How crazy is this? Twenty-five years ago “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” premiered on ABC and became a staple of the network’s classic Friday-night “TGIF” lineup. To mark the major anniversary on Sept. 27, 2021, Wonderwall.com is taking a look back at star Melissa Joan Hart’s life and career in photos.
Keep reading to take a trip down memory lane…
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Melissa Joan Hart was born on April 18, 1976, in New York to Paula and William Hart. Melissa, the eldest in a large family, quickly launched a career in acting, appearing in numerous commercials before she even turned 5. She quickly parlayed that experience into off-Broadway plays and small TV roles. She’s seen here in 1994 at 17.
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In 1991, Melissa Joan Hart landed the role of a lifetime. She was cast as the lead on the Nickelodeon series “Clarissa Explains it All,” which ran until 1994 and filmed a total of 65 episodes. The show — the main draw on the network’s “SNICK” Saturday-night lineup — was an instant hit and Melissa won three out of four Young Artist Awards for which she was nominated. “I was the same age as Clarissa. As she was growing up, I was growing up,” Melissa told The Ringer in 2021. “And we did have a lot of the same temperament, a lot of the same no-nonsense attitude. If a boy can do it, I can do it. I wasn’t as tech savvy. I did learn a lot from her. And vice versa. I put a lot of me into the character. It was interesting to be on such a smart show.”
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Melissa Joan Hart parlayed her role as Clarissa into a brief music career! She recorded “This is What ‘Na Na’ Means” under Clarissa & The Straightjackets and also recorded “Prokofiev: Peter & The Wolf,” which she narrated as the character Clarissa Darling (pictured).
After “Clarissa Explains it All,” Melissa Joan Hart (seen here at the 1994 Cable Ace Awards in 1994 — the same years “Clarissa” wrapped) returned to her home state to attend New York University. She enrolled in the spring of 1995 in the Tisch School of the Arts and then transferred to the Gallatin School of Individualized Study. Her time in college was short lived, however, as Melissa was soon offered another role she couldn’t turn down: the lead on a new show based on the Archie Comics character Sabrina the Teenage Witch…
“Sabrina the Teenage Witch” was a defining moment in Melissa Joan Hart’s career — and relationship history. When she was filming the “Sabrina” TV movie, which served as a pilot for the hit series, Ryan Reynolds played her crush. The two had a fling — while Melissa was in a relationship with someone else! “He was very sweet. I had a boyfriend at the time but we were smitten and cute and he was adorable,” she later admitted on Australia’s “Studio 10.” “He was a really, really nice guy, probably would have been a great boyfriend, and I didn’t end up with the other guy, so maybe I should have taken a chance.”
In 1996, Melissa Joan Hart began her stint as Sabrina Spellman, first in a TV film and then on “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” on ABC (and, later, the WB). She starred for seven seasons and invited little sister Emily to guest star… then teamed up with Emily again for another project.
Melissa Joan Hart voiced aunts Hilda and Zelda and little sister Emily Hart voiced the titular witch on “Sabrina, the Animated Series,” which ran on UPN from 1999 to 2000.
In 1999, Melissa Joan Hart starred opposite Adrian Grenier in the teen film “Drive Me Crazy.” She was also featured in the wildly popular music video for Britney Spears’ song of the same name, which was in the film. She later said Adrian was her best on-screen kiss. Melissa won a Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award for favorite movie actress for her performance in the flick.
Melissa Joan Hart let the world see she was more than a teen star — and a lot more grown up — when she posed for the cover of Maxim in October 1999. Years later, she admitted there was more craziness surrounding the photoshoot than the sexy images let on. “I was feeling a little shy so I actually ended up rolling with some friends, doing some ecstasy,” she wrote in her 2013 memoir “Melissa Explains It All: Tales from My Abnormally Normal Life,” of her plans the night before the shoot at the Playboy Mansion. “I was so excited. I was so nervous. It was so scary. I left really late at night [and] I think I rolled right up to the Maxim photo shoot.” Melissa is seen here at a Maxim magazine party the following year.
