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Creator / Melissa Joan Hart

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Melissa Joan Hart (born April 18, 1976) is an American actress, producer, director and novelist. How familiar you are with her will depend a lot on what particular era you were born in.

If you were a child in the early 1990s, then you'll best know her as Clarissa Darling on the classic Nickelodeon sitcom Clarissa Explains It All. If you were born in the late '90s or early 2000s, you'll probably know her more as Cute Witch Sabrina Spellman on the Fantastic Comedy Sabrina the Teenage Witch — as well as the three Made For TV Movies alongside it and the Animated Adaptation where she provides the voices of both Aunts Hilda and Zelda. If you're part of The New '10s demographic, you might know her as Mel Longo on the sitcom Melissa & Joey. And yes, that's also her in Britney Spears's video for "(You Drive Me) Crazy".

A hugely successful child and teen star in the '90s, Hart also appeared in several films such as Drive Me Crazy, The Specials, and Recess: School's Out. She produced and directed many episodes of her latter two sitcoms, in addition to other TV movies. She also competed on the ninth season of Dancing with the Stars in 2009, released an autobiography titled Melissa Explains It All: Tales From My Abnormally Normal Life in 2013, and in 2021 became the first celebrity winner of the million-dollar top prize of Celebrity Wheel of Fortune, and the fourth overall (with all of the prize money going to the charity Youth Villages).

She's also the daughter of Paula Hart, who acted as producer on three of Melissa's sitcoms. Her little sister Emily Hart was also an actress in the 2000s.

Selected filmography:

Melissa Joan Hart and her works provide examples of:

