult Winifred, one of three sister witches who audiences only thought were dead at the end of the original.


Photo courtesy Disney+: Amarillo native Taylor Paige Henderson, center, stars as the young Winifred in "Hocus Pocus 2," a sequel to the cult classic Halloween film premiering Sept. 30 on Disney+. Also starring are Nina Kitchen, left, as the young Mary and Juju Journey Brener as the young Sarah.

Along for the acting ride with Taylor over the last 10 years are older brother Will; father Todd, an Amarillo attorney; and mother Melissa, an instructor in political science/public administration at West Texas A&M University. The full family were in New York City for the Sept. 27 premiere.

“It’s definitely been interesting and definitely been a challenge,” said Melissa of her and Todd balancing their careers with parenting a promising actress. “Taylor, though, is at an age where she can now do a lot of this on her own – the auditions, call-backs, learning her lines. In a couple of years, she will be leaving home for her career, and the reins will be completely handed over to her.

“She’s always been drawn to the arts. Just like a kid who does anything at a high level, be it sports or music, as a parent you juggle that and help your kids reach their potential and the goals they have set.”

Taylor, who is home-schooled, spent all of October and November and part of December 2021 shooting “Hocus Pocus 2” in Providence, Rhode Island.  Melissa accompanied her daughter during the shoot of her first major film.

“Film is different than stage in a lot of ways, but I love elements of both,” Taylor said. “There’s a lot to get used to in a shoot. There’s a lot of waiting around. The cast members are there, so that’s super fun. In theater, you have one try to get it right the first time. In film, there’s a ton of different things you can try different ways, so that was cool – and it wasn’t as stressful.”

But stage was where it began for Taylor, who at a young age “was a bit of a handful,” Melissa said. “She had a big imagination and a lot of words to say and we needed an outlet for all of that.”

Some friends suggested Amarillo Little Theatre with its acting classes and performances would be a fit. It was like a playground for Taylor – minus the slide and swings.

“She had about 45 seconds in ‘Alice in Wonderland,’” Melissa said, “and she couldn’t wait to do it again.”

“I’ve always loved performing and being on stage or in front of a camera, even if it was in the living room, as long as I can remember,” Taylor said. “It started at ALT, and I was just obsessed with it. I wanted to do it every night, so the experience has been so fulfilling to me.”

Amarillo Little Theatre was ‘a nurturing place’

Taylor could only estimate the number of performances at ALT, somewhere around 20. Playing Jane Banks, one of the two major roles for children in “Mary Poppins,” in 2017 was a turning point.

Even at age 11, Taylor was certain she wanted to act, but at a higher level. With the support of her parents, they secured an acting coach in New York City. That led to obtaining an agent and a manager, none of which would have been likely were it not for ALT.

“We can’t say enough good things about ALT and the people there,” Melissa said. “They have nurtured Taylor and gave her a place to call home. They continue to support her to this day.”

There aren’t many who have a role in a major film release before getting a driver’s license. Work and talent help open doors, but breaks help nudge it as well. As “Mary Poppins” helped propel her five years ago, so too could “Hocus Pocus 2.”

“I just feel like the luckiest kid because this is not something every kid gets to do,” Taylor said. “So it’s pretty cool I get to do this. Hopefully, I can get to do more after this. I’ve been doing this so long it’s hard to imagine doing anything else. It’s the only thing I’ve ever really done.”


Photo courtesy Melissa Henderson: West Texas A&M University instructor Melissa Henderson, center, poses with daughter Taylor Paige Henderson, third from left, before the New York premiere of "Hocus Pocus 2," which will debut Sept. 30 on Disney+. Also pictured are Taylor Henderson's costar Juju Journey Brener, second from left, and her family, Mila Brener, Smadar Brener and Shirly Brener.

If Taylor finds real fulfillment in acting, so does her mother in teaching. Melissa earned a bachelor’s in political science from Texas A&M University and a master’s in public administration from Texas Tech University. She worked in Amarillo for the Panhandle Regional Planning Commission before making a career turn to teach at WT.

“I’ve always been interested in public service and government, and that’s what drove me to teaching,” she said. “I enjoy being able to show students that what government does and the policies they enact are relevant to everyday life whether they think it is or not.

“Helping students recognize what they learn in a textbook is important in real life and has real world applicability, I just love that about teaching. I truly love it.”

Henderson will miss a couple of days of classes to be with family attending the New York premiere of her daughter’s first film role.

“I’m excited to see her work on the screen,” Melissa said. “This is something she has worked hard for and this is the reward, the payoff, for all the hard work. The work ethic on the set was amazing.”

On Sept. 30, Taylor will be back in Amarillo for a watch party with friends and family for the national release. This “Hocus Pocus” won’t be watched in a living room this time. Instead, it will be at the Amarillo Little Theatre where it all began.

“My foundation is from that place,” Taylor said. “That’s where we were taught to work hard, to be grateful and humble all the time.  I’m really grateful to have grown up with all of that.”


Top photo courtesy Disney+: Amarillo native Taylor Paige Henderson, center, stars as the young Winifred in "Hocus Pocus 2," a sequel to the cult classic Halloween film premiering Sept. 30 on Disney+. Also starring are Nina Kitchen, left, as the young Mary and Juju Journey Brener as the young Sarah. The three play the film's central characters—played, as in the original, by Bette Midler, Kathy Najimy and Sarah Jessica Parker—as children in flashback scenes.


Do you know of a student, faculty member, project, an alumnus or any other story idea for “WT: The Heart and Soul of the Texas Panhandle?” If so, email Jon Mark Beilue at .