For every preteen girl in the ’90s, Clarissa Darling was a hero — who also happened to “know it all.” The show, which aired for five seasons on Nickelodeon from 1991 to 1994, followed Clarissa’s life as she navigated the troubles of boys, family (especially annoying younger brothers), and school. It’s been credited as being the first Nick show with a female lead, and it’s success made the network less hesitant to follow the same formula for other teen sitcoms.
So, what’s the cast doing today?
Melissa Joan Hart as Clarissa Darling
While a Clarissa spin off was in the works for CBS (called Clarissa Now), plans fell through and Melissa moved on to another major hit, Sabrina the Teenage Witch.
You may have seen a few MJH projects in the late ’90s — she played a small part in the movie Can’t Hardly Wait and was the female lead in Drive Me Crazy, costarring with Adrien Grenier. (A fun fact: The movie was called something different, until Melissa asked her friend Britney Spears to participate for the soundtrack. In turn, Melissa and Adrien were featured in her music video. And — well, great. That song is going to be in my head for the rest of the day.)
She was also in two ABC Family original movies – Holiday in Handcuffs, which was one of the highest rated programs the network had seen, and My Fake Fiancé. The same year Fiancé aired, she opened up a candy shop called Sweet Harts in Sherman Oaks, CA. While it temporarily closed in 2011 (legal problems!), new owners have taken it over since. Melissa got married in 2003 to musician Mark Wilkerson, and they have three sons. Today, you’ll find her in Melissa & Joey, alongside Joey Lawrence. Whoa.
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Elizabeth Hess as Janet Darling
Janet’s “different” food concoctions taught me what tofu was. (And — calm down, Darling clan. It’s not bad.) Clarissa’s environmentalist mother was a colorful character, who was often a strong voice of reason for Clarissa.
Elizabeth did some work on and off Broadway after the show aired and also participated in three short films. In 2009, she was in a film called Handsome Harry, alongside Aidan Quinn and Steve Buscemi.
Currently, she’s teaching classes at New York University and Fordham, and according to her website, is writing a book called The Actor’s Instrument: The Interplay of Being.
Jason Zimbler as Ferguson Darling
Know what Jason Zimbler was in after starring as Clarissa’s dorky, conniving, red-headed space goblin brother? Nothing.
That’s right — nothing.
Yes, don’t worry. He’s still alive and doing well. See?
In fact, he’s still involved in the business. After graduating from the University of Notre Dame in 1998, he dabbled in theater a bit before cofounding a theater company called The Re-Theatre Instrument in Portland, OR, in 2007. And in 2011, he became employed by HBO, as a software designer.
I wanted to know more, so I looked at his Facebook page. I’d feel creepy for linking it, since it’s not a fanpage, but it looks like he’s an uncle and enjoys the music of Mumford & Sons. So, I’d probably get along pretty well with Adult Ferguson. (In summary, we’d probably talk about Mumford & Sons, and then I’d get embarrassed for looking at his Facebook, and probably walk away nervously.)
Joe O’Connor as Marshall Darling
Joe has been working pretty consistently since the end of the show — while he reunited with Melissa in an episode of Sabrina the Teenage Witch in 2006, he’s branched beyond the role of Clarissa’s wacky architect Dad. Unlike a lot of the actors who play parents on shows from the '80s and '90s, this show was actually one of his first gigs.
Beyond a few bit parts, Joe was in about 1 billion commercials and was (so I’ve read) shockingly in the video for Tom Green’s embarrassing hit “The Bum Bum Song (Lonely Swedish)” in 1999. Being that the song was number one on TRL for a few days, it’s not the worst thing that could have happened to him.
Joe’s also been in a handful of Mad Men episodes, playing recurring character Tom Vogel. He was also on an episode of Weeds, where he played kind of a creep.
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And finally, there’s Sam.
Sean O’Neal as Sam Anders
I could hear it in my head now. The small crash of the ladder to the window. The platonic greeting of “Hi Sam” and the slightly upbeat reaction of “Hey, Clarissa.”
Sam was Clarissa’s best friend, and in 2011, Melissa still found herself having to defend their fictional friendship.
“I think they were trying to show that a girl and boy could be friends,” Melissa told Entertainment Weekly. “They could be platonic…I think it was just that Clarissa was a good kid and was trusted by her parents to do the right thing. They knew [Sam] was her best friend, and he was not a threat.”
But, back to Sean O’Neal.
After the show, Sean did a few voiceovers, but he’s rumored to be in a TV show called Development Hell as “Protester #1″ this year. Look out for it!
The Winner: Being that it’s insanely rare for a childhood actress to have three mega-successful TV shows that have lasted more than a season or two? Melissa Joan Hart. Hands Down.