  • Ability over Appearance: Producers wanted Clarissa Darling to be brunette - due to the influence of the Brainy Brunette trope. Melissa won them over with her sass, and the character became blonde.
  • Actor Allusion: Melissa & Joey drops a few:
    • A Halloween Episode has Joe suggest Mel dress up as a witch. She replies that she's done that before.
    • Mel's "five stage plan" is to have kids named Mason, Brandon and Tucker. Those are the names of her children in real life.
    • In an episode of Sabrina: The Animated Series, an argument between Sabrina and Chloe has one of them saying "who needs Melissa Joan Hart's autograph anyway?"
  • Actor-Inspired Element:
    • Clarissa Darling has posters of They Might Be Giants on her wall, because they were Melissa's favourite band at the time.
    • The Violent Femmes and Blondie guest starred on Sabrina because Melissa was a fan and lobbied for them to be on the show.
  • Awesome, Dear Boy: Soleil Moon Frye joined Sabrina as Roxie in Season 5 because she and Melissa were good friends and wanted to collaborate on something.
  • Celebrity Voice Actor: In Recess: School's Out. Subverted in the animated series of Sabrina, where she uses two very different voices for the aunts.
  • Contractual Purity: She was an adult by the time Clarissa Explains It All finished, and her mother didn't want her to go straight for adult roles in order to preserve her kid fanbase. That didn't stop Archie Comics from going mad when Melissa posed in lingerie for Maxim - as they are infamously protective of their wholesome brand - never mind that Melissa was twenty-three when the shoot was done. She did however keep her partying and drug use hidden while on Sabrina, claiming "it's not that I wasn't a bad girl; I just didn't get caught." She related the stories in her autobiography, saying she didn't like people seeing her as "a goodie two shoes".
  • Creator Backlash:
    • Didn't like acting alongside James van der Beek on Clarissa and actually asked producers not to choose him to play her love interest.
    • While grateful for the impact Sabrina had and the longevity of the show, she's admitted that she didn't enjoy playing Sabrina; finding her too different from her own personality. She was somewhat creatively frustrated at how Sabrina would often have to be the anchor to everyone else's more exaggerated mannerisms, and indeed her condition for doing Melissa & Joey was that she not have to be the Only Sane Man.
  • The Danza: Subverted. Mel Longo's full name is revealed to be Melanie, not Melissa.
  • Dawson Casting:
    • She was fifteen playing the preteen Clarissa Darling, and nineteen when it ended. In her autobiography she claims she felt slightly embarrassed to be a teenager and the star of a children's show whenever she was recognised.
    • Sabrina Spellman was a teenage witch, but Melissa was twenty when the first season aired. This is especially noticeable in Seasons 5 and 6 where Sabrina is only nineteen-twenty but looks at least four years older.
  • Deleted Role: She filmed a scene in "Crocodile" Dundee as a little girl who gets her cut magically healed, but it ended up cut.
  • Directed by Cast Member:
  • Dyeing for Your Art:invoked For Drive Me Crazy, she worked out twice a day and drank mostly juice because she was spending the majority of the film in a tight red halter top.
  • Executive Meddling: Defied by her producer mother. On Clarissa Explains It All they wanted to pluck her eyebrows and put more make-up on her, which her mother refused to do since she wanted Clarissa to be a "normal kid". It seemed to work, and the show broke out of the Girl-Show Ghetto partly because of how relatable Clarissa was to everyone.
  • Former Child Star: Played with. While she had more success in her youth, she enjoyed the biggest success of her career in her twenties as Sabrina. She's hardly been stuck for work afterwards either thanks to Melissa & Joey. She has confessed to experimenting with drugs and that she "fell in with a bad crowd" for about a year in her early twenties.
  • Friendship on the Set:
    • She continues to be close with her on-screen aunts Caroline Rhea and Beth Broderick, and describes them as "like family".
    • In contrast to Libby and Sabrina's on-screen rivalry, Melissa and Jenna Leigh Green were good friends, as they were with Lindsay Sloane, who played Valerie.
  • Hostility on the Set:
    • In her autobiography, she says she didn't like working with William Hurt in a play called Being There - claiming he was very distant and complained about her mother a couple of times.
    • She hated James Van Der Beek when he guest starred on Clarissa and called it her least favorite kiss scene.
  • I Am Not Spock: She's probably going to be best remembered as Clarissa Darling or Sabrina Spellman for the rest of her life. Whichever one it is depends on how old the person is - though Sabrina did have more spin-offs and lasted longer. She also appeared as Sabrina on crossovers with Teen Angel, You Wish and Boy Meets World.
  • Magnum Opus Dissonance: She's said that Mel Longo from Melissa & Joey was her most fun character to play.
  • Real-Life Relative: Sabrina's cousin Amanda was played by her little sister Emily Hart, who also voiced Sabrina in the animated series (where Melissa voiced the two aunts). Amanda's sister Allie was played by their other sister Alexandra Hart-Gilliams. All three, along with Brian Hart and Elizabeth Hart star together in the TV movie The Right Connections. Her mother, Paula, served as the executive producer for Sabrina.
  • Real Life Writes the Plot: Drive Me Crazy was given its title because Melissa had appeared in Britney Spears's music video for "(You Drive Me) Crazy". Ironically Melissa didn't like the name change because she was worried Britney Spears's career wouldn't take off.
  • Reality Subtext:
    • Britney Spears has a quick guest appearance As Herself on Sabrina, where she gets a brief break from touring to hang out with Sabrina. According to Melissa, this parallels her situation on set where she and everyone else would invite Britney to lunch but her entourage wouldn't allow her because she had to do more work.
    • Years later, she and Nate Richert admitted to having a mutual crush on each other while filming Sabrina, which explained the chemistry between Sabrina and Harvey. They never actually got together however, because they were always with other people.
  • Romance on the Set: Claims she cheated on her boyfriend with Ryan Reynolds while they were filming the Sabrina Pilot Movie.
  • Star-Making Role: Clarissa Explains It All of course. She had only done commercials and stage work before, as well as a couple of miniseries and TV movies.
  • Throw It In: 'OBKB' became one of Clarissa's slang terms because it was a word Melissa and her friends used a lot.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • In her autobiography she recalls going to an audition and bragging to the other girl in the elevator that she was sure she got it. This girl was Soleil Moon Frye and the audition was for Punky Brewster. Despite this inauspicious beginning, the two became good friends.
    • At one point Melissa was hovering between the opportunity to do Clarissa or to play Six on Blossom - which she had done callbacks for. Ultimately Clarissa was the one she got.
    • Melissa was offered a role in I Know What You Did Last Summer but turned it down because she felt it was just a rip-off of Scream.
    • She could have potentially played Sailor Moon if a live action film adaptation Disney was exploring around 1997 had gotten off the ground.