Melissa Joan Catherine Hart was born on April 18, 1976 in Smithtown, New York, U.S., is an American actress, writer, television director, television producer, singer and businesswoman. Hart is perhaps best known for her title roles in the television series Clarissa Explains It All (1991–1994), the live action version of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch (1996–2003), and Melissa & Joey (2010–present).
Hart’s career has mixed movie work with television, including appearances in the popular TV shows Law & Order: Special Victims Unit and That ’70s Show. Hart has been married to musician Mark Wilkerson since 2003; together, they have two children.
Hart was born on to Paula, a producer and talent manager, and William Hart, a shellfish purveyor, clam hatchery worker, and entrepreneur. She grew up in Sayville, New York. Her stepfather (since 1994) is television executive Leslie Gilliams, and her stepmother is Lisa Hart. Hart was named after the Allman Brothers song “Melissa”, while her middle name, Joan, came from her maternal grandmother. She chose Catherine as her confirmation name when she was in the eighth grade.
Hart is the eldest of eight children with six sisters, and one brother. Sisters Trisha, Elizabeth and Emily Hart, brother Brian, and half-sisters Alexandra Gilliams and Samantha Gilliams have all acted. Her youngest half-sister Mackenzie Hart is not in show business.
Hart’s career began at age four when she made a television commercial for a bathtub doll called Splashy. From then on, she appeared regularly in commercials, making 25 of them before the age of five. Other early television 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. She made a cameo guest appearance on the April 22, 1986 episode of the NBC daytime soap opera Another World. She also auditioned for the lead role Jamie Lloyd in Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers, losing the role to American actress Danielle Harris.
In 1989, she became the understudy for a Broadway production of The Crucible starring Martin Sheen.
In 1991 Hart landed the starring role on the Nickelodeon series Clarissa Explains It All, a comedy about a teen girl in everyday situations, which was successful during its four-year run. The show brought her four consecutive Young Artist Award nominations, winning three. Her role in the series also led to her starring in the FMV video game Nickelodeon’s Director’s Lab as a tour guide who takes the player around a movie studio. In 1992, she and Clarissa cast member Jason Zimbler appeared on the game show Nick Arcade as contestants, she is one of the few people who played the beta version of Sonic The Hedgehog 2 on the Video Challenge.
Hart also recorded two albums as Clarissa, This is What ‘Na Na’ Means and a recording of Peter and the Wolf.
In 1995, a year after the end of Clarissa Explains It All, Hart filmed an unaired sequel called “Clarissa,” a pilot for CBS starring a college-aged Clarissa, this time, explaining it all about her foray into the professional world as an intern at a newspaper. The show featured a slow, jazz version of her original theme song, and also starred Robert Klein as her boss.
Hart appeared on Nickelodeon’s anthology show Are You Afraid of the Dark? Season 2 episode “The Tale Of The Frozen Ghost” in 1991.
After the television series ended, Hart attended New York University. However, she did not complete her degree, because she was given the title role for the 1996 TV movie Sabrina the Teenage Witch. This was followed by the television series of the same name which lasted seven seasons on ABC and The WB. She later collaborated on an animated version that featured Hart voicing the two aunts Hilda and Zelda, and Hart’s younger sister Emily Hart starring in the title role. In between times, she also guest-starred on the series Touched by an Angel and starred in several TV movies.
In 1998, Hart landed a small part in the movie Can’t Hardly Wait, and then started filming Next to You, starring alongside Adrian Grenier. Hart asked her friend Britney Spears to do a remix of her song “(You Drive Me) Crazy” and add it to the movie’s soundtrack. To capitalize on the song’s success as a top-ten hit, the title of the movie was changed to Drive Me Crazy and Hart joined Spears in the music video for that song. Around the same time, Spears was given a guest role in an episode of Sabrina, the Teenage Witch where she played herself.
Hart appeared in lingerie in a series of photographs and an accompanying article in the October 1999 issue of the men’s magazine Maxim. Hart maintained her acting career in the 2000s including working on the film Rent Control, which aired in 2005 on the ABC Family cable network. Hart continued her role on Sabrina, the Teenage Witch, which finished in 2003, and also performed several voice-over roles for animation.
In 1999, Hart made her directorial debut in an episode of Disney Channel’s So Weird called “Snapshot” which starred her sister, Emily Hart. She later directed an episode of Nickelodeon’s Taina in 2001. In 2001–2002, she directed 6 episodes of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, including the season 6 finale.
After the end of Sabrina, The Teenage Witch, Hart directed her first movie, a 15-minute live-action short film called Mute (2005), starring her sister Emily. Hart guest-starred on an episode of Law & Order: SVU that aired on October 9, 2007 titled “Impulsive” as a teacher accused of statutory rape. In late 2007, she directed the “Anger Cage” video for her husband Mark Wilkerson’s band Course of Nature. She also starred in the ABC Family Original Movie Holiday in Handcuffs, opposite Mario Lopez. The movie premiered on December 9, 2007, and was the highest rated program in the history of the network, with 6.7 million viewers. Hart followed this with another ABC movie with a similar premise, My Fake Fiance, in 2009.
In March 2009, Hart opened a candy shop called SweetHarts in Sherman Oaks, California. Hart commented that it had been her “childhood dream” to own a candy shop.
It was announced on August 17, 2009 that she would compete in season 9 of Dancing with the Stars. Hart was paired up with two-time reigning champion, Mark Ballas but she was eliminated from the competition in week six out of a possible 10.
Hart starred as Kelley in a 2010 horror thriller film entitled Nine Dead, before returning to sitcoms, starring with Joey Lawrence in a new sitcom, Melissa & Joey. In the series Hart plays a woman who hires Lawrence as a nanny to help care for her incarcerated sister’s kids. Hart also joined the cast of an off-Broadway production of ‘Love, Loss, and What I Wore’ for a four week run that started in March 2010 and ended April 25, 2010.
In March 2010, Hart took part in an ad campaign for Gain detergent with former Sabrina, the Teenage Witch co-star Soleil Moon Frye.
On November 22, 2010, Hart participated as a presenter in the International Emmy Awards.
On July 19, 2003, Hart married musician Mark Wilkerson. The preparations for the ceremony, which took place in Florence, Italy, were documented in a TV miniseries titled Tying the Knot, produced by Hart’s production company, Hartbreak Films. Hart and Wilkerson have two sons: Mason Walter Wilkerson, who was born in January 2006 and Braydon “Brady” Hart Wilkerson, who was born in March 2008. Both of the boys were born in Los Angeles, California. On April 17, 2012, Hart confirmed they were expecting their third child.
Hart and Wilkerson were featured in People magazine’s April 7, 2008 issue, introducing Braydon to the world. Hart wrote a diary, including video entries, to document potty training her son, Mason, for Pull-Ups brand diapers. Hart has called herself a fan of Peggy Noonan and Ronald Reagan. Hart and her family live in Westport, Connecticut.