From Teenage Witch to Family Woman: Melissa Joan Hart

There are few people more synonymous with the ‘90s than Melissa Joan Hart. When she landed the lead part in Nickelodeon’s Clarissa Explains It All, Hart became the headliner for the network’s Saturday lineup. Five years later, she starred in Sabrina the Teenage Witch and became a household name.

Melissa Joan Hart / Melissa Joan Hart and Britney Spears / Melissa Joan Hart / Joey Lawrence and Melissa Joan Hart / Melissa Joan Hart and Mark Wilkerson
Source: Getty Images

For many teens of the ‘90s, Hart was the classic girl next door. Unfortunately, with her success came the intense pressure to transition her teen-girl adoration into A-list status. At a time when Hollywood was centered around skinny bodies and low-rise everything, Hart decided to go on a different path.

A Commercial Success

Born in Sayville, New York, Melissa Joan Hart started her acting career at the young age of four, starring in a commercial for the bathtub toy, Splashy. Her mom, Paula Hart, a producer and talent manager, saw the star potential in her daughter and became her manager for many years.

A photo of Melissa Joan Hart as a toddler
Source: Pinterest

Before she turned five, Hart had starred in over 25 commercials. She was a commercial success, and producers started to notice. During her early career, Hart had a small role in the miniseries Kane & Abel and a guest part in an episode of The Equalizer. However, she wasn’t the only star in the family.

How Many Siblings Does Melissa Joan Hart Have?

Hart is the oldest of eight children. After Hart, Paula and William Hart had four children: Trisha, Elizabeth, Brian, and Emily. When her parents divorced in the early ‘90s, Hart moved with her mom and siblings to New York City, where Paula married Leslie Gilliams, a television executive.

Melissa Joan Hart and family arrive at an event.
Photo by Amy Graves/WireImage/Getty Images

Paula and Gilliams had three children, Alexandra, Samantha, and Mackenzie. All of Hart’s siblings have dabbled in acting like their older sister. However, Hart is the best-known in her big family, but they have all worked on different shows and movies together, including Sabrina the Teenage Witch.

Gaining Momentum

During the mid-‘80s, Hart many small roles that helped her get noticed in Hollywood. She starred in the Emmy Award-winning TV movie Christmas Snow in 1986 and appeared on an episode of Another World. Hart auditioned for the lead role in Halloween 4 but lost the part to Danielle Harris.

Melissa’s childhood headshots.
Source: Instagram/@melissajoanhart

Hart was determined and went to every audition her mother found and took any promising role. In 1989, she became the understudy in the Broadway production of The Crucible starring Martin Sheen. Hart also appeared in the off-Broadway production of Beside Herself with William Hurt and Calista Flockhart.

Her Big Break

Hart spent a decade building her acting resume, and it paid off because, in 1991, she landed the role of Carissa in Nickelodeon’s Carissa Explains It All. The comedy about a teenage girl in everyday situations was a big hit and put Hart on the map as a star.

Melissa Joan Hart, as Clarissa Darling, sits on her bed.
Source: Nickelodeon

During its four-year run, Clarissa Explains It All was the headliner for Nickelodeon’s Saturday night Snick lineup. Initially, it was weird for her to be recognized in public because Hart felt embarrassed to be acting in a children’s show as a teenager, but she loved being on the show.

She Was Almost Passed Over

When Hart auditioned for Clarissa, another actress was favored for the role. Creator Mitchell Kriegman said the other actress “kind of was Clarissa.” However, they decided to go with Hart because she brought a unique spin to the role. She was charming and lit up the screen.

Melissa Joan Hart, as Clarissa Darling, looks shocked.
Source: Nickelodeon

Kriegman said because of Hart’s abilities, he could make Clarissa quirky and different, and Hart could embody that. But that’s not the only thing different about the show. The entire premise what slightly unheard of in television at the time.

Clarissa Was Groundbreaking

When Clarissa premiered, Nickelodeon had only produced one other sitcom, and a children’s sitcom was a big risk, especially since it featured a female lead. However, Nickelodeon was coming into its own as a channel with a “kid first” philosophy. But Clarissa changed that.

