Melissa Joan Hart has finally joined the Netflix family. Other than magic, that's kind of her thing. Previously, the mother of three was part of the Burke family on Melissa & Joey, which came after her seven years with the Spellman family in Sabrina The Teenage Witch, which followed her debut with the Darling family in Clarissa Explains It All, all while working with her actual family that founded the production company, Hartbreak. So, what's her latest show about? You have one guess. (Family!)
Despite her three decades in Hollywood, No Good Nick, which premieres on Netflix on 15th April, still manages to be a first for the longtime actor, who is best known for her work as a spell-casting teen. After raising her own children, Tucker (6), Braydon (11) and Mason (13), these past 13 years, the 42-year-old is finally playing an actual mum on screen, a chef named Liz, mother of Molly (Lauren Lindsey Donzis) and Jeremy (Kalama Epstein) and wife to Ed (Sean Astin). The family unit is rocked by the arrival of Nick (Siena Agudong), an apparent distant relative who, through a series of misunderstandings, ends up on their doorstep and living in their home. Although Nick isn't worshipping the dark lord, her more sinister motives slowly emerge as the show makes an unexpected switch from comedy to mystery.
There's another reason to be excited about Hart's move to Netflix: She's one step closer to possibly appearing on Chilling Adventures Of Sabrina, an adaptation of the Archie comic and source material Hart's Sabrina.
Like many women my age, I grew up with Sabrina on Friday nights — and pretty much every other night, because Nickelodeon loved to air reruns. The '90s series (which is now streaming on Hulu, by the way) returned to the zeitgeist last year when Riverdale creator Roberto Aguirre-Sacasa reimagined the character in a spinoff of the CW show for Netflix. There's no talking cat, but Kiernan Shipka still brings the blueprint of the beloved witch to life, with part 2 landing on the platform on 5th April.
Hart previously passed the baton to Shipka in an Instagram post, but that doesn't mean I was done asking her about the Teenage Witch. I even tried to convince her to consider a cameo on the Netflix show, which, admittedly, is much darker and more stylised than the sitcom. First comes mother, then comes devil-worshipping side character? I, personally, think it has potential.
Ahead, Refinery29 talks to Hart about her transition from teen star to "uncool adult", what it's like playing a mum for the first time on No Good Nick, and binge-watching Game of Thrones.
Your kids are a big part of your life, but this is your first time playing a mum on screen. Was that a huge draw for you?
"I['ve been] a mum in real life, but having a baby face, nobody really bought it. It's funny because I went from never playing a mum to being the mum of teenagers. It's not like I was ever pregnant or had an infant or a 5-year-old [on screen]. I went straight into being a mum of teenagers. It's a little wild. The show is super unique. Sometimes I'm like, 'This is a kids' show. No wait, this is an adult show.' And I really go back and forth. At first we called it a comedy and then we realised this isn't a comedy, we can't call it that. It's really a dramedy [and] a serialised family mystery."
Has being a mother IRL impacted the relationship with your kids on the show at all? Is this role giving you a glimpse into what it will be like raising your own kids as teens?
"I don't really focus on how to be a mum in the show. I focused on this character and how she responds to every situation, whether it's with her husband, with her restaurant, with an old nemesis she runs into. I really just take it situationally. It is kind of weird to have these kids taller than me and try to be the sensitive sweet mum. I do have to put my kid's face on their faces and remember this is my child, you know, as opposed to coworker and a buddy, which is how I've always had to play these before."
You were a teenager while filming two different sitcoms. Has that informed how you work with teenagers on shows now?
"I probably tell them so many annoying stories that they've probably heard over and over again. Sean and I both just tell them constant stories about like, 'Oh man, when I was your age.' I'm like, 'Oh, well on my first show, Clarissa, or when I was doing Sabrina,' you know, that kind of thing. But these kids are not only super talented and adorable, they also are really, really respectful of mine and Sean's past, the fact that we're veterans in this industry and they really are looking at us for guidance. But we realise we're also the uncool adults. So they're trying to cool us out and we're trying to kind of guide them through this industry."
How has it been working with Sean? He's already big on Netflix thanks to Stranger Things. Were you a fan of his before?
"Oh yeah, of course. I like Rudy and Goonies and to be honest, I've never seen Lord Of The Rings. That's my homework this weekend. I'm going to watch that with my kids before we wrap our show. One of my favourite roles of his is 50 First Dates. I went home the other night — my mum and I are living together right now — I walked in the house and she's watching War Of The Roses and his name comes up in the title. And then I still haven't watched all of season 2 of Stranger Things. So my mum and I decided to back up and watch this whole season again. So we started episode one. It's just so funny because even before the camera pans over to see him, I hear his voice and I'm like, 'I know that voice, I hear it every day, it's in the back of my head.'"
Speaking of your mum, you've spent most of your career working with your family and your own production company. What was it like to step out on your own and work with Netflix?
"It's kind of weird. There's good and bad to the element of not producing the show. My company Hartbreak, which did Sabrina, Melissa & Joey, a ton of the TV movies and a few of the features and we're about to launch into another Christmas movie later, keeps me very busy and it's always wonderful. It's tough to be an actor for hire, especially once you've produced your own stuff or directed your own stuff. It's hard to step in and be in someone else's show and have no say over how the notes go — Sean likes to say you're a meat puppet.
"[But] it's actually kind of a relief, too, to just come in and do my part. I've never had a B story plot line. Usually I'm looking at a script and counting how many [scenes] I'm not in. Like, 'I have three scenes off this week. Maybe I can get to the gym a little more. Maybe I can make it to my kid's concert or whatever it is.' This time I'm looking at the script going, 'How many scenes am I in?' So at first I had a little bit of a hard time, kind of taking a backseat there for everything, not knowing everything going on. And then I started to be like, you know what? I'm going to go live my life a little too. So what I did was I picked up Game of Thrones and I watched all seven seasons."
Now that you're on Netflix and in the same family as the Sabrina reboot, would you ever consider a cameo?
"I haven't been approached and I really don't expect to be. I think it's a very separate thing and I think it would be clouded a little bit. It's better to keep it separate. I mean, if they came up with some brilliant way to bring me in and they wanted to, I'd probably be open to it. But as of right now, there's no discussion."
Is Sabrina something you still look back on fondly or are you tired of talking about it?
"I know that's where most of my fanbase comes from. I know that's how people feel like they relate to me or they know me 'cause I was in their house every Friday night for seven years and then some. So I embrace it and I love it. It was a great time of my life. I mean, it wasn't my favourite character to play, but it opened up so many opportunities and doors and I absolutely loved my time on it. You know how people talk about their high school years forever? And it only lasts four years? This was seven years of my life — the best years of my life. I've made my best friends and had such a blast and it gave me so many opportunities to move on with my career or my life. You know, it was such a wonderful time. And so I totally embrace it.
And when I find those memes, they're hilarious. It's totally fun and there's so many, what do you call them? GIFs? The only thing I really take advantage of being a celebrity is back-dooring all the rides at Disneyland and using my own GIFs."
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.