On May 3, 2002, Melissa met Mark Wilkerson, the lead singer of the band Course of Nature, at a Kentucky Derby benefit concert. The actress introduced the band and it was love at first sight for her. She reflected on their first time meeting years later in a 2020 Instagram post, recalling that her knees went weak as they talked. “I wish I could remember what we were chatting about. But the next day I would tell my friend [Kerry Villar] (who can verify) that I met the man I was going to marry, and over the next few days I said it a few more times,” Melissa explained. One of the people she told was Jerry O’Connell, who she was seeing at the time. “I met Mark and that [same] night I made out with Jerry,” she recalled in an interview with “Access Hollywood Live.” “But the next morning at the Derby races, Jerry is hitting on someone else and I said, ‘Oh, I see how this is going to be.’ And then Jerry said to me, ‘When we get back to L.A. are we going to hang out?’ And I said, ‘I don’t think so, I think I met the man I’m going to marry.'” Melissa and Mark are seen here at the 2002 Radio & Records Convention not long after they started dating.
In July 2003, Melissa Joan Hart married Mark Wilkerson in Florence, Italy, in a wedding that was later televised on ABC. “The most memorable part of my wedding was during the vows,” Melissa said in a 2009 Women’s Day interview. “Mark was crying so hard and we were supposed to put our heads down, but his nose had filled up! I had my grandmother’s handkerchief in my cleavage, so while the priest was speaking, I reached into my dress and everyone giggled — that was the only part of the day that didn’t get caught on camera.” Melissa — who went on to have three sons with Mark — attributes their success to commitment. “There are highs and lows, and I think you’ve got to go through the valleys to get to the hilltops. You celebrate the good times when you make it through those bad times. My husband and I just accept that we made a commitment to each other, and we’re going to stick it out, and when we hit those rough patches, we just take a breather, step aside, have a good conversation or just give each other room to figure it out,” she shared after 14 years of marriage. “I think it’s about picking your fights too. What’s really important to you, what’s really bothering you, have those discussions and let the rest go.” The couple are seen here the month before their nuptials.
In January 2006, Melissa Joan Hart and Mark Wilkerson welcomed their first child, son Mason. “When I first got pregnant, I freaked out. I thought, ‘The press will have a field day with this; an underage actress having a baby,'” she told Entertainment Weekly. “Then I had to remind myself: I’m turning 30. I guess I still see myself as this little 16-year-old. And it took some adjusting. I have six sisters, so I assumed I’d have a girl. Learning I was having a boy was really weird.” Melissa and Mark are seen here with baby Mason a few months after his birth.
Melissa Joan Hart became a boy mom for a second time when she and Mark Wilkerson welcomed son Braydon in March 2008. “I did the birth drug-free, and I’m not sure if it is because I did it drug-free or because he was my second baby, but I am up and about much easier this time. Last time I was unable to get out of bed for about eight weeks,” she told OK! Magazine shortly after Braydon, whom she calls Brady, was born. “Both pregnancies were traumatizing. I’ve just realized there is no way to bring a baby into the world and have it not be a traumatic experience. After both all I could say was ‘intense.’ That is really the only word that sums it up! It’s just a difficult thing to do.” She’s seen here with baby Brady on the red carpet at an A Pea in the Pod fashion show just weeks after his arrival.
Melissa Joan Hart changed added candy store owner to her resume when she opened SweetHarts in Los Angeles in 2009. “It’s been a dream of mine since I was a kid,” she told People magazine at the time. That dream was short-lived. In 2011, the store was sued by by a former employee who alleged wrongful termination and racial discrimination. At the time, the actress’s team released a statement that read, “Melissa Joan Hart is the owner of SweetHarts Sweets in Sherman Oaks, California. While the shop was her vision, Melissa does not currently function in a day-to-day operational capacity, and has never met [the former employee]. SweetHarts Sweets is an equal opportunity employer, as is Melissa Joan Hart. Neither SweetHarts Sweets nor Melissa engages in or condones any form of discrimination whatsoever. There is no basis whatsoever to these vicious allegations.” The claims still led to the demise of the store, and while it was briefly re-opened, Melissa got out of the candy business for good in 2015.
In the fall of 2009, Melissa Joan Hart headed to the ballroom, appearing on season 9 of “Dancing With the Stars” with pro partner Mark Ballas. Melissa and Mark placed ninth that season, which saw Donny Osmond win the Mirrorball Trophy with pro partner Kym Johnson. Melissa and Mark struck up a friendship and he later appeared on an episode of her hit show “Melissa and Joey.”