The cast of Clarissa Explains It All pose on set.
Source: Nickelodeon

As Clarissa, Hart broke boundaries because she did things that girls would never do. She was relatable to girls everywhere, and Hart became synonymous with her character. The show might have faced some backlash from people with old-fashioned views, but it ended up working.

A Possible Spin-Off

Due to the success of Carissa Explains It All, Hart was to star is in a follow-up series a year after the series ended. She filmed a pilot episode, which showed Clarissa explaining her venture into the professional world as a newspaper intern.

Melissa Joan Hart, as Clarissa Darling.
Source: Nickelodeon

Instead, Hart’s pilot episode was turned into a TV movie because Nickelodeon didn’t pick up the series. Although her spin-off series didn’t pan out, that wasn’t the end of Hart’s time on TV. However, she considered walking away from Hollywood for good after the series ended.

She Almost Walked Away

Shortly after Clarissa Explains It All, Hart considered walking away from Hollywood for good. She had already experienced success on the small screen, and she was a little overwhelmed by her newfound fame. Hollywood executives were pressuring Hart to be a certain way.

Melissa Joan Hart poses for a portrait.
Photo by Ken Weingart/Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images

She was aware of the child-star stigma, but Hart never expected acting to be a lifelong job. She thought college would lead her to her next career, but she kept acting when Sabrina the Teenage Witch became a hit. Hart wanted to quit Hollywood when she was 20, but that didn’t happen.

Witching Around

In 1996, Hart was cast as Sabrina in Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Sarah Michelle Gellar was reportedly the network’s top choice, but Gellar passed on the part to star in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Hart decided to drop out of NYU to film the series.

Melissa Joan Hart, as Sabrina Spellman, poses for a portrait.
Source: Paramount Domestic Television

The series put Hart on the map as a household name and a star. Throughout the show’s seven seasons, Hart played the spell-casting teenager who tried to navigate the life of a witch while balancing her life at school and hiding her big secret.

Her Mom Was the Producer

Paula Hart was responsible for getting a Sabrina TV series after someone showed her the comic books. She took it to Viacom, made the 1996 movie, and kept saying it would be a great TV series. Executives brushed her off for a while until Paula made a five-minute trailer for the show.

Melissa Joan Hart and mother Paula during 4th Annual Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Photo by Ron Galella, Ltd./Ron Galella Collection/Getty Images

Hart’s mother served as the executive producer for seven seasons. Hart said she didn’t have to worry about her job because her mom was in charge of the whole thing. It’s no wonder she was picked for the role.

Close Friends With Britney

During her Sabrina days, Hart befriended Britney Spears, who made an appearance on Sabrina the Teenage Witch. Hart shared that she snuck Spears into a club even though the pop star was underaged. They tricked her bodyguard and snuck in through the back door.

Melissa Joan Hart and Britney Spears arrive at an event.
Photo By Evan Agostini/Getty Images

Hart said Spears was absorbed into the crowd once they got in the club. Hart said, “Since then, Britney’s been snuck in and out of more back doors than I can count, but I shudder to think I first showed her how it’s done.”

She Was a Party Girl

While she was filming Sabrina, Hart went through a partying phase. The star revealed that she took Ecstasy at the Playboy Mansion in 1999, made out with a girl in the limo ride home, and did a Maxim photoshoot while high.

Melissa Joan Hart and Britney Spears / Melissa Joan Hart
Source: Twitter

Her partying ways lasted for about a year. Hart explained that while she dabbled in drugs, she never got addicted. She said, “I was running with a bad crowd. I didn’t enjoy taking drugs. I don’t like the loss of control.” Hart shared that she had a sex addiction.

Almost Fired From the Show

Hart was almost fired from Sabrina the Teenage Witch over a racy magazine shoot during her wilder days. She posed naked to promote a different project, and it nearly cost her the starring role. She was premiering the film Drive Me Crazy, and her lawyer interrupted an interview.

Melissa Joan Hart and Susan May Pratt in a still from Drive Me Crazy.
Source: Twentieth Century Fox

He told Hart not to talk to the press anymore, or she would be fired from Sabrina. She was 23 and had agreed to do a sexy shoot for Maxim. The article said, “Sabrina, your favorite witch without a stitch.” The drama shook her up.

