Imagine this: you are 10 years old and your face is plastered all over Times Square’s digital billboards. That’s what Juju Brener experienced during her last visit to New York, where she went for the premiere of “Hocus Pocus 2.” The young actress appears in the film playing the part of young Sarah Sanderson (portrayed as an adult by Sarah Jessica Parker).
A few days later, at the premiere on September 27, Brener was overwhelmed to see a big crowd of fans, many dressed in the witches’ costumes. For the first time in her life, she signed autographs. She also got to meet the three big stars of the movie, Parker, Bette Midler and Kathy Najimi.
“During filming we didn’t have any scenes together,” she told the Journal. “It was really exciting meeting Sarah Jessica Parker. She was very nice. We talked about how both of us decided not to watch the film before the release and wait for the premiere and watch it on the big screen.”
Although she had shared the screen with some big Hollywood names, such as Morgan Freeman and Ruby Rose in the movie “Vanquish” and danced in the Miley Cyrus music video “Younger Now,” this was, by far, her biggest movie role. The attention it received made the young actress an instant celebrity on the red carpet.
Brener, whose birth name is Journey, is part of a third generation of actresses. Her grandmother is Israeli actress Smadar Brener, who appeared in the film “The Band” (1978); her mother, Shirly, starred in the Israeli series “Ramat Aviv Gimmel,” and “Righteous Kill” with Al Pacino and Robert De Niro.
Juju made her debut in the Israeli docuseries “Mehubarim Plus” with her entire family, including her sister Mila, 17, also an actress, and her father, Bruce Rubenstein, an artist. The show featured Israeli celebrities documenting their daily life with a camcorder for a year.
During the filming of “Hocus Pocus 2,” Brener traveled from Los Angeles to Rhode Island to shoot scenes. “It was neat to have all the authentic New England locations,” she said. “They built the whole city of 1600’s Salem in Chase Park. Throughout the shoot I kept watching the original movie over and over and rehearsed nightly.”
The film was shot in October 2021 and left her with some fun memories. “In one scene we were supposed to start running away from some bad people,” she said. “We were on the east coast, the wind was blowing and it was raining hard, which made the ground muddy. Around us were some 200 extras, pigs and cows. I had period pilgrim shoes on, and when I ran I lost one of my shoes in the mud, and then we all tripped all over each other like a stack. It was all so funny that instead of looking scared, I burst out laughing and everyone (laughed) with me. Then the crew needed to go back and look in the mud for the missing shoe.”
Just 72 hours after it was released, “Hocus Pocus 2” became the most watched original film on Disney Plus since the platform launched in November 2019. The original “Hocus Pocus” became the platform’s second most-watched film.
When she returned to LA, Brener got to work right away. In October, she launched her first jeans line, called Juju x YMI.
“My sister Mila used to model for (YMI) and we kept in touch over the years with the owner, David Vered,” she said. “I have been co-designing the line, which includes jeans, pants and jackets, alongside the company’s creative team.”
Brener also just wrapped filming on “Born Again,” the sequel to “Born in East LA,” produced by and starring Paul Rodriguez.
“I have another film set to be released soon, my first starring role, ‘The Furry Fortune,’ based on the children’s book by the same name,” she said. “It’s about twins Zoey and Dax who are growing apart and discover their pet rescue dog is shedding money.”
Brener, who is a true animal lover, was inspired to rescue a dog and now is the proud owner of a female Chihuahua mix named Pixie.
The actress concluded her very busy month by visiting Disneyland with her family. “It was so much fun,” she said. “We saw entire families dressed as the characters from the movie, including an 80 year-old grandma.”
People who recognized her asked to take a photo together, and she gladly obliged. She’s a true Hollywood star all the way.