Melissa returned to the stage in 2010 in the off-Broadway show “Love, Loss and What I Wore.” Coincidentally, the month before Melissa appeared in the production, former on-screen aunt Caroline Rhea, her “Sabrina the Teenage Witch” co-star, also starred in the show. Melissa is seen here at the “Love, Loss, and What I Wore” new cast member celebration in New York City in April 2010.
Melissa Joan Hart stepped back onto the sitcom stage in 2010 when she teamed up with fellow ’90s teen star Joey Lawrence of “Blossom” fame for ABC Family’s “Melissa & Joey.” “The first time we got to work together was [on the ABC Family original movie] ‘My Fake Fiancé’. Both of us just work together really well and from there we knew we wanted to spin-off and do something in television, and ABC Family agreed,” Melissa told Entertainment Weekly at the time. The series — Melissa’s third successful half-hour show — ended up filming 104 episodes and ran until 2015.
Melissa Joan Hart welcomed her third child, son Tucker Wilkerson, in September 2012. The actress’s on- and off-screen worlds collided when she cast Tucker in an episode of “Melissa & Joey” when he was 9 months old. “I couldn’t stay in character! I was watching him like a hawk and forgetting to react as my character would to the situation. It was unnerving,” Melissa told People magazine of her youngest, who played a neighbor’s baby. (They’re seen here on the red carpet at the “Monsters University” premiere the following year.) “But it was so fun to have him there.” Her two older sons also appeared on the sitcom during its run.
The memoir “Melissa Explains It All: Tales from My Abnormally Normal Life,” came out in 2013. In it, the actress spilled the tea on quite a lot. She talks about her on-screen kisses with James Van Der Beek (she never got the appeal) and Adrian Grenier (the best) and revealed that at that point, she didn’t know how much money she’d made from “Clarissa Explains it All.” Melissa dished that she and Mark Wilkerson were offered an MTV reality show after they announced their engagement (they passed and the show went to Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey). “Suddenly I felt like, ‘You know what? I have a lot of stories I’ve told over the years to my friends that I’d really like to tell to the public.’ People have had a certain perception of me, and I always get the question, ‘How did you end up so normal? I felt like this was the long-form answer of that question and a chance to tell my own story. That’s what I feel like I’ve done here,” she told Entertainment Weekly.
In 2014, Melissa Joan Hart starred in and directed the Christmas comedy TV film “Santa Con” co-starring Jaleel White, Barry Watson, Wendy Williams and more. She continued to direct more television projects including a remake of “The Watcher in the Woods” and episodes of “The Goldbergs,” “Young Sheldon” and others (she’s also produced for decades). In recent years, she’s become a bit of a Lifetime Christmas movie darling with appearances in a run of holiday films for the network since 2017.
Melissa Joan Hart launched a family-centric fashion line in 2015. “King of Harts is a passion project I’ve dreamt about since my first son was born. My husband Mark [Wilkerson] and I wanted to fill a hole in the market for cool boys’ clothes and have it be proudly made in the USA. It’s an amazing feeling to work in the business world after decades in the arts,” she told People magazine, adding, “I would love to do Queen of Harts someday. And maybe a shoe line too.”
Melissa Joan Hart’s latest sitcom foray was on “No Good Nick,” a short-lived Netflix series that debuted in 2019 on which she played Liz, the blunt matriarch of the family. The show was a shift for Melissa, who wasn’t used to being the mature one on set. “[On-screen husband] Sean [Astin] and I are like the old folks on the set now. It’s so funny, ’cause he and I the other day said to each other, ‘Is it weird that we’re the old ones on set now?’ Even among the crew it used to be that we were always the young kids on set,” she told The Hollywood Reporter, adding, “It’s so weird still that we’re the mature ones leading the way [and] supposed to be the good example.”
Melissa Joan Hart has long worked closely with her mother, producer Paula Hart, with whom she owns a production company, Hartbreak Films. The mother-daughter duo are seem here at the 2020 Art Directors Guild Awards in Los Angeles in 2020.
In August 2021, Melissa Joan Hart made headlines when she announced on Instagram page that she’d contracted COVID-19. “I am vaccinated and I got Covid and it’s bad,” she shared. “It’s weighing on my chest. It’s hard to breathe. One of my kids, I think, has it so far. I’m praying that the other ones are okay.” While Melissa aimed not to make her post political, she did criticize leadership in her video. “I’m just scared and sad, and disappointed in myself and some of our leaders,” she added. “I just wish I’d done better, so I’m asking you guys to do better. Protect your families. Protect your kids.”
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