Not a Fan of the Kutch Man

At the height of her fame, Hart was hanging out with Hollywood A-listers like Justin Timberlake, JC Chaz, and Tori Spelling. However, she was not a fan of Ashton Kutcher. He ran in the same circles, but Hart tried to kick him out of her parties several times.

Melissa Joan Hart / Ashton Kutcher
Source: Getty Images

Hart explained that Kutcher made some “smarta** remarks,” which pissed her off. He was also rising to fame from That ‘70s Show, which must have inflated his ego. Hart said they hooked up once, but his comments were gross. They still aren’t friends.

The Hots for Ryan Reynolds

While she might not have liked Ashton Kutcher, Hart once had the hots for Ryan Reynolds. She met him on the set of a film in 1996. He gave her a watch on his final day of filming, and they ended up making out in her hotel room.

Melissa and Ryan pose for a photo on set.
Source: Twitter

Hart said, “I remember that his lips were pretty wonderful, plus, he had these big hands and shoulders that completely swallowed my petite frame.” Hart wrote about the experience in her memoir. She had cheated on her boyfriend with Reynolds.

Just a TV Couple

Sorry to disappoint fans, but Hart and her Sabrina love interest, Nate Richert, never dated or hooked up in real life. While many fans rooted for them to have an off-screen romance, Hart said, “I crushed on him a little bit, but he was dating someone else.”

Hart and Reynolds embrace on the set of Sabrina.
Source: Paramount Domestic Television

Richert’s then-girlfriend, Lindsay Sloane, joined the cast of Sabrina and became best friends with Hart. Even after they broke up, Hart didn’t want to date him because Sloane was her best friend. They made a cute on-screen couple, but that’s all it ever was.

She Knew the Series Was Ending

Ahead of its seventh and final season, Hart had a feeling that Sabrina would likely be canceled after the WB ordered only 13 episodes, not the usual 22. Hart said, “It’s a pretty crappy way to treat a show as old as we are, but it happens.”

The cast of season 7 of Sabrina poses on set.
Source: Paramount Domestic Television

Hart accused the WB of not caring about the series because it initially began on ABC. She felt that no one backed the show or fully supported it, so no one wanted to fight for Sabrina. Hart and the cast were sad at the end.

She Relates More to Clarissa

Sabrina the Teenage Witch and Clarissa Explains It All were the two most successful shows of her career. While many people say Sabrina was her greatest piece of work and still call her Sabrina, Hart feels more attached to Clarissa’s character as a mother.

Melissa Joan Hart poses for a photo with a copy of her new book.
Photo by J. Countess/Getty Images

Hart became the face of the Sabrina franchise by voicing Hilda and Zelda in the animated series. But she named her book “Melissa Explains It All” after her favorite teenage series. However, Hart confessed that she developed a love for magic through Sabrina.

She Doesn’t Like Being Called Sabrina

Many know Hart as Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and many fans still call her by her character’s name. While she doesn’t mind her fans using this name, she does not like it when people she knows call her that. In one instance, it caused a fight.

Oscar De La Hoya poses for a portrait / A portrait of Melissa Joan Hart as Sabrina Spellman
Source: Getty Images / Moviestillsdb

She was once hanging out with Oscar De la Hoya in Mexico, and he called her Sabrina, even though he knew her real name. Hart got so annoyed that she threw water in his face. De la Hoya was in shock, but he should have known better.

Deleted From the Movie

Hart’s first award-winning film was Christmas Snow. But she wasn’t a stranger to the cameras when she made that movie. She had already been in dozens of commercials and TV series but breaking into the film industry was full of ups and downs.

Melissa Joan Hart appears in Christmas Snow
Source: Hallmark

In 1986, Hart landed a role in Crocodile Dundee, which could have boosted her career to a whole new level. Unfortunately, her scenes were left on the cutting room floor. Hart’s scenes in Aliens also didn’t make it to the final film.

Love at First Sight

While attending the Kentucky Derby in 2002, Hart laid eyes on Course of Nature frontman, Mark Wilkerson. He tried to play it cool, but he knew who Hart was. When Wilkerson approached her, Hart asked for his number. She said it was love at first sight.

