Television in the 1990’s seemed to be dominated by one teen star. Well, she dominated Nickelodeon and ABC’s “TGIF” line-up, at least. You may remember her as Clarissa Darling from “Clarissa Explains It All” or as Sabrina Spellman on “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch”. In the real world, she is Melissa Joan Hart, tween star turned teen star turned grown up star.
As a child actress, Melissa had several small roles on her resume up through the beginning of her teenage years, including guest roles on series like “Are You Afraid of the Dark?” and “ABC Weekend Specials”. At age 15, Melissa scored her first breakout role as the title character in the Nickelodeon series “Clarissa Explains It All”. This role, in which she played a relatable teenager going through a number of the typical headaches many girls experience at that stage in life, Melissa scored numerous Young Artist Award nominations, and also provided the template by which Nickelodeon would become Disney’s chief rival in churning out young talent.
The enormous success of “Clarissa” made Melissa a teen magazine icon and engendered more than a few crushes from boys of similar age. When Melissa was no longer high school age, it was a good time to end the series (in a smart move, Nickelodeon opted not to go through with a planned college life storyline, avoiding the mistakes of “Saved By the Bell”). In the meantime, Melissa continued to work in a numerous made-for-tv films while looking for her next big hit (including “Twisted Desire”, an incredibly shocking departure from the wholesome Clarissa character).
1996 found that next big role for her. Finding inspiration from one of the alternate characters from the long-running, and hugely popular, Archie Comics series, ABC (owned by Nickelodeon rival, Disney) launched “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch”, a new addition to the network’s stable of Friday night family shows known as TGIF. With Melissa taking the role of the title character, this modernized version of the comic series (with hipper, more modern Aunts, Zelda and Hilda), showed a more mature, but still fun-loving, version of Hart. It scored a few Kids Choice Awards and provided a role for Melissa that carried her into her late 20’s, and through life-changing events like getting married.
While performing on “Sabrina”, Hart still managed to notch a few movie roles and also generate a bit of controversy. Some of her roles included ‘Annoying Yearbook Girl’ from “Can’t Hardly Wait” and the lead in teen romantic comedy “Drive Me Crazy” (a film where its accompanying Britney Spears music video was more memorable than the actual film). In late 1999, Hart created some hullabaloo with with a very racy photo spread in Maxim magazine. The companion article had Melissa revealing that she wasn’t quite the innocent girl her public persona made her out to be.
More recently, Melissa began another show “Melissa & Joey”, alongside fellow 90’s teen heartthrob, Joey Lawrence. This ABC Family comedy is yet another hit for Hart. It is slated to begin its fourth season in 2014. Even with all the acting gigs, Melissa still finds time for her most important role…. that of mother to her three sons: Mason, Braydon and Tucker.
In addition to the barely clad photos and saucy narrative of her 1999 Maxim cover article, Melissa also showed off an early appreciation of body art. On the back of her neck, Hart has a tiny little cross.
You can find out more about Melissa on her fan site: http://melissajoanhartfans.net/
You can also follow her on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/MelissaJoanHart