Melissa Joan Hart: How She Escaped Hollywood

By Rick Gonzales | 7 months ago

Melissa Joan Hart

Melissa Joan Hart holds the trifecta when it comes to Hollywood. She is first and foremost an actress, but she has also spent plenty of time behind the camera as well as calling the shots as the big boss, an executive producer. She made her name as a young actress on a big show (that is also getting a reboot) and has no problem with her commute.

Before Melissa Joan Hart made a name for herself in the popular Nickelodeon sitcom Clarissa Explains It All, she was a commercial girl. In total, she starred in 25 commercials before the age of five, shilling various products to the young.

Her first TV role came on the ABC Weekend Special Cindy. She then went on to Kane & Abel, The Equalizer, and appeared in the TV movie Christmas Snow. Hart also auditioned for the part of Jamie Lloyd in the horror film Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers but Melissa Joan Hart lost that lead role to Danielle Harris. Producers may have done her a favor with that one.

Melissa Joan Hart in Clarice Explains it All

Melissa Joan Hart landed the lead role as Clarissa and began her four-year run as the teenager experiencing everyday life situations. As a very popular show that brought her four consecutive Young Artist Award nominations of which Melissa Joan Hart won three of them. While the show was immensely popular with the young female teenage group, it was canceled after four seasons. Its popularity brought on the idea of a spin-off, which would include Hart as Clarissa, following her along to college. A half-hour pilot was shot and even shown on Nickelodeon, but eventually, the producers decided not to move forward with it.

Melissa Joan Hart As Sabrina

Melissa Joan Hart

Melissa Joan Hart didn’t have to wait long for her next big opportunity. She was first seen in a TV movie, Family Reunion: A Relative Nightmare, then appeared on an episode of Touched by an Angel. While it kept Hart working, her goal was to be in another big series. Sabrina the Teenage Witch flew into her lap.

Melissa Joan Hart was studying at New York University when Sabrina dropped a magical spell on the actress. It was a TV movie first, which then turned into a long-lasting (seven seasons) TV series, first appearing on ABC, then eventually moving over to The WB. Her Sabrina character hails from the Archie comic books and told the story about the young witch named Sabrina who is sent to Riverdale to live with her eccentric aunts Hilda and Zelda, both witches, and their talking cat Salem, who is a witch himself, turned into said cat. The series’ location moved from Riverdale to Westbridge but the premise remained the same. 16-year-old Sabrina finds out, on her birthday, that she has special magical powers. This veers from the original comic as in the comics, Sabrina knew from an early age she had magical gifts.

Melissa Joan Hart as Sabrina

This series was another big hit for Melissa Joan Hart as it premiered to over 17 million and lasted seven years. Not only did the series last, but Melissa Joan Hart’s character of Sabrina Spellman also made appearances on many TV shows and TV movies. The TV shows she appeared on included Clueless, Boy Meets World, ABC TGIF, You Wish, Teen Angel, and The Wonderful World of Disney. She also appeared in the TV movies Sabrina Goes to Rome and Sabrina, Down Under.

An animated series, Sabrina the Animated Series, was also made and Melissa Joan Hart lent her voice to it. This time though, it was her sister Emily Hart who took on the voice of Sabrina while Melissa voiced the dual parts of Hilda and Zelda.

Life After Sabrina

Melissa Joan Hart

Things began to slow down for Melissa Joan Hart after the end of her Sabrina run. She had a few TV appearances (Rent Control, North Shore, Law & Order: Special Victims Unit) and a few TV movies (Dirtbags, Holiday in Handcuffs, The Secrets of Pine Grove, My Fake Fiancé) but things didn’t begin to pick up for Hart until she found her next TV series.

It was another hit series for Melissa Joan Hart. This time she was co-starring with Joey Lawrence and no longer was she a teenager, this time she was a mother. The series followed Hart’s Mel, a local politician who is dealing with a family scandal, who is left along with her niece and nephew. Instead of dealing with the kids herself, she hires Lawrence to be her nanny. Comedy ensues. The series lasted four seasons, solidifying the fact that Melissa Joan Hart still had some draw when it came to TV series.

Melissa Joan Hart
Melissa Joan Hart on Melissa & Joey

Following the end of Melissa & Joey, Melissa Joan Hart continued to work. She was in the feature Gods Not Dead 2 as well as TV movies A Very Merry Toy Store and A Very Nutty Christmas.

Melissa Joan Hart’s career is more than just a face on the TV screen. She has spent plenty of time behind the camera pulling down directing duties on two of her big series, Sabrina and Melissa & Joey. She has also found time directing episodes of The Goldbergs, Young Sheldon, and Schooled. Her producer’s credits come on shows such as Sabrina, Melissa & Joey, as well as a number of TV movies.

Living In Lake Tahoe

Melissa Joan Hart

Obviously, as an actor, director, or producer, travel comes with the territory. Actors usually find themselves in various parts of the country, if not around the world. But when working on TV series, most of those take place on studio lots in Hollywood. This is where Melissa Joan Hart spends much of her time when working. When she isn’t working though, she, her husband, and their three kids have decided to make their vacation home in Lake Tahoe, California their permanent address.

For this to happen, it means a lot of driving for the actress. Melissa Joan Hart spoke to Architectural Digest about her affinity to be behind the wheel, “I’m a big driver. I’m one of these people that never lets anyone else drive. And right now, I drive from L.A., where I’m working, up to Lake Tahoe, where I live with my family.”

Melissa Joan Hart also spoke about basing herself out of Tahoe. “We have moved the family to our vacation home in Tahoe and have always wanted to live there and see what it was like to be full time there. We’ve always been locals, but we’ve been temporary locals. It’s a little difficult to transition a house that’s a vacation place to a place where people do homework, check the mail, and pay bills. They’ve been there while I’ve been traveling back and forth to L.A every week to work.”

For those of you who may not be aware, the drive from Lake Tahoe to Los Angeles is almost a 450 miles one-way. That’s quite a haul to go to work. Fear not, though. The actress and her family also own a home in Los Angeles, making her day-to-day while in LA not as bad as one would think, other than dealing with LA traffic. The couple also owns a home in Connecticut, in case her work takes her to the East Coast.

Melissa Joan Hart Now


Melissa Joan Hart continues to find herself both in front and behind the camera. Lately she was seen in the series No Good Nick, which only lasted one season and there is also rumor that a Clarissa Explains it All reboot is in the making. The reboot would bring Clarissa into the present as a mom. This news comes on the heels of Hart recently hosting a Sabrina the Teenage Witch reunion with 85 of her former cast and crew members.

Melissa Joan Hart told PEOPLE, “I took over a little coffee shop and about 85 of the original Sabrina crew are getting together to hang out for the first time in about 15 years,” she said. “People are flying in from all over. One of our puppeteers who did the cat is flying from Canada. And Elisa [Donovan] is flying in from San Francisco and Beth Broderick is flying in from Texas.”

Melissa Joan Hart fondly recalled her time on the Sabrina set, “It was just a really nice, laid-back crew,” she said. “Everybody was there to have fun, get the work done and go home to their families. And everyone was very respectful of each other.”

Ready or not, Clarissa is on her way back. Reboot season is almost upon us.