Mark Wilkerson and Melissa Joan Hart
Photo by L. Cohen/WireImage/Getty Images

Hart told her mom she had met “the man she was going to marry.” She just had that gut feeling, and sometimes when you know, you just know. After their initial meeting, Hart and Wilkerson didn’t take long to start dating, and they moved quickly.

She Bought Her Own Engagement Ring

Hart has what everyone would call the perfect marriage, but she wasn’t taking any chances. She had heard stories of women saying yes to men just because the ring was beautiful, and she didn’t want to be in that situation. So, she bought herself a ring.

Melissa Joan Hart and fiance Mark Wilkerson admire Harts's ring.
Photo by Jon Kopaloff/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Hart went to Tiffany’s and got a diamond engagement ring. She called it the “Nobody loved me like I do, and I will never say yes for the wrong reason” ring. The name was long, but her purchase was worth it. She later met the man she would marry.

Who Is Melissa Joan Hart Married To?

A year after Hart met Wilkerson, the couple tied the knot in July 2003 in Florence, Italy. Their wedding was televised on the ABC miniseries, Tying the Knot. Hart said, “The most memorable part of my wedding was during the vows. Mark was crying so hard.”

Mark Wilkerson and Melissa Joan Hart on their wedding day.
Source: Twitter

Hart recalled, “We were supposed to put our heads down, but Mark’s nose filled up. I had my grandmother’s handkerchief in my cleavage, so while the priest was speaking, I reached in, and everyone laughed.” They are going on 20 years of marriage.

She Doesn’t Allow Social Media

Hart and Wilkerson have three children together, and she has some pretty strict rules for her children. While Hart is active on social media, she doesn’t allow her children to have their own accounts. Unlike other Hollywood moms, Hart is not a fan of social media.

Hart and her family are out picking Christmas trees.
Source: Instagram/@melissajoanhart

She is protective of her children’s images and admits to only using social media to keep tabs on her fans. Hart was afraid that people would be mean to her sons if they joined social media, so she keeps their lives out of the spotlight.

She Shared Some Private Moments

Although Hart doesn’t allow her children to have an online presence, she introduced her second son, Braydon, to the world on the cover of People magazine. Hart also wrote a diary, including video entries, to document potty training her son Mason. Those are intimate moments.

Melissa Joan Hart and her sons are reading books together.
Source: People

Her diary and video entries were included in the Huggies Pull-Ups commercials. Mason might look back on that and wonder why his potty-training sessions were shared with the public, but he isn’t allowed to have an Instagram account. We guess Hart had her reasons.

Return to TV

When Sabrina ended in 2003, Hart had a few small guest roles and starred in the ABC Family TV movies Holiday in Handcuffs and My Fake Fiancé. However, Hart made her big TV comeback in the 2010 ABC series, Melissa and Joey. She starred opposite Joey Lawrence.

Hart and Lawrence are on the set of Melissa and Joey.
Source: Disney–ABC Domestic Television

In the second season, she occupied the director’s chair for an episode, her first time since Sabrina. Hart played a woman who hires Lawrence as a nanny to help care for her incarcerated sister’s children. The show lasted for four seasons and 104 episodes.

She Almost Got Injured

Melissa and Joey was Hart’s biggest adult project since 2003. Because she was a household name, the show was a big hit. However, it caused her most embarrassing moment in acting. While rehearsing for an episode where she had to duck under a cane in a corset, something went wrong.

The cast of Melissa and Joey pose together.
Source: Disney–ABC Domestic Television

Hart had only practiced the scene in a hoop skirt and underestimated how challenging it would be to duck down in a corset. It was a total failure on the set, but Hart managed to fall on her side and escape injury.

Natural Chemistry With Joey

Hart and Lawrence were both big stars in the ‘90s, and they met when they were four at auditions in New York. They became friends, and their moms were close. Hart and Lawrence worked together in My Fake Fiancé, so they had experience working together before Melissa and Joey.

Lawrence and Hart pose together.
Source: Disney–ABC Domestic Television

They had natural chemistry in the series because they were friends in real life. Hart and Lawrence made fans laugh with their unique dynamic, and it was a successful four-year run. She hasn’t done a show as big as Melissa and Joey since it ended.

