Millions of people know her as Clarissa Darling, and millions more know her as Sabrina Spellman. But now, with the release of her new autobiography “Melissa Explains It All: Tales From My Abnormally Normal Life,” fans have the opportunity to finally know Melissa Joan Hart as herself.
In an exclusive interview with WSN, the “Clarissa Explains It All” and “Sabrina, the Teenage Witch” star spoke about her book, which covers everything from her time as an NYU student to her experiences as a ’90s teen star to her current role on ABC Family’s hit series, “Melissa & Joey.”
“I have been asked for many, many years to write a book,” Hart said. “I finally decided that maybe I had some stories I wanted to tell.”
While the book covers nearly every aspect of Hart’s life, including tension with former child star Drew Barrymore and a steamy kiss with Ryan Reynolds, NYU students may be most interested in the chapter devoted entirely to her college experience.
Having lived in Manhattan as a teenager, Hart’s “only choice” was NYU. She enrolled in the Tisch School of the Arts in the spring of 1995, but immediately transferred to the Gallatin School of Individualized Study because she loved the way it allowed her to explore a diverse range of academic interests. In particular, she referenced studying abroad in Florence while taking a course with Gallatin professor Bella Mirabella as an experience “that really influenced a lot of [her] life going forward.”
Although Hart never graduated — but hopes to someday return — she left NYU for good reason, and that was to play the role of Sabrina for an impressive seven seasons.
“I always knew that I had an absolute blessing [to be] on that show, because it’s so hard in this industry to find a good job that lasts a long time, that also has people you really enjoy being around,” she said. “And that show was fulfilling on every level.”
Still, Hart admitted that her current role as Mel on ABC Family’s “Melissa & Joey” is her favorite role to date.
“I got to develop [this character] a little bit … I didn’t really identify with Sabrina’s personality very much, about wanting to hide out and be normal,” Hart said. “I mean, I guess in some sense, I am a witch, trying to hide out and be normal, but I’ve also always been the … kind of person that likes to be loud and obnoxious and in the center of everything. So I never understood [Sabrina’s] sort of sheepish attitude about things.”
Through Twitter, Hart has been able to bring her sociable personality to several generations of fans. However, she noted that there is something to respect about celebrities who avoid the social media site.
“What’s lacking in Hollywood right now is this sense of mystery that used to exist. You didn’t know that much about Marilyn Monroe … you never knew who Paul Newman’s kids were,” Hart said. “Some of these icons, you didn’t know much about their lives, but you didn’t care because you loved them on screen.”
Hart was the subject of controversy on Twitter when she tweeted her support for Mitt Romney in November, receiving a surplus of hateful tweets accusing her of being homophobic.
“I think that it’s funny that sometimes people label me as certain things when I’m such a fan of the world, of people of all walks,” Hart said.
A portion of her book is even devoted to her relationship with the LGBTQ community while growing up in Manhattan.
“I heard recently that Cher said, and I stand by this as well, that when everyone else kind of disappears and starts calling you a has-been and whatnot, it is the gay and lesbian community that stands by you, that remembers you and thinks of you, like not just what you’re doing at the current moment,” she added.
In her autobiography, Hart is also candid about trying drugs when she was younger.
“I experimented,” she said. “I was testing the waters, and I was trying to figure out who I was.”
“I did what most kids do in their college years, and I don’t think I was that abnormal for doing it,” Hart said. “The great thing is I came out of it okay. I managed to avoid the trappings of it, and learned from it, and became a good person and then, hopefully, a good wife and good mother.”
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, Oct. 29 print edition. Jeremy Grossman is arts editor. Email him at [email protected]