If you were an ’90s kid, you probably grew up watching Clarissa explain it all, and Sabrina try to survive high school with the help of her magical powers. We sat down with actress and director Melissa Joan Hart to find out what it was like working on those popular shows and what she is working on now, including a remake of a cult classic Disney horror film. Following is a transcript of the video.
Melissa Joan Hart: Hey! I’m Melissa Joan Hart. You might know me as Clarissa, or Sabrina, or from “Melissa and Joey.”
I was about 11 or 12 when I got the role on “Clarissa.” I had to audition 3 times. I was doing a play off Broadway, and the executive producer heard that that he should audition me. He did not want a blonde, but after 3 auditions, I won him over, and I got the part of Clarissa. And I played that character until I was about 17 and a half. Basically graduating high school.
We were on the Universal Studios lot. We were part of the tour. The tour would go through the studio. You get to go taste slime and Gak and all these things. So my breaks were spent eating green pudding, and green apple sauce, and stuff like that.
I just remember it being a lot of work. But I learned a lot too. Like walking around the set, and asking a lot of questions about the equipment. And learning how everyone did their jobs there. So it kinda, basically, was like a mini film school.
Clarissa was one of those characters that girls wanted to be and guys wanted to date. And it was just one of those things where is she was just cool and everyone wanted to be like her. A lot of people tell me that she started their careers in fashion or in graphic design, because of the computer design that was going on around the screen. How she was always designing computer programs.
I don’t talk to the actors anymore from that show. It was before the time of like social media, or like email even.
Nobody has ever crawled in my bedroom window that I can recall. I’ve often thought about crawling out of the window.
BI: Can you explain it all?
Joan Hart: I can explain a lot, but only a little bit of everything. Not like everything.
“Wow, this magic thing isn’t so bad!”
Sabrina was awesome. It was long hours, but I wasn’t having to go to high school this time. So it was like more like an adult job for the first time in my life. People remember high school their entire lives, and that’s only 4 years. And we spent seven years on “Sabrina,” so that’s that’s something that will always be with me.
Sabrina, a lot of people related to. I didn’t, because I was always very like, you know, I wasn’t the wallflower. I was the one who was always like tap dancing in the middle of the room. I understand that she spoke to a lot of people and made people kind of come out of their shell and feel better about themselves. And I love that about her.
I don’t really have any supernatural beliefs. You know, what’s funny about “Sabrina” is like everyone looks at it as witchcraft. And I guess the reboot that they’re about to do, that I’m not involved in, is more about witchcraft. Ours was more magic. I learned a little bit about witchcraft just because people kept giving me witchcraft books and stuff as gifts. I can see where witchcraft came from. You know, women in the woods making up concoctions. You know, basically just getting high. Um … hahaha, “flying on their brooms.”
So I was called “Sabrina” for many many years, my whole twenties really. And then I did “Dancing with the Stars.” About the same time I started playing Mel from “Melissa and Joey.” I went from being called on the street like, “Sabrina! Sabrina! Hey Sabrina!” To all of a sudden being called “Melissa.” And people started to know who I was.
Every actor wants to play an iconic role that they’ll be remembered for their whole lives. But then when you are, you realize that you’ve done a whole body of work, but that’s all people seem to want to talk about. So it can be frustrating at times, but I’ve been really lucky, because I have played so many different characters. I don’t ever see it as a negative. I think it’s wonderful.
My mother is my producing partner. We have our company, Hartbreak Films. When I was little, she would manage my career. We’ve just done tons of movies together and TV shows like “Melissa & Joey.” But then I decided I didn’t want to be in a movie. I wanted to direct a movie, and it was “Watcher in the Woods.”
It’s the first thing I directed that I’m not in, and it just a beautiful movie. And it’s scary, and it’s fun, and it was my favorite movie when I was a kid. So I’m very excited to be a part of the reimagining and to show it to a new audience.
So we went to Wales last summer in 2016, and we brought the amazing Anjelica Huston with us. And we got a great young cast out of London. And we had some fun in the rainy, swampy like in the woods of this dairy farm, just making this scary movie. It’s gonna be like one of the gems of my career that I’m so proud of.
I actually avoided horror movies for very long time. When I was a little girl I actually auditioned for the original “It.” That terrified me.
Yeah, I had no problem with horror movies until the movie “Scream” came out. I did audition for it. Didn’t get the part. The only person hired at the time was Drew Barrymore. And when that came out, then I was offered “I Know What You Did Last Summer,” and I just thought it was a ripoff of “Scream.” And I thought it was going to be a good. So I probably talked my way out of a film career in a little bit of a way.
And then with “Watcher in the Woods” now here I am back in this genre, but because it’s a movie I’ve loved my whole life. And I think it’s also one of those, it’s not a splatter movie.
So everybody always asks, “What’s my favorite role, Clarissa or Sabrina?” And I always say, “It’s Mel from ‘Melissa and Joey.'” She was such a flawed character. I just loved being that kind of character that was just kind of … it was very “Lucy” – esque to me. It was like someone who was just kind of, you know, causing the tornado. With Sabrina, I feel like I had to like always fix everything.
I think “Clarissa” would be a good one to reboot, because we didn’t really leave it anywhere. Sabrina rode off in a wedding dress with Harvey on a motor scooter, or motorcycle, you know, and their hearts rolled together, and you saw that they were soul mates. This kinda like buttons up the show. “Clarissa,” we never had that. We just sort of like did an episode, and it was the end. You know, I feel like there is probably more room to grow on “Clarissa.” And people were so fascinated with it. I would think that that character, it would be nice to see what happened to her.
With Sabrina, it’s kind of obvious, you know. She has some kids. They’re half mortal. Or they’re a quarter mortal. Or a quarter witch I guess? Three quarters mortal? I dunno … anyway.
With reboots, it’s a really touchy subject, because if you don’t do it right, if you don’t have the right writing, and the right even promotion behind it, everything, it can just fall on its face. And if it does, that can be the end of your career.
I like moving forward, more so than moving backwards.