Clarissa explained it all in the early ’90s on Nickelodeon. And thank goodness she did. Because it was Clarissa that put Melissa Joan Hart on the map. (Hey, cool!) And along with the other children of the ’90s, my life would not be the same without Clarissa or Sabrina the Teenage Witch. (And I’m not overselling here. Those shows are synonymous with my formative years.) Anyway, the television staple—who currently stars on ABC Family’s Melissa and Joey—now has her own memoir, Melissa Explains It All: Tales from My Abnormally Normal Life (out Oct. 29). “I know everyone’s calling it a tell-all, and that sounds like it’s me telling secrets,” says Hart. “But really, it’s just me telling stories that I thought were funny or heartwarming about my life. It’s not written eloquently—it’s written in my voice. It’s very much a conversation with a friend.” Here, Hart answers some of our burning questions, and then later, read on for some of the books more interesting details.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: What inspired your to write this book now?
MELISSA JOAN HART: I had the time to do it, and suddenly I felt like, “You know what? I have a lot of stories I’ve told over the years to my friends that I’d really like to tell to the public.” People have had a certain perception of me, and I always get the question, “How did you end up so normal?” I felt like this was the long-form answer of that question and a chance to tell my own story. That’s what I feel like I’ve done here.
You’ve got one book under your belt. Would you ever consider writing another one?
I don’t know. Honestly, it was a tricky process. The book world is nothing like the film and TV world. It was a long process. I’m already used to movies and TV. They’re not instant gratification, but this was really delayed. [Writing is] a long harrowing process and also not always well received. I haven’t made a lot of friends in the process, so I don’t think it is something I would really look forward to doing again.
You’re very candid in Melissa Explains It All. Are you worried about offending anyone?
A little bit, yeah. As it gets closer to the date and more and more press are reading it and interviewing me about it, there’s definitely some moments I’ve had where I really hope I didn’t offend anyone. I just meant to tell my stories. But like you said, I was candid and I was honest about my memories in these instances.
In the book, you talk about some of your former partying days. Do you think your experience in the public eye would have been different if you were growing up in today’s TMZ era?
Ultimately I am a very responsible person. I do take my responsibility to my family and my work very seriously, and I always have. I don’t think it would be anything as shocking as some of the people you see out there that are running amok. But I also think that some of it could have been perceived badly, and who knows what path that would have set me on? But ultimately I have a good, grounded family that has kept me on the straight and narrow. I would hope that it would be the same way. With social media it would be really tricky because as a kid, you think that everything you have to say is so important. I’m a very wear-your-heart-on-your-sleeve kind of person, so if I was upset or scorned by a boyfriend I would probably take to Twitter and everyone would know everything about me. And yet, here I am writing it all down for everyone to know! [Laughs]
You mention the Clarissa Explains It All CBS spinoff, Clarissa Now, that never made it to air. You said fans would have been disappointed with it, but the pilot popped up on YouTube a few years ago. What was the reaction to that?
Most people really liked it. They’ve been fascinated with the fact that there’s an afterlife to Clarissa. And I understand that, for sure. It’s like a dream come true for people who love fanfiction. At the same time, if you watch it with your eyes wide open as far as “Will you watch this show every week?” Probably not.
You also said that a Clarissa reunion is definitely off the table.
I totally understand the appeal of that for the fans, but I feel like they are always a letdown. Honestly, I have such fond memories of that time and as much as I want to go back, I want to go back and relive the whole thing. I don’t want to just do a one-off…. And honestly, I’ve moved on. I have a new character that I love to play and going back just seems like a waste of time. That being said, it would be really fun to do it—to see everybody and be together again. But only if we could do it with the right crew and the writers and everything being in place just perfect, and like another episode like we never let up. That would be so much fun, but I honestly think it wouldn’t be that well received. Why go through the heartbreak?
Your mom has taken some flack over the years for being a “stage mom.” You said she earned the nickname “Dragon Lady” on the Clarissa set because she was very particular about your look for the show. It seems like you tried to clear up some of the negativity surrounding her.
Absolutely. I really hope I did clear that up. She’s happy with [the book], and I was most terrified about her reading it. But she’s happy with it, so that’s all I really care about. She was labeled a stage mom, but really, she was a protective mother. And on top of that, she was a working woman. She started Sabrina. She started Melissa and Joey. Without her, I wouldn’t be here. In so many ways! [Laughs] So I have to give her credit for everything in my life. She’s my mom!
UP NEXT: A few memorable lines and moments from Melissa Explains It All….