Christmas Movie Star

While venturing into the film world wasn’t easy for Hart, she found her niche by doing Christmas TV movies, Lifetime movies, and Hallmark movies. She got her big break in a Christmas movie, and Hart has filmed three of them in the past few years.

Melissa Joan Hart in a still from A Very Nutty Christmas.
Source: Lifetime

Hart has starred in everything from Broadcasting Christmas, A Very Nutty Christmas, Christmas Reservations, and Dear Christmas. If she knows what she’s good at, why change the successful formula? She loves working with Lifetime and doing those movies because they are fun and silly.


In 2009, Hart fulfilled one of her lifelong dreams by opening a candy shop called SweetHarts in Sherman Oaks, California. Unfortunately, her dream was short-lived because the store closed in 2011 due to a lawsuit from a former employee.

Melissa Joan Hart and Jaime Pressly at the opening of Sweetharts.
Photo by Noel Vasquez/Getty Images

The lawsuit stated that the employee was wrongfully terminated because of racial discrimination and other issues. Hart denied the employee’s claims, and the case was dismissed in 2012. SweetHarts later reopened under the same name but with new owners. It closed permanently in 2015, and SweetHarts was never seen again.

She Lives a Religious Lifestyle

In Hart’s film, God’s Not Dead 2, she put up a spectacular performance but didn’t win any major awards. The role wasn’t hard for Hart to play because her lifestyle perfectly matched her character’s. Hart was born to a religious family, with Christian parents.

Melissa Joan Hart and Jesse Metcalfe in a still from God’s Not Dead 2.
Source: Pure Flix Entertainment

She decided to uphold the same values for her family. Hart shared that her faith is the center of everything in her life. Her faith influences the roles she picks, which is why she turned down lots of potentially life-changing parts.

More Legal Troubles

Hart had some serious management issues in 2011, which made it hard for her to get jobs for a while. Her mom used to be her manager, but she later hired Kieran Maguire to take over. After working together for a few years, Maguire sued Hart for unpaid commissions.

Melissa Joan Hart and Paula Hart.
Photo by Roy Rochlin/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Maguire claimed that Hart hired him in 2006 when her acting career was “dwindling,” and she made an oral agreement to pay him ten percent commission. He said that after five years, Hart fired him and refused to pay him. They settled the lawsuit in 2012.

Putting Family First

Once Hart became a mom, she put work on the backburner to focus on parenthood. The mother of three told Us Weekly, “I have mom guilt that I’m here right now, and I didn’t put my kids on the school bus or spend enough time with them.”

Brady, Mason, and Tucker Wilkerson, along with Melissa Joan Hart attend a Disney event.
Photo by Thos Robinson/Getty Images

Hart admitted that working in Hollywood is tough when her family is home. She felt bad that she had to be gone for long periods to film Melissa and Joey. Hart tried to focus on work instead of the guilt, but she definitely prioritizes her family more now.

Hollywood Won’t Hire Her

We have seen less and less of Hart in recent years, and there might be a reason for that. Between focusing on her family and public legal issues, directors and managers have difficulty hiring the former star. She also has different ideals than her colleagues.

Melissa Joan Hart attends the 24th Annual Art Directors Guild Awards.
Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

Hart has said that it is hard to be spiritual in Hollywood. She also has strong political views that are different from the majority of other A-listers. Not seeing eye-to-eye with her peers may have cost her work. Whatever the reasons, Hart enjoys being home with her family.

Not a Fan of Mommy Bloggers

When it comes to her children, Hart is a very different person. She is protective and doesn’t like when people criticize her parenting style. Hart has always dismissed bloggers and social media haters who disapprove of her. In 2015, she was called out for an Instagram post.

Melissa Joan Hart / Atweet from a mother reacting to the pacifier picture.
Source: Twitter

The post showed Hart’s son using a pacifier, and a mommy blogger said Hart was a bad parent. Hart fired back by condemning them and daring any of them to talk to her face, saying she would punch them. Everyone has their own parenting style.

Only Family-Friendly Films

As you can tell, family is the most important thing for Hart, and she enjoys watching TV together. She confessed that God’s Not Dead 2 was her greatest film because she got to be part of the discussion about religion. However, she is careful about choosing her roles.

