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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.”
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.
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.
She Had COVID
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.
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.
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.