Melissa Joan Hart

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File:TV sabrina mjh2.jpg
Melissa Joan Hart in Sabrina, the Teenage Witch

Melissa Joan Hart (born April 18, 1976) is an American actress who is best known for playing the title roles in two successful television series, Clarissa Explains It All and Sabrina, the Teenage Witch.

Personal history and family

Hart was born in Smithtown, New York, on Long Island, and grew up in Sayville, New York. Her full name is Melissa Joan Catherine Hart, Catherine being the name she chose for her confirmation in eighth grade.

Her immediate Irish-American family includes her father, William Hart, her mother Paula Hart, her stepfather, television executive Leslie Gilliams, eight sisters (three of them stepsisters) and one brother. Most of her siblings have acted, among them Elizabeth Hart, Brian Hart, Emily Hart, and Alexandra Hart-Gilliams. Sister Trisha Hart has worked as a producer. Her stepmother is the former Lisa Hunt of Sayville.

Career

Hart's career began early on. When she was still a baby, she made her first TV commercial for a bathtub toy called Splashy. From then on, she appeared regularly in commercials, making 25 of them before the age of five. Other early TV work included a small role in the miniseries Kane & Abel in 1985, a guest-starring role in an episode of The Equalizer in 1986, and a starring role alongside Katherine Helmond in the Emmy Award-winning TV movie Christmas Snow, also in 1986.

In 1989, she auditioned for a Broadway production of The Crucible starring Martin Sheen, becoming an understudy to three of the young girls in the play. This paved the way for her to land the title role in the TV show Clarissa Explains It All. The Nickelodeon series, a comedy about a teen girl in everyday situations, became a big hit and aired for five seasons. The show brought her four consecutive Young Artist Award nominations, of which she won three, and made her a household name among American teenagers.

During her time on "Clarissa" Hart recorded an album (under the guise of that character) entitled This is What Na Na Means. It was mostly a novelty product and did not sell well, receive critical attention or place in any charts.

After the series was canceled, she attended New York University. She did not complete her degree as she resumed her acting career in 1994 when she got the lead role for the TV movie Sabrina the Teenage Witch, which eventually led to her also starring as Sabrina in a television series which lasted seven seasons. In between, she also worked on the series Touched by an Angel and starred in several TV movies.

In 1999, Melissa landed a small part in a movie named Can't Hardly Wait, and then starred in Drive Me Crazy, a movie that includes "(You Drive Me) Crazy", a number-one hit by Britney Spears, on its soundtrack. Hart also appeared in the music video for this song. She has appeared in other movies since Drive Me Crazy, but none has brought her as much recognition.

Hart appeared in lingerie in a series of photos featured in the October 1999 issue of the men's magazine Maxim, as well as in similarly revealing pictorials in Bikini and Movieline magazines around the same time. This caused problems for both Hart and ABC (the network broadcasting Sabrina the Teenage Witch) since the copyright holder of the series, Archie Comics, regarded the series as a show for children and pre-teens, and believed that the Maxim photos and the accompanying article hurt the show's wholesome image (Hart also discussed her sex life and Sabrina drinking games that could be played when watching the series at home). Michael Silberkleit, the chairman and co-publisher of Archie Comics demanded that Hart either apologize or be fired from the series. She neither apologized nor was fired.

In 2003, Hart and her production company, Hartbreak Films, produced a miniseries entitled Tying the Knot, documenting her wedding to musician Mark Wilkerson, a member of the band Course of Nature.

In June 2005, Hart announced that she and her husband are expecting their first child in January 2006.

Filmography and work on television

External links

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