Melissa Joan Hart meets Miguel of Disney and Pixar's film
Photo by Richard Harbaugh/Disneyland Resort/Getty Images

Hart said she won’t act in “Adult-Only” rated movies and is especially opposed to horror films. She has turned down many jobs, including Scream, Aliens, and I Know What You Did Last Summer, because she wants to set the right example for her children.

She’s a WWE Fan

Yes, you heard it here first; Hart loves the WWE and follows most of the wrestlers on Twitter. It might look like an unlikely sport for her to enjoy because she doesn’t like violence in her career, but she knows it’s all staged. Hart also follows WWE Raw and tweets about the matches.

Hart, as Sabrina, is getting crushes in the wrestling ring.
Source: YouTube

Hart once got into a Twitter feud with Kevin Ownes because she called him lazy. She said Kevin Owens’ shows were boring and put her to sleep. It caused a storm on social media, leading many fans and wrestlers to unfollow her.

Where Does Melissa Joan Hart Live?

When her three sons were born, Hart and her family moved to Westport, Connecticut, to have a quieter life away from the chaos of Hollywood. They then moved to Lake Tahoe in 2019 because she wanted her kids to be around nature, and Hart always loved the area.

Melissa Joan Hart hosts My Magic Room PJ Party to reveal Tucker's newly decorated room.
Photo by Andrew H. Walker/Getty Images

She said it was a tough transition to move to a place that was a vacation area, but Hart said it was better living there and commuting to LA for work rather than from Connecticut. However, in 2020, the family decided to make the move to Nashville.

She Got in a Fight on an Airplane

Hart shared that she is terrified of flying. Although she has traveled around the world for work and leisure, Hart is still nervous about it. She admitted that she gets mad when people are using their cellphones and don’t put on airplane mode.

Hart poses for a picture with her sons.
Source: Twitter

Hart said she got into an argument with a woman on a plane once. She said, “You know, I really want to get home to my children safely. The captain asked us to turn off our phones. Would you mind following the rules?” Hart said she acted like a “Karen.”

She Hates Technology

Hart has expressed her dislike for social media, but she also hates technology. In an interview with BuzzFeed, Hart shared that she would love to live without technology. She said, “I would love to live the Amish lifestyle for maybe two weeks.”

Melissa Joan Hart is looking over her shoulder.
Photo by Kurt Krieger/Corbis/Getty Images

Hart finds the idea of getting your own eggs and milk and walking to a neighbor’s home to churn butter much more exciting than her current life. Hart views technology as a second job, and she wouldn’t be opposed to getting rid of it for a while.

Starting a Clothing Line

After she finished Melissa and Joey, Hart started working on a clothing line called King of Harts for little boys. She said it was really fun to be the CEO and design all the clothes. Hart said her parents were entrepreneurs, and she likes the idea of being in the business world.

Melissa Joan Hart attends the Betsey Johnson Fall Fashion Show.
Photo by Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images

As a mom of three boys, she knows what they like to wear and what is easy for parents. Hart liked the idea that she could touch and feel the clothing and send it out for people to buy.


In August 2021, Hart caught COVID like millions of other people worldwide. On social media, she told her fans that despite being fully vaccinated, she caught the illness. Hart shared that it was hard to breathe, but she felt better a few days later.

Melissa talks about her covid diagnosis on a live stream.
Source: Instagram/@melissajoanhart

Hart said her son also got it, but he recovered after a few days. Her youngest son also tested positive, but he had no symptoms. Hart was grateful for all the support people showed her and her family when she was sick.

People Forget She Is Actively Working

Although it might bother some people, Hart isn’t fazed that people don’t know she is still active in the industry. She said unless people follow her on social media, they wouldn’t know that she is directing and producing upcoming projects. She has enjoyed being behind the camera.

Melissa Joan Hart attends the HBO's Post Emmy Awards reception.
Photo by Michael Tran/FilmMagic/Getty Images

Hart revealed that people say, “You disappeared! You’re not working anymore!” She brushes the comments off and shares that she is doing exactly what she imagined at her age in the industry. Hart feels fulfilled by working on things as a crew member rather than an actress.